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Attorney to Discuss Vanessa Leggett Case at SPJ National Convention


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Al Cross, SPJ President-Elect, 502/875-5136 ext. 14 or across@mis.net.
Christine Tatum, Legal Defense Fund chairwoman, 312/222-5184 or ctatum@tribune.com.

INDIANAPOLIS – Mike DeGeurin, attorney for jailed writer Vanessa Leggett, will address journalists attending the SPJ National Convention’s Legal Defense Luncheon on Friday, Oct. 5, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bellevue, Wash.

DeGeurin and Bruce Sanford, SPJ First Amendment legal counsel at Baker & Hostetler in Washington, D.C., will discuss Leggett’s legal battle for First Amendment rights and the case’s implications for journalists and news organizations. The event will take place from noon-1:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5, in the hotel’s Evergreen Ballroom.

Leggett, who has been jailed since July 20, was found in contempt for refusing to hand over her notes, research, tape recordings and interview transcripts to a federal grand jury investigating the 1997 murder of a Houston millionaire’s wife.

“Vanessa Leggettt is still in jail for refusing to reveal her sources, but she will still be the guest of honor at the Society of Professional Journalists’ annual Legal Defense Fund Luncheon at the SPJ Convention next week,” said SPJ President-Elect Al Cross, political writer and columnist for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. Cross will become the SPJ President on Oct. 6.

DeGeurin, who capped his legal fees for this case at $25,000, received a $12,500 Legal Defense Fund grant from the Society of Professional Journalists in August to cover half of those fees.

“SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund is crucial to journalists who simply don’t have the money to wage the free-press court battles from which we all stand to benefit. There is no other resource like the LDF in the nation,” said LDF Chairwoman Christine Tatum, who works for Tribune Interactive in Chicago. “We are delighted to take this opportunity to salute Vanessa Leggett’s efforts to protect her sources and Mike DeGeurin for championing one of the most significant First Amendment cases in years.”

Leggett was conducting the research and interviews to complete a book manuscript on the slaying of Doris Angleton, wife of former bookie Robert Angleton. Robert Angleton and his brother, Roger, were charged with capital murder in the case.

Before his trial in 1998, Roger Angleton committed suicide in the Harris County Jail, leaving behind a note claiming that he was solely responsible for his sister-in-law's slaying. Leggett interviewed Roger Angleton while he was in jail.

SPJ said individuals who are engaged in the practice of gathering information for dissemination to the general public should be free to gather and report without fear of becoming an arm of the government.

The Society’s Legal Defense Fund offers financial assistance to journalists in cases such as Leggett’s. For information about the Legal Defense Fund or to apply for a grant, contact Christine Tatum at 312/658-3874 or ctatum@tribune.com.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.


MEDIA PASSES: Media passes for events at the Oct. 4-6 2001 SPJ National Convention may be obtained at the convention's onsite SPJ Office at the DoubleTree Hotel – Bellevue, 300 112th Ave., S.E., Bellevue, Wash.

For more information or to obtain a media pass, contact Sarah A. Shrode, SPJ Director of Communications, at sshrode@spj.org or at the convention's onsite SPJ Office.

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