A Los Angeles Municipal Court judge Friday ordered KCBS-TV to allow her to privately view unbroadcast footage shot before and after an attack by a pit bull on an animal control officer that resulted in the filing of felony charges against the dog's owner.
Defense lawyers for Edlyn Joy Hauser, 37, who is accused of assault with a deadly weapon, contend that the KCBS-TV news crew that filmed the attack on Officer Florence Crowell "instigated (and) provoked" the dog and want the half-hour of outtakes as evidence.
Despite objections from an attorney for KCBS-TV, which broadcast gripping footage of the June 22 attack outside Hauser's Glassell Park duplex, Judge Candace D. Cooper ruled that Hauser's lawyers had persuaded her that she should decide if the tapes are essential to the defense.
The KCBS-TV attorney, Herbert M. Schoenberg, who informed Cooper that he may appeal her ruling based on First Amendment and "shield law" protections for news organizations, called the defense's attacks on the TV station "totally wrong."
Hauser's pit bull, Benjamin, which she also calls Baby, allegedly attacked three people in late June, including a 7-year-old child, whose mauling Crowell was investigating when she was bitten on the hands, wrists and chest.
KCBS-TV has already made available an hour's worth of material it broadcast about the incident. But Schoenberg contended that the outtakes are the equivalent of reporters' notes, which are usually protected from public scrutiny.
Defense attorney Bruce M. Margolin countered that shield laws do not apply "in this particular case (because) Channel 2 stepped beyond their place of news gathering. . . . Channel 2 is part and parcel of this case."
In an affidavit filed with Cooper, Margolin's co-counsel, Michael D. Chaney, stated that the news crew arrived at Hauser's home an hour before Crowell did "and immediately began questioning her regarding her dog."
After Crowell arrived, the statement says, the crew members repeatedly knocked on her door and "persisted in harassing, taunting and badgering (Hauser) and her dog, and insisted that they be allowed to see and film (the) dog."
In her ruling, Cooper denied a defense request for KCBS-TV and KNBC-TV outtakes of interviews shot days after the incident.
Hauser, who has since been evicted from her duplex, is free on bail while awaiting a preliminary hearing scheduled Thursday. If convicted, she could receive a maximum 10-year prison term.