Saturday, April 23, 2011

Identifying a juror from a gang murder trial

Some readers have questioned our publication of the identity of a juror for the recent gang murder trial in Kingston (“Murder defendants hurt selves by testifying, juror says,” April 22, http://bit.ly/igjWCz). The criticisms include that we endangered the safety of the juror by identifying him and, in one instance, that we did so deliberately in the hope of getting him killed so that we could sell more newspapers:

" Im not sure why this jurors name is in print. Seems like a really bad idea and not necessary. You do realize these men are part of a gang dont you? Just because their going to jail, doesnt mean that many of their gang friends arent in the area, angry and looking for revenge. This seems wreckless on the part of the Freeman to post this jurors name. "

" I couldn' agree with you more CHAMP KIND, this is a no brainer, media/editor's doesn't care whose life they put in jeopordy, as long as they get a story. "

" Hey Freeman, next time post a photo of the juror, his home address, where he works, where his kids attend school, and the make and model of his car. That way you ensure 100% that angry gang members can retaliate for sending two of their boys to prison. This is the most wreckless piece of journalism Ive seen in a long time. Are you trying to get this guy killed so we have another trial next year and you can sell more papers? Im pretty sure thats whats goin on. "

The juror, William Olsen, approached us first. He wanted a complete account of our coverage, which he was not allowed to to read while he was on the jury, and also wanted to congratulate the Freeman for the coverage he had since seen. We provided him with a copy of the Twitter stream that reporter Patricia Doxsey had produced live during the trial.
Ms. Doxsey then asked him if she could interview him and he agreed. He put no restrictions on the interview or the story. Had he asked for anonymity I would have had to decide whether it was warranted under the circumstances and, depending on what I decided, we would either have granted him anonymity and published the story or simply dropped the story. But it never came to that because he didn't ask.
Further, Mr. Olsen had already blogged about his experience and all of the jurors had been identified in open court during the selection process.
Media outlets are constantly pounded for not identifying their sources. The Freeman, however, has only rarely granted anonymity to a source, a decision here that can only be made by the managing editor. This policy has served us well.
We treated Mr. Olsen as an adult capable of parsing this matter for himself. He was, after all, entrusted with a decision on the fates of two men under fairly complex standards of evidence and what constitutes "reasonable doubt."
That's the way it was treated here. I respect that some readers may differ, but it's not like we forced his identity into the public eye. Had I been the juror, I might have asked for anonymity before agreeing to an interview; I'm not sure, in all honesty. But I do know that I wouldn't expect someone else to make that decision for me.
Finally, as for the charge that we would put someone in harm’s way to create an outcome that would sell newspapers, well, that’s the type of charge that can be made only by someone who has never spent any time with the people in our newsroom.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Rebekkah said...

Are you saying you published his name because he never asked for anonymity (as in it wasn't even brought up)? Or you posted it because he said he wouldn't mind you publishing his name for all to see? I find the wording of this response to leave something to be desired. Serving as juror and being anonymous go hand in hand. Perhaps he did want to be identified, but as an avid reader of the Daily Freeman I was extremely disappointed that the paper decided to publish his name. Under NO circumstances should their name be published because it takes all of ten minutes to locate a person's current address and other personal background information on the internet. There are too many nutcases in the world.

April 23, 2011 at 2:13 PM 
Blogger Bill Olsen said...

I agree Mr Adamis

April 24, 2011 at 5:09 AM 
Blogger shirley said...

Hmmm - perhaps I should clarify - I agree with you Mr Adamis

April 25, 2011 at 6:38 AM 

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