A judge on Friday ruled that The Bee does not have to hand over to attorneys unpublished notes from an interview with an alleged victim in a Ceres torture case.
Defense attorneys Tai Bogan and Stephen Foley were seeking the notes, arguing that the information might be helpful in their clients' defense. They filed a subpoena to obtain the notes.
Karl Olson, a San Francisco attorney representing The Bee, filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that the unpublished notes are sensitive and their release would damage The Bee's ability to gather news.
The men accused of torturing the woman are Armando Osegueda, 32, and Richard Garcia, 31, the alleged victim's ex-boyfriend. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and remain in custody in the Stanislaus County Jail.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves had an opportunity to view the unpublished notes of Bee reporter Erin Tracy's interview with the alleged torture victim. But the judge kept the notes sealed.
In Friday's hearing, Reeves said the notes were "sensitive" and offered "very little value" to the defendants' case. She quashed the subpoena and ordered the unpublished notes to remain sealed.
The state's shield law generally protects journalists from being forced to surrender unpublished information, such as notes and video outtakes, or to disclose confidential sources.
"California's shield law is in place to protect journalists and their sources in matters such as these, and we're happy with the judge's wise decision," said Bee Editor Joe Kieta.
The woman interviewed by The Bee her name was withheld because she is an alleged domestic violence victim was burned with cigarette lighters, tied up and told she and her family would be killed if she told anyone, police have said.
About a month after the alleged torture incident in Ceres, the woman became the sole survivor of an attack at a north Modesto home. Three others, including the woman's 16-year-old brother, were shot to death inside the two-story home on North McClure Road.
Detectives are investigating a possible connection between the two cases.
Judge Reeves concluded Friday's hearing by scheduling Osegueda and Garcia to return to court Wednesday to reschedule their preliminary hearing.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.