This is why journalism matters

Reporter Stephanie Rice at The Columbian tells the story of a former police officer who spent nearly 20 years in prison for allegedly raping his own children, and the now the adult children have told a court it never happened and that they made the accusations as children after intense pressure by a former detective. Please click through and read the whole story if you wish.

But the Clark County prosecutor’s office is “not waving the white flag,” as reporter Rice writes, even though the former police officer received a commutation from Gary Locke in 2004. Amazingly, it sounds like prosecutors are actually considering appealing to the Supreme Court if the charges are wiped out.

This story is why we need good reporters, and more of them. The Columbian deserves credit on this story.

There is, of course, a public watchdog function that newspapers perform, as something seems to be seriously amiss at the office of Clark County Prosecutor Art Curtis. Readers may recall that Oregonian columnist Steve Duin had a column on July 2 about a Clark County man wrongly charge with luring of a child, despite having ironclad proof that he was elsewhere. The public has a right to know why Art Curtis’s office is conducting itself in this fashion.

We all want the bad guys to be caught, and have put them away. But our Founding Fathers came up with some pretty amazingly sound rules to follow, like the right to face one’s accuser. While that’s admittedly problematic when it involves children, it places an extra burden on police and prosecutors to make sure they have the right guy. That’s not always easy, and the good cops and the good prosecutors deserve our eternal thanks, but when serious screw-ups occur there needs to be some accountability.

Comments

  1. 1

    Broadway Joe spews:

    What is it with Clark County, Jon? Is it the proximity to Portland that just drives a certain percentage in the county that nuts? I mean, between bigots, bad banks, bad cops and bad newspapers, it’s like a little Mississippi on the West Coast….

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    As I recall, a bunch of Illinois journalism students won a Pulitzer Prize by saving an innocent man from that state’s death chamber and inspiring that state’s then-governor to impose a moratorium on all executions.

    I’m not against the death penalty, per se, although I’m certainly against executing innocent people, just as I’m against torturing innocent people, which is why I think Bush and Cheney should be handed over to a war crimes tribunal — frankly, I don’t give a shit what they did to guilty terrorists, I’ve always said I’d look the other way at that. I think some people should be executed. Cal Brown, for example. And the Carr brothers.

    The problem is, our criminal justice system is riddled with imperfections, and that leads to injustices. And that’s why we need muckraking journalists to keep sloppy (or dishonest) cops and prosecutors honest. Or, at least, to correct the well-intentioned mistakes of police and prosecutors before it’s too late.

    If you happen to be near a library or newsstand, pick up the current Popular Mechanics magazine. The current issue has a major article about the weaknesses of our current forensic “science.” You know, fingerprints, ballistics tests, hair samples, that stuff. This article will open your eyes to just how dangerously unscientific and prone to error most CSI investigations actually are.

  3. 3

    spews:

    Then why don’t you encourage Goldy to do more original pieces? More original reporting? I do. I never hear you challenge him, John.

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 How about if he charges you $1,000.00 per word for posting your drivel, then maybe he could afford to. Asswipe.

  5. 5

    Computers R Us spews:

    #3 Where can I read your original piece from your blog on this? LOL

    It’s a blog dude. I hate to explain how computers work to you grandpa, you may just be too old to understand how these new fangled things work. But blogs are re-distributions of ‘news’ that otherwise gets unnoticed, with comments (original and public) added…not original reporting. Now the Huffington Post actually started DOING original reporting, it was a big deal and made some headlines BECAUSE that’s rarely been done before. Blogs are done in the spare time for free 99% of the time (unless they’re really just ‘fronts’ for major newspaper or political institutions who are paying the bills). Bloggers don’t have time to investigate and do real journalism, because that’s not their job, they have ‘real’ jobs that pay the bills 9-5. Blogs just point out stories that are getting missed and try to get them attention.

    I know it’s complicated, and computers are scary. But if you contact your local senior center they could probably find someone to sit down with you longer and explain these fancy new gadgets in more detail.

  6. 6

    GBS spews:

    2. Roger Rabbit spews:
    frankly, I don’t give a shit what they did to guilty terrorists, I’ve always said I’d look the other way at that.

    Uh-huh, and be just like the terrorists or the dictators that we loathe?

    Pol-pot, Idi Amin, Hussein, Hitler and the rest of the wretched never killed, imprisoned, or tortured “innocent” people either.

    Frankly, I’m surprised you’d take a positon so blatantly unAmerican — Cowboy.