Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Since when do the facts matter?

By Bob Gaydos
Here’s what we know for sure after a little more than a month of some of the most irresponsible, rush-to-convict “reporting” on the part of cable TV outlets and, sad to say, quite a few mainstream news organizations:

All powerful men are sex-addicted pigs … or not
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn is no longer director of the International Monetary Fund.
  • DSK, as headline writers so cleverly dubbed him (the way they do serial killers) is also no longer considered one of the Socialist Party’s leading candidates to run for president of France.
  • Strauss-Kahn has a reputation as sort of a ladies man and some people say he has a fondness for hotel maids.
  • He lost his IMF position and his standing in France’s presidential politics because of an alleged rape of a hotel maid in New York City.
  • The allegation of rape became a virtual fact in ensuing stories in newspapers, magazines and on TV even though nothing had yet been argued in court.
  • Shortly after charging Strauss-Kahn with rape, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. learned that the maid who claimed she was raped had been lying about virtually everything in her life for many years, including what she did after the alleged encounter with Strauss-Kahn. In fact, she could face criminal charges in several areas and might be a candidate for deportation for all her lying.
  • Vance had a legal duty to reveal this information about the alleged victim even though it put his high-profile rape case in jeopardy.
  • Lacking a confession or recording of the event, no one except DSK and the maid know exactly what happened in that hotel room. Sex may have occurred, but was it rape? DSK says no. She says yes, but the DA says she’s a known serial liar.
  • Shortly after Vance revealed the facts about the maid, the New York City tabloids launched an assault on her. She’s suing the Post for libel.

Casey Anthony was a horrible mother … fact
  • Caylee Anthony, 2-years-old, died a tragic death.
  • Casey Anthony, by any reasonable definition, was not a good mom. She and her family lie a lot.
  • The Florida prosecutor who charged Casey with murder in the death of her daughter, had no physical evidence, no confession, no witness linking Casey to the death of Caylee. It was all circumstantial.
  • The case took on national prominence because of hysterical cable TV coverage (Nancy Grace) centering on the question: How could a mother kill a young child? This coverage featured a procession of supposed experts, none of whom had any connection to the case or access to any of the testimony or evidence.
  • The jury was sequestered from all media coverage of the trial.
  • That coverage was prompted by the fact that Casey lied to police about her daughter going missing and that she partied while the search for Caylee (who was dead) went on.
  • The prosecutor, who says he was surprised at the jury’s not guilty verdicts on all the homicide charges, says he thinks the reason for the verdict is that he never proved how Caylee died. That is usually crucial in a homicide case.
  • An alternate juror who heard all the evidence and inflammatory testimony about the Anthony family, agrees with the prosecutor. The juror also says no motive was ever established.
  • There has been a huge outcry of injustice because of the verdict. As explained by Aphrodite Jones, author and host of “True Crime” on the Investigation Discover Network: “There's a huge groundswell that thinks no one else could have killed this child."
  • See above: Prosecutor says he never proved how Caylee died.
  • In a homicide case, when an accused’s life may be at stake, juries are instructed to be certain “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused did in fact cause the death of the victim -- under the terms of one of the criminal charges actually placed.
  • Casey could have been charge with other, lesser, criminal charges in connection with her daughter’s death.
  • Casey was convicted only of lying to police, which Geraldo Rivera, a rare voice of dissent on Fox News, noted, is not proof of murder.
Nor does it mean a woman wasn’t assaulted. I don’t know if DSK raped the hotel maid, although I suspect something hinky happened in that room. I suspect that Casey was somehow responsible for her daughter’s death, but can’t be certain how or why. I believe both prosecutors overreacted to the cases at first and that the Manhattan DA at least had the good sense to realize the limitations of his case and react accordingly.
I also believe that what passes for news media these days went well beyond traditional reporting guidelines on both stories, passing along suspicion and speculation instead of facts, playing on people’s emotions and creating that “groundswell” for conviction that Aphrodite Jones mentioned.
Once upon a time in America, real life tragedy was not our only source of entertainment. And reporters had to use the word “alleged” if they wanted to keep their jobs.


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