Donna Carbone

Donna Carbone
South Florida, USA
April 21
Writers Bloc
Married for thirty six years and the mother of the two grown children, I began writing at the age of ten. My first success was winning a poetry contest in grammar school. From that moment forward, I realized that the written word was as vital to my survival as food and air. I am presently working on two books, one of which I hope to finish before I die. A number of my poems have graced A Long Story Short, and I have been published in the Lucidity Journal. Each day inspires me...what I see, hear and experience.... if it stays in my mind, I write about it. __________________________________________ "To believe in something not yet proved and to underwrite it with our lives: It is the only way we can leave the future open." (Lillian Smith)


MARCH 27, 2012 2:33PM

Crime reports and the media

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Too much (erroneous) information too soon


After reading the latest (3/27/12) account of the confrontation between 17 year-old Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman on February 26th – a confrontation in which young Mr. Martin was killed – I feel compelled to ask why the media is permitted to publish a report on a crime before the facts have been verified. This morning’s Palm Beach Post carried two articles – one by Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel and the other by Post columnist Frank Cerabino.

Stutzman’s article brings to light new facts on the case. Whereas previously it was thought that Zimmerman shot Martin without provocation, the police have now revealed that Zimmerman was physically attacked by Martin to the degree that “Martin decked Zimmerman… climbed on top of Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk.” An eye witness has gone on record, saying that he saw Martin on top of a beaten and bloody Zimmerman. He also stated that he heard Zimmerman cry out for help.

According to Stutzman’s article, Zimmerman relayed this account to the police both on the night of the attack and at subsequent meetings. Yet, neither the press nor the public were informed until recently. Rather, Zimmerman was tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion and, now, no matter what the eventual outcome may be -- no matter the truth -- society will always see him as the guy who shot a black teenager for no reason.

Cerabino’s article plays into the white versus black issue… and rightly so. No matter how far we have come in race relations, we still have far to go. The biggest problem when a case like Martin/Zimmerman arises is determining whether race was actually a factor. Sadly, it usually is if only to a small degree.

Cerabino questions whether Zimmerman, who is now in hiding, was not arrested because he is white. Actually, he is bi-racial. His mother is Hispanic. I find it interesting that no one is mentioning that under other circumstances, people might be rallying to Zimmerman’s cause if he had been shot and killed by a white person.

For comparison purposes, Frank Cerabino used the case of Trevor Dooley, a 69-year-old black bus driver, who shot and killed Iraqi War veteran David James, 41, during an altercation at a public park. The argument started when the older man tried to usher skateboarders from the premises. James, who was playing basketball with his 8-year old daughter, took sides against Dooley. Words turned to fists and, being younger and more physically fit, James had the advantage. James’ daughter testified that her dad “… got on top of him to keep him down.” Dooley then shot James, killing him with a single bullet.

Where the stories of Dooley/James and Martin/Zimmerman differ is that Dooley was arrested and charged with manslaughter. Zimmerman is not facing arrest at this time. Was race a motivating factor? No one with an ounce of intellect could honestly say “No.” Humans are imperfect creatures.

Flipping over a few pages in the same edition of the Post, I came across an article about Dominique Strauss Kahn. Kahn (DSK) is the former International Monetary Fund chief accused of rape by a maid working at a New York City hotel. DSK was paraded in handcuffs before the media before any hard evidence had been collected. He was tried and condemned in less time than it takes to bake a potato in a microwave oven. Then… oops, he was set free. Why? New evidence came to light.

Too late! Strauss Kahn’s political career was over. Any chance of regaining his position of power in France was lost. To this day, no one knows what happened in that hotel room. It doesn’t matter. DSK is a rapist in the mind of everyone familiar with the story.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. My personal feeling is that Strauss Kahn is probably not a man to ask first. There is also a strong possibility that Zimmerman and James were motivated to intervene (not necessarily engage) due to negative feelings on race. Those are circumstances that need to be seriously considered by law enforcement when pursuing a case. The media should stay out of it until they have the full story.

To get back to my original question… when should the media report on a crime and how much of their early reports should contain “speculation.” From where I sit, the public is entitled to know what is happening in their communities and around the world as soon as possible. But, and this is a big but, only the facts should be reported. If there aren’t any facts to report, that should be mentioned as well.

It is not the media’s place to throw blood into the water and force a feeding frenzy. That may sell papers but it doesn’t speak to ethics and morals. Then again, ethics and morals seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird.    

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Best piece I read on this topic, thank you! R.
Trudie, thank you! I strive for common sense... a difficult task since common sense just isn't that common.
There is still the unanswered question, though, as to whether Trevon felt threatened by Z.
Sarah, this post is not a commentary on the incident itself. These are my views on how it and others like it are handled in the press.
I understand your point, but it's called the "news", not the "olds".
At what point would there be enough informatio gathered that it could be deemed ready for us to hear? You say after the facts are gathered. So post-trial? Just the elements that both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed upon? That's not what we want either.
It's a classic dilemma facing journalists but I would not quibble the side point that the rush to be first with the most can have serious ramifications that hide the truth.
My thoughts exactly. I admit I jumped on the feeding frenzie upon the first reports. Foolishly taking the media account as truth. Silly me. I saw the reports you mention that brought different information to light and was sad to think that all these protests and demonstrations brought on by the initial reports have caused a man to go into hiding and no matter what the outcome or the truth is, this man's life is forever altered. I have no doubt that race played a part in the whole drama, but I am hesitant to form an opinion just yet. I don't trust any of the reports at this point. The "eye-witness" is even questionable at this point for me. I had commented on one the posts suggesting we should all display a picture of a hoodie in support of Trayvon that I would do so later that day, but before I got home I had seen the report that there was new evidence that it may not have gone down quite the way it was previously reported. I decided at that point that I would not join in that and would sit back and wait to see if the full story would come to light. I grieve for Trayvon's mother and family but I also feel some sympathy for Zimmerman because no matter what, even if he "deserves" it, it is an action/reaction he will forever pay for.
Also, what I said was that "only the fact" should be printed... not speculation. If there is no verified information, then a reporter should write that nothing factual is known at this time. BTW: the "news" does not mean "lies and innuendo" -- at least not in my dictionary.
Painting the Stars: thank you. I was beginning to give up hope that reading comprehension existed any more. I share your concerns.
"I was beginning to give up hope that reading comprehension existed any more."
I think that has merit.

"Facts" are refuted in courtrooms all the time. You have the experience to know that.
The "facts" often turn out to be something entirely different than first perceived. On this we agree. People make up their minds based on innuendo and speculation all the time, but keeping what might be incomplete or inaccurate portions of a story away from the citizenry is not what drives journalists nor is it entirely the responsibilty of them to discern the absolute and irrefutable truth before reporting on what has been alledged. We have courtrooms for that. Those who are hearing and reading early "facts" have some responsibility to digest before deciding.

I thought I had written my comment carefully enough that you would comprehend what I was saying.
Yes. And thank you for saying it! Too much erroneous information to, obviously, poison the jury pool. And the best chance to be relevant and credible is missed!
With all due respect to all of this, it never fails to amaze me how people talk, talk, talk, about this case and it’s mostly race, race, race– which is totally legitimate for that is the ugly underbelly in America. This infestation of racism pollutes our body politic and is a disgrace on a great Nation.

But what troubles me most is that people also talk, and jabber hysterically about this law when they haven’t even troubled themselves to go read the freakin’ statute  so they might at least have a thimble full of knowledge demonstrating they have a clue what they are talking about.  Essentially it comes down to what Randolph McLaughlin, attorney for the family of Kenneth Chamberlain said speaking about that case on Democracy Now and comparing the police there to Zimmerman here. You can’t provoke a situation and then respond to it, "Oh, I had to use deadly force to protect myself."  That really is all of it in a nutshell. Superbly stated.

But if we are going to trash a law (when the real trash is law enforcement) we should at least go read it. This is easy. This is not rocket science.  If anyone is going publish their opinions credibility helps.  The law in question here is really simple enough for a 17-year old to understand.

Read "Trayvon Martin: Defense a Pig-Sty Beneath a Racist Facade?"  as well as the follow up commentary and I think you will agree that the ONLY person who can rely on this law as a defense is Trayvon Martin.

Indeed, even as to the alleged fight that broke out the legal consequence is the same. Under the plain and simple language of this law and the facts as we know them, The ONLY man with a right to stand his ground was Trayvon Martin and the only one legally authorized by law to meet force with force as that 6' 3" 140 lg boy against a 5. 9' 240lb gorilla with a gun.  

“Suspicion” will NOT suffice under this statute. Read it. Much more  must be specifically shown.  Did Trayvon fight back? Is this even a relevant question? If you were 140 lb  skinny teenager  displaying none of the BEHAVIOR SPECIFICALLY required before one can even evoke this statute (just read it!) and 250 gorilla jumps out of a car and comes after you as you are retreated from his aggression what would you do?  What would and person do? Waht they have a right to! Stand your ground and meet force with force if necessary to prevent great bodily harm.

Notice, once you read this simple and clear law, one person and one person only has the factual and legal right to assert on their behalf.  And that ONE person was Travyon Martin.  I rest my case.