Reader reacts to The Record’s Huckaby coverage

Actually, Al is pretty upset with the media in general. Here’s an e-mail he sent me yesterday.

Scott,

I hope you and your editors are satisfied now that you have published every gory detail about the Huckaby case and, not being satisfied with that, you are now pursuing the autopsy details. Disgusting and perverted! I did not need to know all that I read about the case yesterday while having my breakfast. The right people knew all the details and that should suffice. I know you are just doing your job as perceived by your editors but the unrelenting quest on the part of the media to satisfy either theirs or the public’s morbid curiosity serves no useful purpose. On the contrary, you frequently cause the courts to move a case to another jurisdiction as this one would have been had it gone to trial and as was the Micheal Blatt case because of pretrial publicity. All the media has to do is report that a crime has been committed and then let the justice system prevail, i.,e., prosecute the case if necessary and let an unbiased jury decide guilt or innocence. As it is, the media influences the potential jury pool with its constant bombardment of the case under the guise of reporting news.

Why not let the family have their peace?

Al

I appreciate his criticism and others like his. This is an emotional issue that is not lost on me. Al speaks for a lot of people, not to mention attorneys for Sandra Cantu’s family. I’d like to give our rationale for pushing the issue. First, I/we – the media – are not interested in gore for gore’s sake. I’m sure there are larger ramifications, but one reason for reporting these details is to reveal the inner workings of government –  in this case the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney.

You’ll recall that Huckaby had been charged with rape, but they never explained the supporting evidence until Monday. So, one would then ask if they are making up charges and allowed to get away with it. This would be a gross abuse of their power, which is to put people on death row or in prison for life – take away our rights to freedom.

I am not saying that happened at all in this case. The prosecution and police were forbidden from revealing evidence by the judge’s gag order, and it turns out that the sexual charge was substantiated, something we are now learning because the case is becoming open. If we – the media – never asserted the full extent of our rights, we – the public – wouldn’t have learned this, and government abuse could happen.

This is the media’s role in reporting on the criminal justice system, and how I approach my job.

An unfortunate result is that the victims like Sandra Cantu’s family are confronted in the public sphere with these horrible details. That is unfortunate but a consequence of living in an open society.

We’ll continue to demand that court documents be released. That doesn’t mean that we at The Record will publish everything we learn. Our point is that we would like to be able to make that decision and not people in the government. I believe this issue arising from Huckaby is healthy because it reminds everybody of the boundaries. I don’t believe it is enough, as Al said, to report that Melissa Huckaby was arrested and not revisit it until the jury makes its final decision. I have a lot of respect for Judge Linda Lofthus, Deputy DA Thomas Testa and Deputy Public Defender Sam Behar – the three major players in Huckaby’s case. They each have a lot of integrity, but it helps everybody do a good job when they know that the decisions they make day-to-day will be scrutinized in public.

I invite your feedback. E-mail me at: ssmith@recordnet.com

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