Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 20 05:20:00 UTC 2010

Heard on the news yesterday, "Confessed New York would-be bomber". This
avoids the issue of guilt, but also tries to finesse the meaning of

I generally agree with what Dave Wilton wrote on the subject. I do want
to add that there are two areas of potential liability here. One is the
media, which is expressly manifested by the Jewell case. But there is
also an odd aspect in that prosecutors want to imply guilt, but would
rather have it reported as an allegation.

It is also important to know that the use of "suspect" and "alleged" in
media reports significantly predate the Atlanta Olympics bombing. At
this point, it is long incorporated into many style manuals.


On 5/19/2010 12:12 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
> The phrase "confessed Times Square bomber" has been used in some media
> outlets. The reported confession has not been evaluated in a court,
> and as a non-lawyer I do not offer an exegesis on potential legal
> ramifications. The phrase does appear in a New York Daily News
> headline online:
> Confessed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad's hatred stemmed from
> personal failure, war on terror
> BY Kevin Deutsch In Shelton, Conn. and Alison Gendar, Rocco
> Parascandola and Rich Schapiro
> Originally Published:Wednesday, May 5th 2010, 11:01 PM
> Updated: Thursday, May 6th 2010, 4:41 AM
> An opinion article in the Washington Post also uses the phrase
> "confessed Times Square bomber":
> How to modernize Miranda for the Age of Terror
> By Charles Krauthammer
> Friday, May 7, 2010
> Another New York Daily News article uses the term "self-confessed
> Times Square bomber":
> Times Square terror scare: Change to Miranda interrogation laws may be
> coming, White House says
> BY David Saltonstall
> Monday, May 10th 2010, 4:42 AM
> In the Washington Post more recently opinion columnist Charles
> Krauthammer referred to the suspect as "the Times Square bomber" after
> referring to him as the "confessed Times Square bomber" earlier in the
> article.
> Modernizing Miranda: A new consensus
> By Charles Krauthammer
> Friday, May 14, 2010
> The fact that the Times Square bomber did talk after he was Mirandized
> is blind luck.
> The dates given above may be inaccurate because sometimes online
> articles are revised without notice.
> Garson

On 5/19/2010 11:54 AM, Dave Wilton wrote:
> ...
> Bill is right in that neither Jewell nor Hatfill confessed, but they are
> both cases where it was widely assumed that and reported as if they were in
> fact guilty (in the actual, not legal sense), when in fact they both were
> innocent (both actually and legally). It is the professional reportorial
> discipline of not making assumptions that is important, and even more so in
> high-profile cases where there is incredible pressure on both law
> enforcement and journalists to get the culprit.
> And no confession should be assumed to be valid until it has been proven in
> a court. Confessions are retracted all the time and false confessions under
> the pressure of interrogation are a well-known phenomenon.
> Also, there are several layers of filters between you and the facts in this
> case. There is the filter of the media. And the reporters' sources are
> probably not the actual investigating officers, but rather supervisors and
> public affairs officials (who have an agenda, usually benign, but an agenda
> nonetheless) or others involved peripherally with the case who may or may
> not have now the actual facts and situation. These filters contribute to
> misreporting of facts. (Go back and read about what actually happened at
> Columbine, for example, and you will be shocked at how badly the reporters
> mangled--and continue to mangle to this day--the basic facts of the case;
> e.g., Harris and Klebold were not members of the "trench coat mafia," their
> main plan was to plant bombs (which did not detonate) and not shoot people,
> etc.)
> Again, I have no reason to doubt this confession in particular, it's just
> that false confessions and falsely assumed guilt are common enough that no
> professional journalist should ever report a person's guilt until it has
> been established in court. As Ron says, it's not the journalist's role to
> "guess as to the outcome."
> ...

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