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CBS posts transcripts of dragging death interview.

CBS turned over transcripts to prosecutors on Nov. 10 of an interview that anchor Dan Rather did in September with dragging death defendant Shawn Allen Berry. CBS also posted the transcript on its web site, a move some press advocates are applauding.

"That was very smart of them to put the information out there for everyone. To let the world see how stupid the prosecutors were in this whole thing," said Christine Tatum, the chair of the SPJ's Legal Defense Fund.

Berry is accused of beating then chaining James Byrd Jr. to the back of a truck and dragging Byrd to his death. Two other men have already been convicted of the crime. Berry told Rather during the interview that he attempted to get the other men to stop beating Byrd.

The case had threatened to send producer Mary Mapes to jail for refusing to turn over the transcripts. Texas does not have a shield law, and the trial judge found Mapes in contempt for not turnin over the records. CBS fought the contempt citation but exhausted its appeals in Texas state courts. Mapes had been ordered to jail when CBS reached a settlement with prosecutors.

"We remain strong in our conviction that a free press is one that is free from government intrusion and interference," said Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News.

Before the network's settlement, SPJ had voted to pay Mapes' bond and sent $250 check to a bail bondsman in Jasper, Texas. The organization had also talked about organizing a picket at the jail, and the local chapter had offered to baby-sit for Mapes if she went to jail. "It means a great deal to me to have the support of a organization made up of people who understand how difficult and how important these times can be," Mapes said.

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Publication:The Quill
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
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