Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory, who wrote about a secret sidebar conference with two jurors over the recent mistrial involving the Mattapan killings, may be hauled into court and ordered to reveal the identity of a confidential source.
Boston Herald reporter Matt Stout reported on April 3 that John Amabile, the defense lawyer for murder suspect Dwayne Moore, was demanding to know who had leaked information to McGrory about the lone juror whose refusal to convict Moore led to a mistrial. Four people died in the shootings, including a 2-year-old boy.
(Update: The Globe’s Maria Cramer also covered Amabile’s complaint on April 3.)
If the prosecution had leaked to McGrory in defiance of an order by the trial judge, Christine McEvoy, Amabile told the Herald, he might seek to have the charges against his client dismissed.
McGrory, not surprisingly, declined to talk about the matter in any detail when the Herald contacted him, saying, “Obviously I quoted someone in the column on a grant of anonymity, and I hope you would understand that.” And McGrory told his own paper, “Because the information was provided to me under the condition of confidentiality, I obviously can’t reveal the nature of the source.”
The parties were back in court on Tuesday. Cramer reports that Amabile told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke, who’s looking into Amabile’s complaint, that he might subpoena McGrory or prosecutor Edmond Zabin. Cramer writes that “Locke urged him not to do so without seeking the court’s permission.”
And the Herald’s Laurel Sweet, who also reported on the Tuesday hearing, quotes Locke as telling Amabile, “I’m not taking any remedies off the table.”
The inquiry will resume on May 8. If McGrory is asked to attend, it sounds like he’d be well advised to bring a toothbrush.
McGrory would have little to worry about if Massachusetts were not one of 10 states lacking a shield law giving journalists the right to protect their confidential sources. Last month, a legislative committee heard a proposal to create such a law, a broadly defined measure that would appear to protect anyone engaged in journalistic activities, including bloggers and citizen journalists.
The McGrory situation shows why a shield law could be beneficial. Whoever leaked to him was confident that the Globe would not reveal his identity. It is clearly in the public interest to get as many details about the Mattapan case out into the open as possible.
If Amabile’s complaint somehow leads to the source’s identity being revealed, that would have a chilling effect on the next insider who’s tempted to pick up the phone and call a reporter.
Note: This post has been corrected and updated.