Comment from Jennifer M. Joyce, Circuit Attorney
I am happy to answer questions regarding the subpoenas recently sent to local media outlets. I have great respect for the role of the news media and the importance of their ability to gather information to inform the public. The intent of the subpoenas was not to obtain confidential sources or otherwise impede the function of any news organization. We were simply seeking assistance in the pursuit of justice.
Question 1: Why subpoena a news organization for information because this was a public meeting with many witnesses including several police officers?
As officers of the court, sworn to uphold the Constitution and all subsequent statutes, we are duty-bound to do our very best to hold accountable those who commit criminal acts. The importance of this responsibility has been underscored in the context of the recent unrest surrounding police and community relationships. As you are aware, the Circuit Attorney’s Office has charged demonstrators for pushing and shoving other individuals. We have consistently maintained that this conduct violates the law. We have received complaints that similar such conduct may have occurred recently at City Hall. It is critical that we attempt to investigate all available information and witness accounts to determine what happened. This involves seeking all possible camera angles and all potential witnesses. To not do so before determining if charges are appropriate would be a miscarriage of justice. The inquiry by police and prosecutors would not be fair and complete unless investigators reviewed all available materials, including the materials of journalists, civilian witnesses, police officers and others. The use of investigative subpoenas is standard protocol for investigative agencies.
Question 2: Why assert that public disclosure of the subpoena would impede the investigation when the investigation was publicly announced?
We typically ask that subpoena recipients not disclose the existence of a subpoena in order to protect the integrity of the investigation. While you are correct that the existence of an investigation was announced, as a matter of important course, investigators do not announce particular investigative tactics. Again, this is standard protocol designed to prevent culpable parties from inappropriately defeating an investigation by destroying evidence or changing their statements.
We are happy to speak to any news outlet informally about the relevant information they may possess, but it has been our experience that newsrooms are more comfortable having a subpoena before releasing their materials. Moving forward, we will willingly speak with any news outlet about the reason and nature of a legal request prior to sending a subpoena in order to be transparent about the reasons why the materials could help bring justice.
Please feel free to contact the Circuit Attorney's Office if you have any additional questions.