Authorities Study TV Footage in Kidnapping Case

Authorities investigating the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart are scrutinizing television news videos, hoping to spot anything or anyone suspicious.

Since subpoenas were faxed Friday to Salt Lake news stations, scenes showing volunteer searchers have been closely examined.

"We're looking at the crowds on the theory that a criminal often stays in the same areas where he committed the crime, and in some cases, returns to the scene of the crime itself," prosecutor Kent Morgan said.

David Reymann, legal counsel for the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said stations either have or will voluntarily provide copies of aired material.

Station officials won't turn over unedited videotape that wasn't broadcast because they don't want to be seen as an arm of law enforcement. But police and journalists say that isn't an issue right now.

"There is very little, if any, raw footage of the search party and other events that the police want because virtually all of this coverage has been live and all has been broadcast," Reymann said.

However, stations hurried to help authorities because of concerns about the safety of the 14-year-old girl who was abducted from her bedroom June 5. Morgan said the television media have given "full cooperation."

Unedited videotape will be turned over to authorities "if a court finds the state's need for the information has sufficiently outweighed reporter's privilege," Reymann said.

Brink Chipman, director of news services at KSL-TV, said two or three employees have prepared tapes of already-aired material for prosecutors and police since the subpoenas were received.

"We'll give it to them on VHS tape," Chipman said. "What we use is digital or beta tapes. It's a matter of finding it, recording and re-recording it onto VHS tapes."