Corpus Christi, Texas, reporter Nicole Perez spent months fighting to air a security tape of a scuffle between jail guards and a prisoner. And just when she thought she'd won, she said, her victory was snatched away-literally-by her own news director.
After the station had won its fight against Nueces County prosecutors, who sought to keep the tape off the air to avoid, they said, contaminating a potential jury pool, longtime KZTV(TV) News Director Walter Furley decided not to use it.
Perez, and the rest of the Corpus Christi market, would see the tape that night, but on other stations, and on the Web site of the local newspaper. "As soon as I walked in the door, he grabbed the tape out of my hands," Perez said. "He said we're not running the story."
The next day, Perez quit.
"I can't work where my news director won't support me," she said. "I tried telling him other stations would run it, that it's public because we went to court to get it. But he let me get beat on my own story. I can't stand that."
Furley, a 40-year-plus veteran of the station who is also a news anchor there, explained to colleagues and to the market that he believed showing the tape outside a courtroom could prejudice potential jurors in the eventual trial.
But General Manager Jim Bixler asked, "Why go to all the trouble of having an attorney plead our case if you're not going to use it?" Bixler said he spoke with Furley, and disagreed with him, but decided not to overrule him.
Perez had first asked in March for security video of the February incident that led to assault charges against two guards. She made a request to county officials under Texas open-records law and received a favorable opinion from the Texas Attorney General's office. The tape was released in May, but prosecutors got a court order to prevent the station from airing it. Defense attorneys also opposed airing the tape.