Leggett went to jail last July rather than hand over research on the 1997 murder of Doris Angleton, wife of a millionaire sports bookie. She was released when the grand jury’s term expired Jan. 4.
The high court let stand a lower court decision that said requiring Leggett to hand over her notes and interview tapes did not violate her First or Fifth Amendment rights.
“I’m really disappointed,” Leggett told a Houston television station. “I anticipate being resubpoenaed [and] in that event I might have to return to jail.”
Justice Department prosecutors argue the case is moot, telling the Supreme Court the grand jury had finished its work by indicting Angleton’s husband, Robert, on Jan. 24.
“The government has no intention [or reason] to reconvene the grand jury in connection with this case,” The New York Times quotes officials as saying.
Leggett said her notes were research for a book on the Angleton case and claimed reporter’s privilege, which in some cases allows journalists not to disclose information from confidential sources.
But prosecutors argued that Leggett, who had no book contract at the time of her incarceration, did not qualify as a journalist. Leggett had only published one article in an FBI publication and one fictional short story, prosecutors said.
A district court judge ordered Leggett jailed, and a three-judge appeals court panel later affirmed that ruling.
Last Thursday, the PEN writer’s organization gave Leggett its 2002 First Amendment Award, which carries with it a $25,000 prize, calling her “a hero in the effort to preserve investigative freedom for writers and journalists in the U.S.”