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Texas Judge Agrees to Free Crime Writer Held for Contempt

January 04, 2002|Reuters

HOUSTON — An aspiring Texas freelance writer jailed since July for defying a subpoena demanding her notes about a murder case will be freed today, the judge who jailed her ordered Thursday.

Vanessa Leggett, a 33-year-old writing lecturer at the University of Houston, has been jailed for contempt since July 20, when she refused to turn over her notes to a federal grand jury looking into the 1997 killing of a wealthy Houston bookie's wife.

Leggett's release will coincide with the expiration today of the term of the grand jury that called Leggett to testify. U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon's ruling was sealed because of the secret nature of the grand jury proceedings but did grant Leggett's release, lawyers on both sides of the case said.

Federal law allowed Harmon to jail Leggett until she complied with the subpoena or the term of the grand jury expired. Prosecutors did not attempt to extend the term of the investigative panel, as they did once before.

Leggett, who has been in jail for 167 days, has asserted a reporter's privilege.

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