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Murder Defendant Denied 'First 48' Footage

The reality TV program The First 48 does not have to turn over raw footage to a Charlotte murder defendant. Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson made his ruling Thursday. The Charlotte Observer has the story here. Attorneys for Jonathan Fitzgerald sought 20 hours of raw footage that First 48 crews shot of a crime scene last August. They argued the video should be turned over to the defense because it was shot in coordination with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police. CMPD has a contract with producers of the program. WFAE's Julie Rose spoke to Raleigh media attorney Charles Coble this week about the case. He said he found defense attorney Jeremy Smith's argument "quite interesting." "I've not heard of a case quite like this, where they're essentially arguing that the reality show and the law enforcement agency are one in the same, where they're agents with one another," Coble said. You can listen and read a transcript of that interview here. The contract gives CMPD the right to review a rough cut of programs before they air to "ensure factual accuracy." But Coble doubted that argument was sufficient. "The contract is clear the material is the TV series material. Whatever footage they (First 48) take, they retain ultimate editorial control over what they air, and I didn't see that the police department had unfettered access to all of the footage or retain copies for its files, or even necessarily that they saw everything." Judge Levinson ruled that First 48 crews are journalists protected by North Carolina law, the Observer reports. He also said the raw footage was not essential to the defense. Fitzgerald is charged in the stabbing death of Oscar Alvarado Chavez last August.