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EXPERTS: Hannity Could Be Required To Testify About His Conversation With George Zimmerman

By Judd Legum  

"EXPERTS: Hannity Could Be Required To Testify About His Conversation With George Zimmerman"

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According to several experts in Florida law, Sean Hannity could be compelled to testify about his conversations with George Zimmerman. Tamara Lave, a professor of criminal law at the Universtiy of Miami who also practiced as a public defender for 10 years, told ThinkProgress it’s a “no brainer.”

Under Florida Law, there is a “qualified privilege” for journalists that protects their conversations with sources. But this priviledge can be overcome, per Florida Evidence Code 90.5015:

A party seeking to overcome this privilege must make a clear and specific showing that:

(a) The information is relevant and material to unresolved issues that have been raised in the proceeding for which the information is sought;
(b) The information cannot be obtained from alternative sources; and
(c) A compelling interest exists for requiring disclosure of the information.

Here’s how Hannity described his conversation with George Zimmerman:

Now yesterday I was contacted by an individual that we in fact believe was George Zimmerman. He reached out to me, we spoke on the phone about his case, and I agreed not to report on the contents of that conversation.

Lave said that, in her opinion, the qualified privilege could “easily” be overcome under Florida law because Zimmerman’s statements about the incident are “relevant and material to unresolved issues.” Further, there are no “alternative sources” for his statements to Hannity and there is a compelling interest for disclosure in a potential manslaughter case.

Lyrissa Lidsky, an expert in media law at the University of Florida and the author of a book on the First Amendment, said that she also believed the factors in the Florida law would be resolved “in favor of forcing Hannity to disclose the information.”

Michael Seigel, Director of the Criminal Justice Center at the University of Florida, agreed, stating that Hannity “may very well have opened himself up to subpoena.” Kenneth Nunn, another criminal law professor a the University of Florida, concurred and said he didn’t think the journalist’s privledge could be made successfully by Hannity.

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