Cornell McKay Conviction Upheld By Judge; Post-Dispatch Reporter Compelled to Testify
Reporters are rarely called to the witness stand. To overcome the significant Constitutional protections afforded to the press by the First Amendment, prosecutors must prove a reporter's testimony is necessary and could not be obtained by alternate means. In this case, prosecutors sought to ban McKay's non-family members from attending his sentencing.
Post-Dispatch reporter Jennifer Mann.
Mann was was present for the last day of McKay's trial on December 12, 2013, when supporters from his church shouted and pleaded with the victim of the August 10th robbery's husband. According to testimony, some of the church members asked him how he slept at night and to reconsider McKay's identification as the robber.
During yesterday's hearing, Circuit Attorney Christine Krug characterized the incident as "threatening" to the victim and her supporters.
In her argument, Krug compared Mann to a bystander who witnesses a crime in the street. The Post-Dispatch's lawyer, however, argued that Mann's testimony was unnecessary and that prosecutors were using their subpoena to disrupt Mann's ability to cover the case.
"When Mann said that she planned to cover the sentencing in this case, she was told by the prosecutor that the Post-Dispatch should find someone else to do so because the State planned to subpoena her," writes attorney Joseph Martineau in a memo to the court. "As such, lurking in the background is the appearance that the motive behind the subpoena for Mann's testimony may be as much to squelch her news coverage of this case as it is to seek relevant evidence."
Mann was not the only witness to the "threatening" behavior after McKay's trial. Krug also called Michael Graves, an investigator with the prosecutor's office who was escorting the victim's husband during the incident.
Though Vannoy did compel Mann to testify, the judge eventually denied the prosecutor's motion to exclude McKay's supporters from the sentencing.
"Being called to the witness stand hampered my ability to report on the proceedings in their entirety," writes Mann in an e-mail to Daily RFT. "Whether or not that was the intent of the circuit attorney office's subpoena, it certainly was the result and that's why we fought it. It's a very slippery slope when you start subpoenaing reporters -- particularly when you do so without necessity."
Continue for documents related to yesterday's motion, including the Post-Dispatch's arguments for keeping Mann off the witness stand