Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Daily Sound Fights for a Free Press

The Daily Sound's editorial today (July 10, 2007) is a worthwhile read about their opposition to the Deputy Public Defender's attempt to subpoena photographs from the March 14th gang brawl at Sak's Fifth Avenue. Their arguments are interesting but perhaps most telling is their assertion that they have sought a meeting with Deputy Public Defender Atkins and have been refused. According to The Sound, she's unhapppy with the coverage her client has received and refuses to speak with their reporters. Is The Sound is right to ask why someone on the public payroll would take such a stance? How is this different than Operation Cold Shoulder?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the Sound is right to ask the question --- but only if they'd ask the same question if the defense lawyer were privately paid and not a public defender.

That the client is poor (and therefore has a PD) does not mean he gives up any rights. Atkins behavior may be inexcusable, but not because she is paid by public funds. There's no obligation to speak with the press, obviously, but it sounds (sorry!) as though Atkins has made a mountain out of a molehill and the Daily Sound is busy building the pile higher.

The paper has indicated that none of the pictures has any particular importance as to innocence or guilt, that the paper would have immediately published them, if so. (One wonders how they would know!)

Why not simply turn over the pictures to an escrow appointed by the court and let the PD and the DA review the pictures in the presence of the judge? The more this goes on the less likely that Juarez can receive a fair trial here because of all the publicity. Maybe that's the point, to delay and delay although by doing that Juarez will be older and less sympathetic to a jury?

7/10/2007 10:29 PM  
Anonymous David Pritchett said...

I do not quite understand the reference in the subject posing here to Operation Cold Shoulder.

The Deputy Public Defender first has a loyalty and duty to her client, as the District Attorney and her staff have a duty to prosecute. Therefore, they do not have to and should not speak or otherwise help the news media if they think that could hurt their clients.

The Daily Sound should let it go about these supposed personality clashes and just report what they can report without whining about how the attorneys do not want to talk with them. Conversely, the Public Defender(s) should stop trying to get a news organization to give up its sources and unpublished photos and notes.

A lawyer doing her or his job is first loyal to their client. Other public officials from the administrative or legislative branches of government can respond to reporters or ignore them, but if they ignore them conclusions will be drawn and more published in detail.

Operation Cold Shoulder may apply here in that some organizations that still think they are credible newspapers will whine and lash out when a government source (or anyone) refuses to give an interview. When the newspaper follows standard journalistic ethics and a true fair and balanced editoral practice, then those sources should feel more obliged to give an interview.

Deputy Public Defender Atkins may be cold-shouldering the Daily Sound, but that appears to be in the service of her client and not because Daily Sound is a tyrant and bully in the style of Ampersand and the News-Press Mess. I am sure that Sara de la Guerra knows that, but is just posing such a question deliberately to be provacative.

Jeramy Gordon at Daily Sound is correct to be a bit outraged and publish a few editorials, including a cartoon, about receiving a subpoena for their unpublished material. However, one also could conclude that the attorney for the accused murderer simply is doing her job and giving it a shot to see what sticks in defense of her client. In this case, it is not sticking nor should it, thankfully.

The broader issue seems to be about why would a fully competent criminal defense attorney bother with such a desperate move to subpoena a newspaper for unpublished material. The prosecution, and now the public and potential jury pool, only can draw a conclusion about that.

Daily Sound rightfully won this one point, and should move on to other subjects to be editorials, such as explaining what its Editorial Board is all about and how may or not be different from simply having guest editorial columnists.

7/11/2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought here. The Public Defenders' Office, although supported by taxpayer dollars, has absolutely NO obligation to taxpayers. That is the way it SHOULD be.

As defense attorneys, their obligation is to their clients. If PD's started measuring their words and conduct by how the public might react, it would entirely defeat the purpose of the institution.

If this particular PD feels it is in her client's interest to discontinue communication with the Santa Barbara Daily Sound, then I can and should respect that.

Frankly, I would be disturbed if she continued communication with the Daily Sound if she felt it hurt her client.

As a taxpayer, I am disturbed by the level of ignorance demonstrated by the editors of the Daily Sound. =)

Oh, and the cartoon. Ha. I'm willing to bet that the editors of the Sound have never taken a course in Constitutional Law. Anyone think they have ever even read the U.S. or California Constitution? Or know the first thing about the Shield Law? I'd put my money on the fact that, of anyone in the cartoon, the PD is probably the authority on those matter.

7/11/2007 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Walter H said...

Anon 6:44 Doesn't seem to know what the heck he/she is talking about. From what I read in the Daily Sound, the PD IS talking to other media, just not the Daily Sound, so the argument as to protecting her client falls flat. Also, she hasn't subpoenaed the News-Mess, Indy or KEYT. They were all there, too.

It seems to me she is going after the Sound and the Sound is just standing up for itself.

David Prittchet is right, they're both making a mountain out of a molehill, but I'm on the Daily Sound's side.

On another note, Anon 6:44 alleges the Daily Sound's editors know nothing about the First Amendment and U.S. Constitution. Highly unlikely! The attorney representing them is one of the best First Amendment attorneys in Santa Barbara, so obviously they have a case. Why else would you pay the ginormous fees I'm sure he charges if you knew nothing about what you were doing.

7/12/2007 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Daily Sound has a "constitutional attorney" working for them on this, they should ask for their money back. It's not as if they have a Judy Miller, Deep Throat or Scooter Libby to protect in this matter.

Daily Sound's real worry should be that if Atkins wins an exoneration of Juarez, their coverage may result in a libel action, and a so called "gang member" just might end up owning that little rag.

Jeramy's editorial carps about "most other newspapers around the world" who "believe the first amendment to be one of their greatest assets." Correct me if I'm wrong, but newspapers in most other countries don't benefit from the US Constitution.

The article, editorial, and cartoon look like juvenile, immature reactions to receiving an official document in the mail that tells you to do (or that you didn't do) something. Kind of like how I feel when Cox Cable sends me a late payment notice.

DS has done an adequate job up to now and deserves the opportunity theyve worked themselves into.

Hopefully this abberation will lead to some thought, temperance and consultation before taking idiotic stands and writing stupid editorials in the future.

7/14/2007 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the truth is: santa barbara lawyers (all lawyers!) develop relationships with certain reporters. it’s a symbiotic relationship. the reporter gets the scoop…the lawyer gets their quote. is that so shocking?

7/29/2007 11:47 PM  

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