The Daily Sentinel vs. the Presumption of Innocence

The Goebbelsian dinosaur media (so named after Paul Joseph Goebbels, German politician and Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda during Adolf Hitler’s fascist National Socialist regime from 1933 to 1945) constantly strives to drum into our heads the canard “innocent until proven guilty.” Nothing could be farther from the truth, because the establishment media’s prime directive, like the courts, is not to serve truth, liberty, justice, and prosperity for all, but to try to form your opinions for you. Contrary to popular public perception, the dinosaur media serves Power, which, in turn, keeps the self-anointed elite in political office and financially well off.

To this end, the Goebbelsians have created and cultivated a symbiosis with “convict them in the press” establishment law enforcement. The media needs column inches and sound-byte stories, while “law” enforcement needs the “hamburger helper” of being able to convict accused persons in the press before a fair trial and due process has a realistic opportunity of proving innocence. Of course, the entire subject is made infinitely more difficult because most accused persons are guilty, the key word being “most.” Let’s take a look at a real life local example.

In an editorial titled “Blagg’s trial on trial,” the Daily Sentinel concludes (and wants its readers to think) that “Blagg was fairly convicted of murder and deserves to spend the rest of his days in prison.” What it does not explain is that it is standard establishment “law enforcement” operating procedure to try to gain information with which to make the public despise an accused person (aka “suspect”) regardless of actual guilt or innocence. Richard Jewel is but one in an endless list of examples.

Nobody has ever said the Goebbelsians aren’t clever. The Sentinel chose its words very carefully. To demonstrate one side of the issue, it said “One claim is that prosecutors didn’t show that Blagg’s pornography obsession offered a motive for the killing.” Notice that the phrase “one claim” implies that the defense’s assertion is not very important, perhaps even illegitimate. To demonstrate the other side of the issue, the Sentinel said, “However, testimony at trial made it clear the pornography strained the Blaggs’ marriage and led to a serious fight between the couple just days before she was killed.” In other words, the Sentinel, knowing full well that everybody disapproves of husbands who disrespect their wives by obsessing over pornography, is making a proactive statement that it is “clear” the defense’s “claim” is bologna. “Fair and balanced?” Yeh, right.

“Fair and balanced” has nothing to do with a genuine presumption of innocence. The presumption itself may not be fair, but it is what it is, and it exists in law so that procedural due process can have real meaning and effect during a trial, which, in turn, is the only means society has of making sure it gives the intended effect to the criminal statutes and punishes the right person. Of course those kinds of legal niceties are lost on the average clueless opinionated ignoramus, who only wants the “bad guys to get what’s coming to them.” “What’s coming to them,” of course consists of a presumption of guilt coupled with a sheer absence of procedural due process. “No problem,” say the opinionated ignoramuses, “I’m not the one on trial.” The Goebbelsian media is all too eager to give the opinionated ignoramuses what they want. After all, nobody wants the guilty to go free. Too bad so few care about the innocent getting convicted.

I never cease to be amazed at how virtually nobody was in possession of any first-hand facts in the O.J. Simpson media circus, yet tens of millions of people had an adamant opinion one way or the other as to his guilt or innocence. And millions of those opinionated ignoramuses held their opinions so aggressively as to border on being combative. Absolutely astounding!

The thing that really troubles me in the Blagg example, however, is the nagging suspicion that significant numbers of cops, prosecutors, “expert” witnesses, judges, and media employees probably spend more time look at pornography and have more of it on their home computers than the poor sap they are trying to demonize and convict in the media prior to trial. And anyone who thinks I’m exaggerating has simply not heard of judges such as David Lanier (see United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 117 S. Ct. 1219 (1997)) and Donald Thompson, prosecutors such Assistant U.S. Attorney John Atchison, or a long list of law enforcement officers such as Tyler Peterson and Patrick Strawmatt. But it gets a whole lot worse.

Take the local case of Lester Ralph Jones, who has been named as a “suspect” in the recent disappearance of Paige Birgfeld. Of course, if Jones is guilty, then nobody cares what happens to him, because most people just want to “get the bad guy” and to hell with due process and a presumption of innocence. The cops said he’s a suspect, so, since the cops never lie and are never wrong, the suspect must necessarily be guilty.

Better to convict the innocent than to let a crime go unsolved, right? Problem is, only by meticulously adhering to procedural due process of law, combined with a genuine presumption of innocence, can society have any remotely realistic chance to be certain it is punishing the right persons for committing crimes. The “convict them in the media before trial” symbiosis makes that quite impossible at the very same time as the co-conspirators, law enforcement and establishment media, are pretending they are not doing the very thing they are doing. The “convict them in the media” symbiosis and mentality are anathema to the constitutional concept of a fair trial. In fact, they make a fair trial completely impossible. But that OK, because, remember, our very top priority is for “the bad guys to get theirs” no matter what — right?

A story titled “Suspect named in disappearance” demonstrates precisely what I’m talking about. For starters, in their lead story, the Sentinel ran a very prejudicial convict-looking mug-shot-type photo of Jones at the very top of the front page. What an effective way to ruin somebody’s life if he happens to be innocent.

Next the Sentinel, whether anecdotally or by direct quote, published Sheriff Stan Hilkey’s cleverly worded “convict the accused in the media” talking points, such as, “authorities have at least twice searched Jones’ home.” Woo woo! Maybe they didn’t find anything. What about that?

Next the Sentinel says, “Naming Jones as the case’s only suspect on Tuesday does not imply new developments or leads have been reached lately in the case.” Oh really? Then why do it? What if Jones is innocent? I don’t guess the Goebbelsians going to presume that, contrary to all their “presumption of innocence” propaganda.

Next the Sentinel says, “it is common for law enforcement to identify a suspect without making an arrest or having intentions of making an arrest.” Oh really? Then why do it? I rest my case on the “convict the accused in the media” propaganda-based symbiosis.

Next the Sentinel says, “Investigators said they are hoping that naming Jones as a suspect will prompt people with information to come forward.” Obviously that statement is not intended with the word “information” to mean exculpatory evidence tending to prove Jones innocent. Quite the contrary, the sentence is obviously designed to militate against innocence and gravitate towards guilt.

Next the Sentinel says, “Frank Birgfeld said he has heard from someone not in law enforcement that Jones had an address book with Paige’s number listed in it.” So? Why said something like that. Why not bring that up in front of a jury and let them decide what it means. Even if Jones may have been buying sexual favors from Ms. Birgfeld, it does not logically follow that he is automatically responsible for her disappearance. There again, the notions of logic, fairness, due process and a presumption of innocence appear to be totally lost on the Goebbelsians and their ovine followers.

Lastly, the pièce de résistance is when the Sentinel says, “According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Jones has been convicted of a slew of domestic-violence-related crimes committed in Delta County. . . Jones was sentenced to five years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for second-degree kidnapping in October 1999.” “Slew,” huh?! Very “fair and balanced” word, huh?! Yeh, right. It seems perfectly obvious that the Sentinel is deliberately choosing to help the prosecutors manipulate public opinion so they pollute the jury pool, demonize the suspect, and achieve an easy conviction in the media prior to trial.

The Sentinel would probably be very offended by the types of criticisms I have set out in this post. No doubt they would also be offended by the bluntness with which I presented them. Tough. I view their Goebbelsian tactics as extremely dangerous to the Bill of Rights (particularly the due process and equal protection of law provisions) and, therefore, totally unacceptable. Hence this dissenting blog.

As far as I'm concerned, until the police actually arrest somebody, and the prosecutors actually file criminal charges in court, there is no legitimate news, only gossip and manipulation. Only the injustice inherent in the routine "convict 'em in the media" dog-and-pony show. Only the Roman-coliseums-style "bread and circuses" entertainment to satisfy the "get the bad guys no matter what" blood lust of the mindless crowd.