Courts handout

Courts handout - 4/30/20081:15 PM Criminal-justice...

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5/13/200910:05 A5/P5 Criminal-justice procedures at a glance: A guide for sportswriters 1. Crime occurs - neighbors usually see something useful to police and journalists. If a death is involved, possible sources for information about the victim may include the county pathologist or coroner, the justice of the peace, hospitals, funeral homes, and ministers. To get the who, what, when, where and why on a death or injury, be prepared to make a chain of phone calls through all these sorts of people, and others. 2. Victim or witnesses report crime - recorded on an incident log, coded by type of offense, date and time; usually kept at or near the front desk at the police station. It is standard procedure to fully identify (name, age, address) victims in accidents. Witnesses to crimes and accidents, including victim witnesses, would normally be identified as well. However, if there is a danger that the criminal might retaliate against a witness identified in a news story, the reporter and editors should discuss withholding identification in that case. Complainants in a rape case are not identified, and in child-indecency cases and other crimes involving child victims, the child is not identified, nor is the relationship between child and suspect described. A typical phrase would be “an incident involving a 10-year-old boy” – not a neighbor, son, grandson, nephew, etc. The presumption is to identify everyone in a story; these guidelines show that in some cases, there is a compelling reason to withhold information for specific reasons. Privacy laws passed in recent years have made it more difficult to get information about the condition of a crime or accident victim who is being treated in a hospital. At a minimum, the reporter will need a full name in order to ask hospital staff for a condition report (good, fair, serious, critical); the best way to ensure accurate, complete information on a victim’s condition is to have a good working relationship with police investigators, emergency-response agencies, individual paramedics, hospital staff, family members, pastors, friends, and others. It is important to update the condition of a victim as late in the evening as practical under deadlines – even if this means the reporter who initially wrote the story must “pass the baton” to another reporter or editor, arranging for a late call to be made for a condition update. 3. Police offense report - contains details of what police are told at the scene; physical descriptions; may include witnesses' names and telephone numbers. The information about the offense, typically stated on thefirst page of an offense report, is an open record; you have a right to it, although police may legally delay its release, either routinely or otherwise, for days or even weeks. Offense reports are not privileged ; that is to say, if you attribute material in an offense report to police, and it turns out to be inaccurate and harmful to a person's reputation, you can be sued successfully for libel. The same is true of interviews with a law-
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Courts handout - 4/30/20081:15 PM Criminal-justice...

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