A San Francisco State journalism student who witnessed a deadly shooting in the Bayview-Hunters Point district some months ago, was a working journalist at the time of the crime, a judge ruled on Wednesday, July 15.
On April 17, the student, who does not wish his name to be publicized for fear of safety, was with the victim, 21-year-old Norris Bennett on the day he was gunned down by an unknown shooter.
According to The Chronicle, the photojournalism student had been spending time with Bennett for several months as part of his senior project at SF state, which aimed to explore the Bayview neighborhood more closely.
On the day of Bennett’s shooting, the student was with Bennett as he was shooting dice near Griffith and Navy.
After the crime, the student refused to talk to police about what he saw on the day Bennett was shot. But in May, police obtained a search warrant for his apartment and took pictures and other objects they believed could lead them to the shooter.
The student invoked the California shield law and demanded that his items be returned to him. This law protects journalists to keep any unpublished material obtained while reporting from being taken by law enforcement.
And months after the crime, the student’s request for privacy have been answered – police were ordered to return evidence that was taken from the student’s home after the crime took place.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Tomar Mason ruled that the student is protected by California shield law for journalists.
Now, as the line between the media and the law becomes hazier, questions of moral obligation and rights of confidentiality remain in everyone’s minds.