Seeking a scoop, rookie reporter Jennifer Latson from the Houston Chronicle went and tried to interview to a person accused of a serious felony without the person’s lawyer’s permission.
If the accused had said something incriminatory, it would have been front-page news in the Chronicle the next morning: the reporter would have been able to do something (question the accused without his lawyer present) that the prosecutor and the police could not do.
The lawyer wrote to the reporter requesting that she not talk to his client without first asking him.
Her response was “I’d refer you to the United States Constitution, Amendment I. I can attempt to interview your client until I’m blue in the face; he doesn’t have to agree to see me.”
That is certainly true: a reporter can try to interview an accused person until she’s blue in the face (or until the jailers stop letting her in to the jail).
It seems like an excellent way to make sure the criminal defense bar is reluctant to talk to you about anything else, though.
[Update: In my inimitable and thoroughly unjournalistic way, I hadn’t tried to talk with Jennifer Latson before writing this piece, so it was rather one-sided, based on the angry criminal-defense lawyer’s side of the story. I have, since then, talked with Ms. Latson. Although she sounds young, she is not a rookie reporter. She was not seeking a scoop or to harm the accused, but only to get his side of the story. Which is, naturally, part of her job.]