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Marie Torre

the first reporter to gain national attention for going to jail for refusing to identify a news source

As a radio and television columnist for the New York Herald-Tribune in 1957, Marie Torre quoted a CBS executive, whom she did not name, as saying that Judy Garland was balking about doing a CBS special ''because she thinks she is terribly fat.'' Garland subsequently filed a $1.39 million libel suit against CBS.

As a witness in a pretrial hearing, Torre was ordered by the court to disclose the name of her source. She refused, arguing that a reporter should not be compelled to reveal sources in court because such an order violated the First Amendment's guarantee of press freedom. Judge Sylvester Ryan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan warned her that she could be jailed for contempt of court. When she again refused, he sentenced her to 10 days in jail. The case drew attention and support from news organizations.

Marie Torre in jail

Torre, with The Herald-Tribune's backing, appealed the sentence, but it was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeals in New York. In his opinion, Judge Potter Stewart conceded that ''compulsory disclosure of a journalist's confidential sources of information may entail an abridgment of press freedom.'' But he added that ''the duty of a witness to testify in a court of law has roots as deep as the guarantee of a free press.'' He held that Miss Torre must yield ''to a paramount public interest in the fair administration of justice.'' The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision, but Garland did not pursue the case once Torre's jail term ended.

Torre kept the identity of the CBS executive secret until her death in 1997.

New York Times

Potter Stewart

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This page was last updated on 01/04/2018.