The Press: Trial Reporter on Trial

During the Charles Manson trial in the fall of 1970, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Reporter William T. Farr obtained and published details from a prosecution witness's pretrial statement. The material was sensational: it told of the Manson group's plans to murder several celebrities (Elizabeth Taylor's eyes were to be mailed to an ex-husband; Frank Sinatra was to be flayed alive). Trial Judge Charles H. Older, who had previously prohibited lawyers and others involved from giving out information on the case, decided to punish the source of the leak. He asked Farr to identify the offender. The reporter promptly refused, claiming immunity under...

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