Media Blog

Media Criticized in Sex-Club Case

Small-town newspapers can be arresting reads, and this piece, on defense efforts to secure a change of venue in a sex-abuse case in east Texas, is fascinating in a train-wreck sort of way. It also contains a terrifying three-word phrase — Mineola Swingers’ Club (You ever been through Mineola?) — and a character by the name of “Booger Red.” 

One of those witnesses, Angel Hendricks, testified that all of the media coverage related to the Mineola case has been biased in favor of the state.

“I haven’t seen anything written on the defense side at all,” Ms. Hendricks said. “You don’t see anything in the stories for the defense…”
She called it “basically a Salem Witch Trial.”
Ms. Hendricks testified, “The newspaper and the media are so biased in their one-sided presentation of the story … and they have the influence of people in Smith County, how can anybody else think any different?”
She said she follows mainly KLTV and the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
On cross-examination, Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham showed her instances in the Tyler Paper coverage of courtroom proceedings of co-defendants’ trials in which defense attorneys are quoted.
Ms. Hendricks noted a comment in one story she thought was prejudicial from Joe Murphy, a prosecutor on the case.
“Are you trying to critique the content of it or whether it’s sided equally?” Bingham asked Ms. Hendricks. “What do you want them to do, take out all the stuff that Mr. Murphy says because you don’t like it?”

Egad. Somewhere in our republic, a defense attorney is getting paid whatever per hour to stand in court and complain that a newspaper reporter reported what the prosecution said in court, and then to compare that to the Salem witch hunts. Brilliant. But it gets even better:

… Members of the media were also called to the stand in Monday’s hearing.

Davidson, last week, subpoenaed Casey Knaupp, a Tyler Morning Telegraph reporter, KLTV reporter Danielle Capper and Joe Murphy, the lead prosecutor in the case, claiming in interviews with other media that, because the two reporters had personal relationships with Murphy, their coverage of the case has been biased.
Originally, the defense’s subpoena of Ms. Knaupp asked for all her personal cell phone records and any recordings or written information she may have in regards to the case.
A later subpoena commanded her to produce e-mails and/or text messages or instant messages between her and Murphy dealing with the Swinger’s Club case during a time period of July 1, 2007, to June 24, 2008. The defense added in the new subpoena that it was not interested in any personal messages between the two, including any type of romantic messages.
Skeen quashed Murphy’s subpoena Friday as well as portions of the two reporters’ subpoenas, which had required them to produce any e-mails or text messages. He also limited what attorneys could ask of the reporters to only their published stories.
On Monday, the defense called the circulation director for the Tyler Morning Telegraph, the news director for KLTV, as well as Ms. Knaupp and Ms. Capper.

I love that they subpoenaed the circulation director. And possible “romantic messages” between a prosecutor and the reporter covering the case? This is great stuff. If the prose were better, you could turn this into a novel. Maybe some modern-day Faulkner will give it a shot.It’s a shame that most major newspapers no longer cover crime this way. Imagine what a police reporter with room for a thousand words a day could do in Los Angeles or Philadelphia or Chicago.

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