Gem State Roundup

Idaho Press Club calls on court to reject reporter’s subpoena in Daybell case

By: - May 13, 2021 3:53 pm
East Idaho News reporter Nate Eaton speaks with Chad and Lori Daybell

Chad and Lori Daybell decline to speak to EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton in January 2020 in Hawaii. (Courtesy of EastIdahoNews.com)

Editor’s note: The employees of the Idaho Capital Sun are members of the Idaho Press Club. 

The Idaho Press Club is calling on the judge overseeing the case of Chad and Lori Daybell to reject a subpoena from their defense attorneys ordering an east Idaho reporter covering the case to testify as a witness, according to a press release from the club’s First Amendment Committee.

Nate Eaton, who has been covering the case for EastIdahoNews.com, was subpoenaed late Tuesday afternoon while at work and ordered to be present at a June 9 court hearing, according to the news website. The Daybells are charged with conspiracy to conceal or destroy evidence in relation to the deaths of Lori Daybell’s children, who were found buried on Chad Daybell’s east Idaho property.

“Eaton is a journalist, not a witness,” First Amendment Committee chairman Scott McIntosh said in the release. “Eaton’s reporting and the information he has gathered is public record and widely available. Eaton should not be compelled to disclose any other information beyond what has been published under Eaton’s First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press.”

The press club argued that forcing a reporter to testify would have a chilling effect on newsgathering in the state and urged the court to dismiss the subpoena.

In a story posted to EastIdahoNews.com on Wednesday, the outlet said it has an ethics policy in place that prohibits journalists from taking part in court proceedings that the outlet is actively covering. The outlet has secured an attorney to fight the subpoena on Eaton’s behalf, the story said.

“News reporters should not be conscripted as witnesses for either side in a criminal case, particularly in a case of such enormous public interest and concern,” Eaton’s attorney Jeffery Hunt said in a statement. “The First Amendment protects the independence of the press so it can report on criminal cases and not be forced to become witnesses in them. We hope the defense will reconsider this course and withdraw the subpoena. If not, we will ask the court to quash the subpoena.”

The Idaho Press Club is a statewide nonprofit organization made up of working and retired journalists, journalism students and teachers, public relations professionals and community members.

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Christina Lords
Christina Lords

Christina Lords is the editor-in-chief of the Idaho Capital Sun and has been a professional journalist covering local and state government since graduating from the University of Idaho in 2009. A Pocatello native, Lords is a fifth-generation Idahoan who served as a reporter at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and the Post Register in Idaho Falls and served as assistant editor for the Idaho Press in Nampa. She also led the Idaho Statesman in Boise for two years before turning to nonprofit journalism.

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