Thursday, August 18, 2016

Revealing ignorance

The purpose of investigative journalism is to peel back the layers to a story or an event so that the world can see it for what it is and not what someone spins it to be. Good investigative journalism helps you understand what's going on and why. Bad journalism merely contributes to the increased stupidity of society.

The Center for Investigative Journalism has a podcast entitled Reveal. It's usually pretty interesting and the format allows for incredible depth and breadth of reporting. You will generally walk away having learned something.


But not the latest installment of the podcast.

In "Dropped and dismissed: Child sex abuse lost in the system" reporter Tennessee Watson tells her own story of being sexually abused by a gymnastics coach when she was 7 and her decision to report it to the police when she was in her 30's.

After contacting the police and telling them her story, the coach is then arrested and charged with aggravated sexual battery based on nothing more than her story of what happened a quarter of a century earlier. To make a long story short, on the eve of trial the prosecutor offered the coach a deal - plead guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, go on probation for a year and get the case dismissed. He took it.

And Ms. Watson is upset. She's upset because there was no trial. She's upset because the prosecutor made the decision to plead out the case without consulting with her. She's upset because she didn't get to testify against her former coach in open court. She was more upset because other prosecutors refused to file cases like this with only the word of a supposed victim.

And I was upset because of how stupid Ms. Watson was and how she was making the listening audience just a little bit more stupid with her ignorant views on the law. I was also upset because the Center for Investigative Journalism put this out for public consumption.

Perhaps Ms. Watson needs a lesson in how the Bill of Rights works. Perhaps she needs to be reminded that the right to trial is conferred upon the accused, not the accuser. Perhaps she should think about whether filing felony charges based on nothing more than one person's testimony about an event that happened 27 years earlier is a good idea.

I feel bad about what she says happened to her as a child. It wasn't right. No child should have to go through that. But neither should we deprive the accused of their rights just because we think they did something awful. Don't give me the crap that it's all about the kids. The Bill of Rights is there to protect the accused from the mighty power of the State. A "victim," no matter how sympathetic, is just another witness.

But neither should anyone have to listen to the ignorant drivel of a reporter masquerading as an expert in criminal and constitutional law. The CIJ should have either aired a disclaimer or should have had commentary from someone with a little familiarity of the law.

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