Reporter Claims Search Warrant Violated Rights, Files to Retract

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Correction Appended

In the name of the "free press," reporter David Morse filed a motion Friday to retract a UCPD search warrant that took possession of his photographs for an ongoing UC Berkeley investigation.

Morse, who has covered hundreds of demonstrations in and around the Bay Area since 2002, was arrested after the Dec. 11 attack on Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus residence while reporting for Indybay. While Morse was still in jail, UCPD was granted a search warrant to maintain possession of his unpublished photos taken that night. A hearing is scheduled for May 11 in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.

Morse said the seizure violates rights guaranteed to journalists under state law.

According to Geoffrey King, a staff attorney for the First Amendment Project who is representing Morse, the warrant was issued "under false pretenses" in violation of a "shield law," which guarantees the protection of a reporter's ability to refuse disclosing information gathered while reporting.

"This motion is pretty strong," Morse said. "It's truth and free press versus unchecked police power."

UCPD Lt. Alex Yao said he could not comment on the case because it is still under investigation.

King said the judge who granted the search warrant did not know Morse was a journalist because UCPD did not properly identify him in the warrant request.

"If there had been any indication as to what he was, the judge would have had the warrant barred by law," King said.

Morse said that while his camera was eventually returned, UCPD refused to return his photographs, saying that the evidence is being used in an ongoing investigation into the night's events.

Josh Wolf, a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism who made headlines in 2006 when he refused to submit video footage of anarchist protesters in San Francisco to a grand jury, said Morse was used by UCPD so that they could retrieve evidence to determine what may have occurred Dec. 11.

"It's absurd that he should find himself in such a position," said Wolf, who is currently facing student conduct charges stemming from his coverage inside the Nov. 20 Wheeler Hall occupation. "The role of a journalist is to capture the reality of the world we live in, and as such, you put yourselves in risky situations."


Correction: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday's article "Reporter Claims Search Warrant Violated Rights, Files to Retract" incorrectly stated that Geoffrey King, a staff attorney for the First Amendment Project said "This motion is pretty strong. It's truth and free press versus unchecked police power." In fact, reporter David Morse said this.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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