Tag Archives: journalists in court

Name 14-year-old accused of shooting cop?

A police officer in Rochester, NY, was shot in the head while walking away from a group that police had questioned but not arrested.  Three days later, a 14-year-old turns himself into police, according to police and judicial officials at a press conference. They did not name him during the press conference.

The child (and to me, a 14-year-old is a child, not a man) pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and second-degree attempted murder. Although charged as a juvenile, his case is in adult court and his name was in The Democrat & Chronicle’s news story Feb. 4 and his photo was on the web site. His face and name were also all over R-News, WHEC-TVWOKR-TV and WROC-TV.

The child had been in trouble with the law before this and had not reported to the people supervising him since April 2008, according to the D&C. The D&C’s editorial board is right to ask, “How is it that a 14-year-old can go for nearly a year without reporting for adult supervision as required?”

I’m not sure, however, that the D&C and other Rochester area news media are right to use this child’s name and image. He is innocent until proven guilty and he is 14. Just because journalists have the name and image does not mean they should use them.

The shooting has been an emotional story that has gripped the Rochester, NY, region. Prayers, donations and messages of support for the police officer and his family rightfully abound.

My concern is that, after the media coverage, this child, regardless of the verdict, will never be seen as anything but an attempted cop killer. Some of the people posting reactions to today’s D&C story are already calling for the death penalty and talking as if he has been convicted. This child has already been sentenced for life.

Strip searched for a libel suit

Can you imagined being awoken at 6:40 a.m., handcuffed and strip searched twice in the same month because someone in the justice system wanted to talk to you about a libel case?

According to Washington Post writer Edward Cody, that is exactly what happened to a French editor of the Liberation daily in Paris. An investigating magistrate said she took the action because the journalist hadn’t responded when summoned.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to eliminate investigative magistrates because of abuses of power and a need for a greater presumption of innocence for the accused, Cody reports.  While his idea apparently has a lot of support, my guess is the investigating magistrates will be buying a lot of Sarkozy voodoo dolls in the coming days.

Photo of Sarkozy voodoo doll by Associated Press

Photo of Sarkozy voodoo doll by Associated Press

Case exemplifies need for federal shield law

A 60-year-old reporter whose work once led to a Pulitzer Prize for public service is fighting to keep his source for a story on an internal government investigation of a lawyer confidential.

David Ashenfelter of the Detroit Free Press did not reveal his source, and instead claimed the Fifth Amendment. Attorneys for the lawyer, who was in charge of terrorism cases, argue the use of the Fifth Amendment was improper and will continue to pursue the case.

At the heart of this issue is the lack of a federal shield law to protect journalists from revealing their sources. Many states have shield laws, but there is no such federal equivalent. (Does your state have a shield law? Find out here.)

The Society of Professional Journalists and other journalism groups have been calling for a federal shield law for years.

Perhaps with the same party in majority in Congress and in the White House something can be done.