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Monday, Jan. 23, 2017

Arrest records: Your right to know

Posted Thursday, October 4, 2007, at 7:49 AM

For years the debate has raged about whether names of arrested persons should be withheld until conviction.

I strongly contend the media must publish/broadcast names of those charged immediately following arrest. It's in the public's best interest to know.

A judge ruled last week that Nashville arrest records must remain open. Police there had been "banned" from releasing arrest records since 1974 (after someone later cleared of charges claimed old records hurt his chance to get a job) but, as the familiar TV face of Metro police spokesperson Don Aaron proved several times a week, the "ban" was ignored.

Last year a Vanderbilt law school faculty member became upset because the Metro police web site identified persons accused of patronizing prostitutes. He wanted the ban enforced.

Charges are not an automatic indication of guilt, although some people may disagree. That's why we have judges, lawyers, trials and law enforcement -- to dig out the truth.

I've had people tell me they were being falsely accused by individuals who had grudges against them, often stemming from broken business or personal relationships. Most of these cases will never make the newspaper; I don't run family fights, personal arguments and the like unless an attack occurred with injuries so serious that someone's life is in danger.

When reading accounts of arrests, pay close attention to the words "alleged" and "allegedly." They make it clear that charges are allegations, not guilty verdicts.

But in the overwhelming majority of cases charges wouldn't have been filed without clear reasons, at least from law enforcement's point of view, for suspicion.

Consider what bad shape we'd be in without disclosure.

*You wouldn't know who is accused of breaking into cars and homes in your neighborhood.

*Mary Winkler's trial wouldn't have been on television. The people of Selmer, without official word of who was charged in her husband's murder, would have had to get by on rumors and word-of-mouth until the guilty verdict was handed down.

*You wouldn't know who is suspected in the Bill Ross murder here last winter, or in any other unfinished cases.

Just three examples. The truth can hurt sometimes. But relying on rumors, which would result from withholding names, would be much worse.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I have no problem with publishing the jail intake or other news worthy articles in the paper. If you don't want your name in the media, there is just one thing you need to do and that is OBEY THE LAW.

-- Posted by cordell on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 8:06 AM

It doesn't matter to me if it is in there or not because I don't plan to be listed in it (unless I get a speeding ticket which I did once while in college but it didn't embarrass me). I think it is more or less something the paper prints for those individuals who are nosey and likes to get into everyone's business. There is nothing really legit about printing it but it's a small town and people like gossip and the paper obliges. I mean really . . . does it matter who got caught speeding??

-- Posted by jaxspike on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 8:55 AM

It don't bother me either even if it wasn't published everybody in town would know what had happened anyway because of gossip.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 11:04 AM

LOL... But what is the purpose of putting people's names in the paper for violating seatbelt laws or speeding?

Include that in the comic section, perhaps?

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 1:27 PM

I love seeing what people have been up to, but hey I am just a gossiper. It doesn't bother me because I also don't plan to be in the blotter anytime soon.

-- Posted by ljd75 on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 2:49 PM

Personally, I like to know what's going on in town... especially if anyone in my neighborhood has been troublesome. Having young children in the neighborhood, I'd like to know who's been arrested for *alleged* drugs,*alleged* DUI and/or *alleged*domestic violence, since the reports list the streets where the *alleged* offenders lived. That way, I could have a better eye on who my child associates with in the neighborhood. I'd kinda like to see updates to the Sex Offender Registry listed in the paper periodically. It's already online for public viewing, why not update it in the paper too?


-- Posted by craftin_mom on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 6:36 PM

I think that the jail intake should continue and I look at it all the time. I don't ever plan on being in it so it doesn't bother me. The only advice I can give someone who doesn't want their name in the paper is don't break the law and your name won't be in it. I really think there is alot going on in this small town that goes unpunished. What aggrevates me the most is to see all of these names and all of the crimes they committed and then you see their bond where they bonded out for little of nothing. Then they are out to do whatever they want to the very next day. The punishment doesn't match the crime and the bonds should be alot higher. GO FIGURE!

-- Posted by jkelley on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 7:21 PM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.