Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Raleigh N&O’s “gift” to the Duke laxers

When we think of the McClatchy Company’s liberal/leftist Raleigh News & Observer in connection with Duke lacrosse players, we don’t think of the N&O sending a “gift,” even unintentionally, to the Duke lacrosse players.

After all, the N&O did so much to publicly trash and libel them, even going so far as enable a transparent frame-up of three of the players for gang rape and other felonies.

Why would it send the players any kind of "gift?"

But on June 20, 2008 at its Editors’ Blog the N&O, in a post by senior editor Dan Barkin, delivered, I’m sure unintentionally, a big “gift” to the laxers and their attorneys who’ve brought suits against Duke University, Durham city and police officials, and others involved in the massive injustices inflicted on the players and their families.

To see that for yourself, please read Barkin’s post, here in its entirety except for a color photo that accompanies it, and which Barkin describes in his post. I’ll add a few comments after the star line.

Barkin’s post, "The Perp Walk," begins - - -

On the front of our Business section today was a photo of a former Bear Sterns hedge fund manager, Matthew Tannin, being helped into a car by a federal law enforcement agent. This is what is known among journalists as the "perp walk." Perp being short for perpetrator.

This is the occasion, after an arrest is made, when the accused is being taken from one place -- like a lockup -- to another place -- like a courthouse. Or maybe from the courthouse to another place. This is usually the best opportunity for photographers to get pictures or video of the perp.

In high profile cases, the perp walk takes on special symbolism. It conveys a message from law enforcement: We got him. We are on the case.

In cases of white-collar crime, it has taken on an even greater significance. It is law enforcement's way of sending the message that even though the accused may be a millionaire and a big-deal executive, he is going to be treated like a common criminal.

There is nothing that focuses the minds of big-shots on Wall Street like the sight of a former colleague being marched in handcuffs past a swarm of cameras by federal agents. Sometimes the federal agents actually walk into the big Wall Street firms and march the accused right out of his office, in front of co-workers.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when he was a federal prosecutor, is said to have raised the executive perp walk to an art form. Prosecutors have increasingly used the threat of a perp walk in negotiations with targets of their white-collar investigations.

Here's a good article on the history and nuances of the technique.

One thing that you have to keep in mind when you see photos or videos of Big Shots being perp walked is that -- in the end -- the government still has to prove the case. The guy that you see being cuffed and put into the back of a car probably has a battery of $700 an hour lawyers at his disposal, who will go up against federal lawyers who do not make $700 an hour. Try $60 an hour.

There is a good chance that the perp being walked today will never see the inside of a prison cell when all is said and done.

The feds know this, in the back of their minds, which may be one big reason for the handcuffs and the cameras. Because even if the accused win in court, they'll still have to live down the images of being perp walked (sic) being seen on CNN by everyone who went to high school with them.



The Raleigh N&O published a perp photo of the players - their coats and sweaters covering their faces - walking in to the police lab to give DNA samples. It also published a Vigilante poster photo. Newsweek put “mug shot” photos on its front page. And on and on the MSM photo-smearing went.

When it comes to the time in the suit process when the players' attorneys are arguing before a judge, jury or others involved in agreeing to pay damages to make the players as “whole” as possible, the attorneys will surely welcome editor Dan Barkin and the "gift" of his post “The Perp Walk.”

Advice to anyone who might use Barkin’s post: Print out or in some other way retain the post. Sometimes posts at the Editors’ Blog are “updated;” sometimes posts and comment threads there even disappear entirely.

Factual note: Many people believe the N&O published the lax “perp walk” photo on Mar. 24, 2006 along with the story of the Duke students entering the police lab to give DNA samples. But the N&O decided not to publish it then.

The N&O waited until some days later when the trashing, slandering and threats directed at the players were at their height and then published it.

Some newspaper!


Anonymous said...

Yes, Virginia, there really are some rules. The guidelines of the New York Fair Trial Free Press Conference (see chapter 8) specifically provide that

"Although they are commonplace, photographs of accused individuals in handcuffs or shackles are particularly likely to contribute to the views of readers and viewers that individuals are guilty, despite the fact that those individuals are legally entitled to a presumption of innocence before and during their trials.


"Although the press normally argues for more, rather than less, access to news and news subjects, one major newspaper in the state published an editorial condemning the practice of the police of “walking the perp”—creating opportunities for photographers to get shots of accused individuals—because of the dangers of prejudice. . .

"Public officials sometimes provide opportunities for the press to get pictures of seized evidence. In deciding whether to take or use such photos, you should consider their importance to the story, the motives of the public officials in providing the photo opportunity, and the dangers of prejudice."

bill anderson said...

The perp walk frenzy is just one more example of the so-called watchdog press actually being the lapdog of police and prosecutors. When I was a journalism student more than 30 years ago, we constantly were told that the press is the "watchdog" of government.

I have news for everyone. The press is NOT a watchdog of anything except its own government-protected privileges. There are few truly courageous journalists anymore, and none of them work for mainstream papers.

Reporters have most of their sources from government offices; thus, they depend upon people in government for their livelihoods, and they make sure that their "sources" are duly rewarded. Nothing like a symbiotic relationship to expose the real mainstream press.

Jim in San Diego said...

A perp walk looks like nothing so much as a good old fashioned lynching, without the dead body. Or, a tarring and feathering, without the mess to clean up.

So, the perp walk has its place in a long history of ways we may punish someone without the inconvenience of a trial and conviction, and without the messy intervention of due process and Constitutional rights.

Jim Peterson

halides1 said...

We need to email any news outlet that publishes perp walks and tell them that we do not want to see any more of them, in no uncertain terms.