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Final decision for Fox News reporter will come in August, Colorado judge rules

Ed Andrieski / AP

Fox television reporter Jana Winter, right, and her attorneys arrive at district court for a hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo., on Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

A decision on whether a journalist will be sent to jail for not revealing her sources has been delayed until August, a Colorado judge ruled Wednesday.

Lawyers for theater massacre suspect James Holmes have been contending that Fox News reporter Jana Winter needs to reveal the sources of a story she broke last July revealing Holmes had sent a notebook to his psychiatrist outlining his plot.

Holmes is accused of slaughtering 12 people at a midnight showing of Batman in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last July.

And despite an offer last month to plead guilty, Holmes' lawyers are arguing that the law enforcement sources Winter cited in her piece violated a gag order and may have jeopardized the defendant's right to a fair trial.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. has yet to decide whether Winter will need to testify.

On Wednesday, Samour said he must first know if the notebook will be a critical piece of evidence in the case before he can determine if Winter should be obligated to reveal her sources.

After consulting with the lawyers, the judge set the August 19 date, saying it will be likely known by then the role the notebook will play in the case.

Winter and her lawyers have indicated she will not reveal her sources if compelled. She could face jail time as a result.

On Monday, Samour wrote an opinion previewing today's ruling that sided with Winter's lawyers' arguments that that a decision should not be made until it is known whether the notebook will be a critical piece of evidence.

“The notebook may or may not be introduced, and its contents may or may not be of significance. Given these uncertainties, the record is inadequate," Samour wrote in his order.

Lawyers for Holmes may decide to argue that the notebook — which according to the Fox News report is filled with stick figures holding guns and shooting other stick figures — is protected by doctor-patient privilege.

And if his team uses mental-health as a defense, the notebook could became a vital part of the case. 

Winter told the court in a March affidavit that her ability to do her job has already been compromised as a result of the legal issues, and being forced to take the stand will would destroy her career.  

Multiple media organizations from around the country have come in to support Winter and any reporter's rights to not be legally obligated to reveal sources.