As much as I like to blast the Houston Chronicle, the irony of the situation is that my grandfather had been a reporter for a newspaper in his younger years.
Although he only did it for a few years, it was an experience that he always spoke very fondly of. He went on to a more lucrative career, but I think he was always very wistful of his time reporting the news. I was raised by him telling me that a journalist was a noble profession and one that was there to seek the truth and keep people honest.
I suppose that the duty to seek the truth is something that newspapermen and prosecutors have in common, theoretically.
But it seems that on a daily basis that Jeff Cohen's Houston Chronicle has more and more turned it's back on it's duty to report the news.
Now, I'm not getting overly sensitive -- yet.
The editorial that ran in today's edition probably didn't sway a single person on their opinion on the death penalty. For that matter, I don't know that the Chronicle has yet to write any column or article on that topic that swayed an opinion. We are Houston, Texas, after all.
What ticks me off is that the results of studies are being misrepresented and they are over-emphasizing some portions while wilfully overlooking others. As someone who has been involved in a capital murder trial when the State sought death, the idea of putting a statistical number on its outcome is as absurd as it is obscene.
It mathematically accounts for things that can't be mathematically accounted for -- the people pulled at random to be in the multiple jury pools that the jurors will be pulled from. The jurors' responses on their questionnaires and their Q&A with the attorneys. The attorneys' "gut instinct" on who to strike and who to keep. The witnesses that will testify and the way the jury will react to those witnesses. The closing arguments and their ability to sway. The evidence presented in the punishment phase.
And most importantly, when twelve people sit in that back room, can they answer the question to decide the defendant's fate?
How in the hell do you put a number on that?
But that doesn't slow the Chronicle down. Editor Jeff Cohen knows that he will catch hell at home from his anti-death penalty zealot wife, Katherine Kase, if he doesn't maintain the offensive against the Death Penalty.
And there's nothing wrong with that. At least, there's nothing wrong with it until the news and the facts start getting twisted or ignored.
Last week, a conference was held in Galveston for Judges, Prosecutors, and Defense Attorneys who practice criminal law. It was a good conference with a lot of information coming from it. Noted defense attorney and Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck spoke. In addition, attorney Bob Wicoff spoke regarding his continued work with Chris Downey and Judge Mary Bacon on reviewing flawed serology from the HPD Crime Lab.
Wicoff pointed out to the room of prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys that on several occasions he had complimented the prosecutors he had been working with and he had made those compliments to the Chronicle. Specifically, Wicoff told the room that he complimented the job done by Alicia Devoy O'Neill for her active assistance in the project. He told the room, almost apologetically, that he had informed the media of this several times, but nobody really seemed all that interested in printing the fact that the D.A.'s Office was being righteous.
Did you ever wonder why the Chronicle could possibly endorse a former-judge who had been retired from the bench for 14 years (and had a controversial career when she was there) over one of the most effective prosecutors in the Nation? Why did they bury all those Lykos stories?
It's simple: Kelly Siegler was an effective prosecutor who got the death penalty on Defendants. Stopping her early was a primary objective.
I'm well aware that this article will prompt folks, like Grits, to say that Old AHCL is back to pissing and moaning about the election again. That's not really my point (and the 12-step program is really helping me recover from it). And Ron will smirk at my conspiracy theory.
My point is that the Chronicle is a disingenuous, poorly-written, propaganda piece for the Death Penalty Opponents. And I think it continues to exist in that realm because Jeff Cohen is just pushing his wife's agenda.
I've said it before and I will say it again that I understand why people oppose the death penalty, and I agree with them on some of their points. But I don't think that the readers of the Chronicle deserve to have the news filtered to adjust to Cohen & Kase's viewpoints. It's bad management, and I would hope that, at some point, somebody (with a lot more influence than me) would take note of it.
Weren't newspapers founded on the idea of fostering more intellectual honesty? That certainly seemed to be why my grandfather respected the business so much.
I've never seen a newspaper that fought so hard to curb it.