WICHITA — A subpoenaed Dodge City reporter who testified about a jailhouse interview with a murder suspect has been fired, the latest turn in a bitter dispute between the journalist and her newspaper since the Kansas Supreme Court refused to toss out the subpoena.
Reporter Claire O'Brien said her firing on Friday from the Dodge City Daily Globe stems from comments she made to media outlets after she was found in contempt for failing to appear at an inquisition, the Kansas equivalent of a grand jury.
O'Brien told reporters at the time that the newspaper's corporate owners had refused to pay for her legal representation and scuttled her efforts to find independent legal help unless she testified — claims that GateHouse Media Kansas Holdings, which owns the newspaper, has denied.
On Sunday, O'Brien said she was fired in retaliation for making those public comments.
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Stephen Wade, group publisher for GateHouse Media Kansas, said the company couldn't comment on the matter because it is a personnel issue.
O'Brien's Oct. 13 story was based on a jailhouse interview she conducted with Sam Bonilla, who had been charged with second-degree murder in the death of one man and attempted murder for the wounding of another. Bonilla eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery.
The case anchored a larger debate over a reporter's shield law in Kansas when O'Brien was ordered to testify about the interview and a confidential source after the story suggested the incident had stirred up anti-Hispanic sentiment and that Bonilla could be in danger.
O'Brien and GateHouse Media appealed the subpoena on the grounds that forcing her to testify would violate her First Amendment rights and hurt her ability to gather news.