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Colorado judge defers ruling on whether Fox News reporter must testify on sources

The Colorado judge who will decide whether a Fox News reporter must reveal news sources or face possible jail time has deferred that decision to a later date.

District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ruled that the issue facing FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter is not "ripe" for a final decision. In his order, released late Monday, he wrote that he will not rule on requiring Winter's testimony until he first decides on whether a notebook mailed by James Holmes to a psychiatrist will be admissible as evidence in Holmes' murder trial.

The ruling comes amid court hearings where Holmes is accused of murdering 12 people and injuring 58 in a July 20, 2012, shooting rampage at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

Winter broke an exclusive story revealing that prior to the shooting Holmes had sent a package to a University of Colorado psychiatrist that included a notebook "full of details about how he was going to kill people," one source said.  Her July 25 article on FoxNews.com also reported that the notebook contained illustrations of a massacre, including drawings of gun-wielding stick figures shooting other stick figures.

The Holmes defense team accused the government of violating gag orders that Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester had issued in the days following the shooting, and his lawyers asserted that the disclosures violated Holmes' right to a fair trial.

After numerous legal fights, in which Winter has sought protection under New York’s public policy protecting confidential sources and the reporter Shield Law in Colorado, she was required to attend an April 1 hearing in the Centennial, Colo., courtroom in the murder case now overseen by Judge Samour. Holmes' lawyers argue that Winter's protection from the Colorado Shield Law should not apply because, among other criteria that must be met, her reporting purportedly revolved around a "substantial issue" in the case.

Holmes' notebook is not currently part of evidence in the proceedings and may never be, depending on further defense actions and judicial rulings. Because of that uncertainty, although Judge Samour said that he still will require Winter's presence in court for hearing Wednesday on her request to invalidate her subpoena, it appears that he will not rule on that request, nor force her to testify, until a later date.

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