By: M.L. STEIN
JOHN BURGESS, THE pool photographer who shot the controversial photo of convicted kidnap-murderer Richard Allen Davis giving the finger to the media, was suddenly replaced by the court following a spat over the judge’s request for his unpublished pictures.
Judy Peterson, the court’s media coordinator, said she switched the pool assignment to the Associated Press after her failure to obtain the outtakes from Burgess’ employer, the Santa Rosa, Calif., Press Democrat.
“I got tired of dealing with them,” Peterson said in an interview.
“I did them a favor in the first place by letting Burgess in when my first choice had been AP.”
Following the conviction in the high-profile trial in San Jose Superior Court, the jury on Aug. 5 voted the death sentence for Davis in the kidnap-slaying of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in Sonoma County, the Press
Democrat’s home territory. AP photographer Paul Sakuma represented the pool for the penalty verdict.
Peterson said the trial judge, Thomas Hastings, sought Burgess’ unpublished pictures ? about 37 in all ? to determine if any of the jurors had been caught on film ? but also as souvenirs of the trial.
“Judge Hastings wanted them for the court clerk and the bailiff as gifts and he might have ordered one for himself,” Peterson said. She added that, along with her request, she left her Visa card number to pay for negatives or prints with the Press Democrat.
Peterson said she was unable to make a live contact at the newspaper in a week of trying by phone, but conceded that managing editor Bob Swofford left her a voice mail message saying the Press Democrat did not release unpublished pictures to the public.
Burgess, who covered the trial from the first day, said he had given Peterson the same information.
“I told her she could have any pictures we published or that went over the [AP] wire, eight in all,” he recalled. “We would not release anything from our files.”
Added Swofford: “People often ask us for unpublished pictures for their own use and we refuse.”
The editor said that bouncing Burgess from the pool spot was seemingly retribution for not getting the pictures.
“I was not surprised by their reaction,” he commented.
Peterson, a former televison field reporter in San Jose who was hired for the media liaison job on a freelance basis, remarked: “I think I had good overall relations with the media during the trial,” she said. “I did everything I could for them, including arranging for parking and putting together an information booklet. I was doing the Press Democrat a favor when I let Burgess shoot for the pool. I had wanted Paul.”
San Francisco AP bureau chief Dan Day confirmed that Sakuma originally was to be the pool photographer for the verdict. No photographers were allowed in the courtroom during the trial although reporters were allowed access.
“Because the crime occurred in Somoma County and the PD is a member paper, we agreed, as a courtesy, to let them have the pool spot,” Day said.
However, he continued, the court’s request to AP for Burgess’ negatives also was turned down as a matter of policy. The Davis trial was not noted for an entirely smooth relationship between the court and the press.
Judge Hastings cited a San Jose TV reporter and her producer for contempt when they declined to disclose who leaked his ruling to allow Davis’ confession to be admitted into evidence. Later, a TV sketch artist was banned for purportedly portraying jurors.
Despite the flap over the photos, Swofford had some kind words for Hastings.
“He kept the trial on course and moving along, which no judge here could have done, and he did allow the media in,” the editor observed.
The venue was changed to San Jose from Sonoma County after the defense complained that media saturation of the crime jeopardized Davis’ chances of a fair trial there.
?(John Burgess of the Santa Rosa, Calif., Press Democrat, the pool photographer who shot the controversial photo of convicted
kidnap-murderer Richard Allen Davis giving the finger to the media (right) which appeared in newspapers around the country, was replaced by the court following a spat over the judge’s request for his unpublished
pictures.) [Photo & Caption]