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Journalist fights request to testify in Colorado shooting case

DENVER (Reuters) - A Fox News journalist ordered to testify about confidential sources used in a story about the Colorado theater shooting will fight the ruling, court papers showed on Thursday.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester asked that New York-based journalist Jana Winter testify about a story on a notebook linked to accused gunman James Holmes, which went out days after a court-imposed gag order went into effect.

Holmes, a 25-year-old former neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado, is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others at the July screening of a Batman movie in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The massacre ranks as one of the worst cases of U.S. gun violence in recent years.

The Fox News story, citing two unidentified law enforcement sources, gave details on the contents of a notebook that purportedly contained plans for mass murder that Holmes sent to university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton.

Holmes' attorneys argue the story could prejudice potential jurors against their client. Their request to have Winter testify represents a rare attempt to force a journalist to reveal anonymous sources when it is suspected that an official has illegally shared information.

Winter's lawyer, Dori Ann Hanswirth, said in a letter dated on Tuesday that she planned to aggressively fight attempts to force her client to testify. The letter was released by the court on Thursday.

Winter will "assert all legal redress available to her," Hanswirth wrote, including objecting to proceedings brought in New York or Colorado to compel her to testify and invoking legal provisions to shield journalists from such requirements.

More than a dozen law enforcement officers who saw the package containing the notebook in a university mail room have denied under oath they were a source for the Fox News story.

Prosecutors have said the attempt to obtain Winter's testimony could delay the trial.

Judge Sylvester set an April 1 court hearing to discuss the attempt by Holmes' attorneys to have Winter testify in the case.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Doina Chiacu)

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