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Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Did the Daily Sound cave in to a legal bully?

Did the now-established Santa Barbara Daily Sound newspaper cave in to a legal bully and overzealous Judge, or was it a prudent "business decision" based only on price and not on their reputation?

A fresh news release (late Thursday afternoon) from Daily Sound publisher Jeramy Gordon is inserted below. The SB Independent today also covered the issue thoroughly in a news article by Sadler and an opinion piece by Brantingham. Gordon has written several editorials as well in addition to publishing several long letters today and earlier.

What do you think, gentle readers?

The issue is mighty smelly because the Deputy Public Defender did **not** also seek the unpublished photos that are in the possession of Santa Barbara Independent nor that relic publication at the end of Plaza De La Guerra. Was it a double- or triple-standard of selective subpoenaing against Gordon and his Daily Sound, but not the other newspapers that have the financial assets to fight back?

Is Deputy Public Defender Atkins afraid of Independent publisher Marianne Partridge and the bite of her Angry Poodle?
Or, did Daily Sound publisher Jeramy Gordon invite trouble by repeatedly publishing the photo of the accused criminal sitting on the street in police custody?

Here is the fresh news release where Gordon blinked late Thursday.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

*Daily Sound turns over unpublished photographs*

*SANTA BARBARA, Calif. *— In order to avoid fines that could potentially put them out of business the Santa Barbara Daily Sound turned over to the Santa Barbara Superior Court today 144 unpublished photographs of a March 14 crime scene.

“This is a sad day for journalism and for our rights as Americans,” Daily Sound editor and publisher Jeramy Gordon said. “This newspaper was singled out because Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins knew we didn't have the resources to fight her fishing expedition.”

Michael Cooney, the attorney representing the Daily Sound, handed over the photographs this afternoon along with a signed affidavit by Gordon confirming the integrity of the photographs.

Gordon said that if jail time was his only obstacle, he would gladly go, but said the other penalties threatened by Judge Brian Hill would have severe financial repercussions on his newspaper.

“I feel that if we have to turn over these photographs to the public defender, they should also be made available to the pubic,” Gordon said. “That is why we have decided to print as many of the photographs as we can in Friday's paper.”

Gordon said his motive in printing the photographs is two fold, to prove to the public that there is nothing worth hiding, and to avoid fines that could potentially bankrupt the small paper.

“Atkins is a bully, and I tried my best to stand up to her, but we just can't afford to keep fighting this,” Gordon said. “Every ounce of my being wants to keep fighting, keep standing up for what I believe in, but I have to balance those instincts with my fiscal responsibilities to my family and friends who backed me in the Daily Sound.”

“It's more important that we keep providing Santa Barbara with hard-hitting local news, than risk going out of business standing up to Atkins,” Gordon said. “She attacked us for a reason, because we're small and she knew she had a better chance of getting away with it.”

28 Comments:

Blogger Citizen Stringer said...

For those readers paying attention, do notict that this post is by CITIZEN STRINGER, not Sara De La Guerra.

Students of journalism should be aware of the difference between coughing up unpublished photos taken in a public place (on the street in this example), compared with disclosing notes, messages, documents, and other material that clearly were intended for a news reporter to have in confidence from a source.

Does the difference matter, or is it a slippy slope of Government intrusion into the Free News Media?

8/02/2007 6:42 PM  
Anonymous H. Greenspan said...

The right of the defendant to a fair trial and a strong defense clearly trumps the right of the Daily Sound to keep the photos out of the Atkins' hands. The N.P. and the Independant should voluntarily turn over their photos. The silver lining of this situation might be that more people will read the mini tabloid on Friday to see what is in the photos.

8/02/2007 6:56 PM  
Anonymous allegro805 said...

Dear Citizen Stringer: Why should the difference matter?

Just out of curiosity:
a) How did the Pub Def even know approximately how many unpublished photos existed? (Maybe there were previous depositions given to that effect?)
b) Wouldn't this kind of judicial ruling just encourage the media to destroy unused recordings, photos, etc.?

Of course, Citizen Stringer is right to note the obvious lack of subpoenas issued to the Independent and SBNP. What possible legitimate motivation could there be for that? Ridiculous.

8/02/2007 7:04 PM  
Anonymous allegro805 said...

On the other hand (upon further thought).... if a news videographer unwittingly (or 'wittingly') captured footage of a murder or evan a lesser crime, would it be questionable whether or not that was subpoena-able material? Would a media outlet even balk about turning such footage over?

8/02/2007 7:24 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

As I read as a comment posted at the Daily Sound web site, Judge Brian Hill is up for re-election in 2008. If Hill has no challengers, then he remains a Judge with nothing on the ballot to vote on for this judicial position. Hill was first elected in 2002, to a six year term.

But what makes anyone think that the photographer(s) in question even has those digital file photos any more? The uninteresting photo files could have been deleted and the memory card from the camera then could have been recorded over. The data then are gone for good, like recording over a tape.

Daily Sound, under Gordon's direction no doubt, also has published the same photo of the accused murderer several times in addition to the date mentioned in this Indy article here. Jeramy seems to be rubbing the nose of the Public Defender into the issue and inviting her retaliation.

However, if all the other journalists, both amateur and professional, who were present during the "melee" also are not asked (or subpoenaed) for their photos or video, then this stinks the other way that this is a big pissing match between Gordon and Atkins.

This further forces the question about who or what is a journalist and what is "unpublished material" such as photos, video, notes on paper, audio files, personal memory, email messages only to a certain recipient, etc. etc.

Besides, if anyone is being prejudiced against the client of the Public Defender, it is that she is acting desparate by targeting the Daily Sound and thereby indicating to the public that she has nothing too credible to make her legal points and put up a good defense for her client. Raising a stink about the Daily Sound's unpublished photos only prejudices the jury pool even more and indicates that the Defense side is all the more desperate and flimsy.

Is Atkins really looking for a change in the court venue to another County?

8/02/2007 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Judge sucks and its to bad The Sound didnt have the cash to go to the appeals court where he would have been spanked. California's shield law does protect work product and materials. Hopefully this judge will try this on a better funded press org. who will then get to humiliate him at the Ventura Appeals Court.

8/02/2007 8:23 PM  
Anonymous reality check said...

A teenager has lost his life -- forever. Stabbed by a troubled kid, who was acting out to prove himself to yet other troubled kids.

There's a trial going on and lives will be affected -- forever.

The truth is being sought out, and The Daily Sound should be glad to turn over any documentation they have that could help get to the truth.

This is not a f***ing Bush adminstration investigation or Deep Throat. This is a local murder investigation. Doing the right thing is commendable.

8/02/2007 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cooney was weak. That is why Wendy, you know who got rid of him and brought in a pit bull named Barry. So let us give Wendy a hand for seeing the weak attorney's of SB

8/02/2007 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I entirely fail to see how the defendant's right to evidence in a criminal case can be trumped by the press' interest in maintaining work product not involving confidential sources. I mean this is a contest between rights to due process and press interest in being left alone. The resolution of this balance seems to obvious in the context of our constitutional interest in liberty.

As for why the PD would focus on Daily Sound photos, who knows. Perhaps she has information suggesting the Sound photographer was particularly well positioned for her purposes. Perhaps she thinks the resistence will be less than going up against the Wendy and her millions, well assuming Wendy really cares to resist such disclosure. But this kind of exercise on the PD's part takes some work. I am hesitant to conclude a PD would take her limited time just to taunt the Sound.

8/02/2007 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Reality Check:

Yes, it's a horrible thing that this boy lost his life, no one is arguing that, but where do you draw the line on the media?

How do we know when the media should resist and when it should fold?

This is an issue of principle for the Sound.

The only reason we have deepthroats in this country is because of the special privileges granted to journalists. I understand why Gordon's fighting this thing and respect him for it.

Without people like him, we'd be screwed.

And as for the above remark about Michael Cooney, he is a good guy and great lawyer. I'm sure he served the Sound well. It's hard to defend against ignorance.

8/03/2007 12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the reason for turning over the photos is quite clear, the DS has no funds to fight this.

As for Judge Brian Hill, I sat in his courtroom on a jury. I did not vote for him in the election but I was very impressed with him as a judge and with his skills managing a courtroom. Before slinging arrows at him you might want to sit in his courtroom as an observer. I don't think it fair to evaluate his performance on one decision.

8/03/2007 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The law is whatever the final sitting judge says it is. Judges are elected by the people. Thus is our system of checks and balances. Judges are not legal bullies. They are elected representatives of the voters.

Unless it goes to the Supreme Court where judges have terms for life. But if they truly are legal bullies, even they can be impeached.

Not sure the best rendering of this topic is to call an action of our legal system the act of a legal bully, unless you also stand for impeachment of that judge.

Let somethings remain sacred. Cherry-picking legal decisions outside of legal process is not healthy for all members of society.

They don't actually teach it in law school, but one soon learns to be a gracious loser as well as a humble winner.

8/03/2007 7:29 AM  
Anonymous wineguy said...

I don't understand...there are no confidential sources involved here, just pictures taken on a public street. Why shouldn't they be made available?

8/03/2007 7:37 AM  
Anonymous reality check said...

To 12:09 anon:

Thanks for addressing me politely.

The Daily Sound could make a statement regarding the decision. They can state that they have decided to do this out of choice because it may help someone, rather than harm a source.

The prinicple issue has to do with their rights. The question is: can they be forced to give up their material? But, they have always had the right the turn over the photos, without force, and my suggestion is that that is the right thing to do.

They can make the statement that they still believe being ordered to hand over the photos is a breach of their rights. They can admit having a knee-jerk reaction to withhold the photos due to the pressure that was put upon them, but after considering the matter from an ethical standpoint, they have decided to do what they can to help the investigation.

8/03/2007 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason we have "deep throats" in this country is not because of newpaper privlege. It is because people fear they will not be protected under our system of laws.

The whistle-blower laws need more teeth to protect its citizens so they don't feel they have to hide behind some phony privlege in order to speak the truth.

8/03/2007 8:01 AM  
Anonymous anonymouse said...

Reality Check,

I get where you are going with that and respect what you are saying. In another situation I might agree with you. However, appearances play into the equation and we're talking about the role of a newspaper. I think Gordon is doing the right thing.

Why should his and only his paper be put in the unfortunate position of directly helping this investigation? Well, we haven't been told by a DA who hasn't said jack on the subject as far as I can tell and that sucks.

If that kid is cleared or convicted on evidence produced by the Sound, it's a no-win, horrible position for the paper. Either way.

If the kid gets off, the victim's family and those who share its view of the situation will look to the Sound. If he goes to prison, those on the other side will look to the Sound. Even if the photos prove nothing (and at this point, they better show something very strong), their mere involvement in the case will give the appearance of having helped or hindered. This is a very uncomfortable and unfortunate position for a paper trying to maintain neutrality and cement trust with the community.

Of course, someone will say, "Shouldn't the Sound be more worried about getting to the truth? If he's innocent, he's innocent. If he's guilty, he's guilty." And that's seemingly reasonable, but again problematic. Following that logic, it would make sense to simply make a new law that ALL unpublished news photos from all news organizations automatically be turned over in ANY crime scene photographed ever. Hey, if I got rear ended on Highway 101 and my car flipped, I might want to get my hands on some news photos too. Why shouldn't I?

Because good newspapers don't work for the government.

From the journalistic perspective, I see no choice but to fight this. Short of that, turn them over kicking and screaming, as Gordon has done. Haven't seen the Sound yet today, but printing as many photos as possible after caving, as promised, was also a good move if it did indeed happen.

I sympathize with you Jeramy! You're handling this as well as you can given the circumstances; that is, if it truly does mean the difference between staying afloat or not as an organization.

One request, though. If you haven't already, can you explain whether you published the photo of the juvenile suspect before he was charged as an adult? If so, why? Have I missed this somewhere already? It's a different, yet related topic for discussion.

One last related item: I seem to remember that the News Press last fall ran an editorial arguing that two reporters in the Bonds steroid case should give up their confidential sources. It was a notable position for a newspaper to take, but got little attention relative to everything else going on there (and I think if not mistaken happened right after that paper sued the Santa Barbara Independent for having a leaked News Press document). Given that position, it seems to me the News-Press would turn over its photos if asked and also support any penalties against the Sound if it failed to do the same.

8/03/2007 9:52 AM  
Anonymous city watcher said...

To me, it seems indeed like a pissing match between Gordon and Atkins with some valid points on both sides. Each of them has lost my respect, though.

Atkins should know better than to boast about winning a round; and Gordon, well, I think he showed no sensibility to the equally important principle of a fair trial for criminal defendents. Running that photo over and over again has pretty much guaranteed that that 14-year-old will not get a fair trial.

Who in the jury pool does not now have a mental picture of that kid in handcuffs on the street, arrested for murder! And the usual assumption for many, arrest = guilt.

If these had been confidential photos rather than photos in a public place I would be much more sympathetic to the tremendously important issue 1st Amendment issue. By his words and actions, Gordon has come through as a rather mean-spirited and whiny, even nasty type. Undoubtedly the legal charges would have been very high.

It is unlikely, imo, that there would have been a 1st Amendment showing for such press photos when there is a murder trial of a 14-year-old at stake. The First Amendment is not now and never has been absolute; nor is press freedom.

8/03/2007 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Shango Barbarino said...

This is another classic Santa Barbara tempest in a teapot. Teen gangsters running amok on State Street. A barely teenager arrested, soon to be tried as an adult. People freaking out about freedom of the press; a ham fisted Public Defender, a hard boiled D.A. Hello Dick Wolf, I smell a new Law and Order franchise. It could be called "Law and Order: Trial by Public Opinion"
Seriously folks if the local media really cared about this community and justice they (Sound, N.P. Indy, KEYT,) would be bending over backwards to provide any photos and video that they have of the stabbing. Instead you have a half newspaper grandstanding about freedom of the press that does not apply in this case.

8/03/2007 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeez Louise, as many people have pointed out, this is not Watergate, Palmegate or even Juarezgate, and Jeramy Gordon is not Ben Bradlee so he should take a chill pill. There will probably be nothing in these photos to either further implicate or exonerate Mr. Juarez, but his attorney would not be doing her job by not engaging in such a discovery process. And as for Judge Hill, I know him to be a fair, reputable jurist, so those of you who don't know him through personal or professional experience should talk your trash elsewhere!

8/03/2007 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole thing would make a lot more sense if Atkins went after the photos taken by every other publishing outlet as well as the Sound. To single out the Sound seems petty and personal. I think Jeramy did the right thing: first in holding out on principle, then in printing the whole shoot to prove he wasn't hiding anything that would have helped anyway. Nice to have a publisher in our midst who has a grasp of priorities and responsibilities.

8/03/2007 12:37 PM  
Blogger Voice of Rezon(e) said...

I agree that there should be no way for a court to force the DS or any other entity to turn over their property, if they are not implicated in the crime or incident being investigated.

But why wouldn't the DS cooperate fully with a criminal investigation of a murder? Of what benefit did it do the DS or the community to withhold those photos?

All that being said, we need to acknowledge that the kid is likely guilty and should go away for a very, very long time. A lot of the comments seem to indicate the kid was caught stealing candy or something...

We as a community should show our outrage at gang or any other unnecessary violence, and conviction and harsh punishment for those that freely engage in such behavior is one way to do this.

8/03/2007 2:20 PM  
Anonymous from syv said...

(sara hopefully you can give this one a headline)

Fire update- the sky over the eastern part of the valley is dark & the latest info is about a possible evacuation of Paradise Road

http://www.inciweb.org/incident/announcements/article/770/4795/


Incident: Zaca
Released: 42 min. ago

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and fire authorities have issued an "EVACUATION WARNING" for the residents of the Paradise Road and the Lower Santa Ynez River Road to Gibraltar Dam.

The "EVACUATION WARNING" includes the Paradise Road Community, Santa Ynez Road Recreational Areas to Gibraltar Dam, Los Prietos Boys Camp and the Rancho Oso Guest Ranch.

Residents of these areas should consider what they need to take and be prepared to leave upon notice of the Sheriff's Department, as they may not be able to come back to retrieve personal items due to the rapidly changing fire conditions.

All recreation users in the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area are requested to immediately leave the area due to heavy fire equipment traffic and to reduce congestion in the area.

An "EVACUATION WARNING" alerts community members in this defined area of a potential threat to life and property from an emergency incident. An evacuation order may follow as a result of the threat.

Please monitor your local public safety warning systems and local radio and television news as conditions could rapidly change.

For more information, please contact Zaca Fire Information at 805-961-5770.




- END-

8/03/2007 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the photos prove guilt beyond a resonable doubt and the community gets justice. Life in prison or the dealth penalty!

8/03/2007 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gloves...sometimes every picture has a story don't it?

8/03/2007 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK. Interesting points here, but here's my take:

A) This case is still in its early stages. It seems the PD became aware of the possibility that unpublished photos might be helpful to her defense when the Sound started publishing photos from the scene of her client. Let's give the PD a chance to ask the other news outlets (my guess is all she will have to do is ask - not subpoena) before we condemn her for singling out the Sound. Just because she hasn't done it YET, doesn't mean she will not do it.

B) In a case where a there are multiple eyewitnesses and multiple parties involved, any photographs which might tend to indicate confusion or possible eyewitness error would assist in the defense. I am not up on the particulars in this case, but the Sound is missing the point if it thinks the photographs can only be helpful if they "exonerate" (their word, not mine) Mr. Juarez. The defense's standard is not to exonerate their client.

C) Is it me or are the Sound and especially Jeramy Gordon embarrassing themselves by the articles they write? First, they write an opinion piece and pass it off as a news article, often without using quotes, calling Ms. Atkins a bully (an opinion), then citing their source as "Jeramy Gordon said." Then in Mr. Gordon's editorial piece, a bona fide opinion article, he expresses that he is intimidates by "fancy lawyer-speak." Excuse me? This is a professional writer saying a) that he is intimidated by an attorney's ability to use language, and b) that the best phrase he can come up with to describe that language is "fancy lawyer-speak."

D) Obviously Ms. Atkins was speaking to her client, not the Sound, when she said, "we won this round." This seems less like a boast in a pissing contest than a comment to her client overheard by the Sound, and published with the intent to make it seem like a boast.

I don't know much about this case, but I am surprised that more people aren't a little more distrustful of the journalistic ethics of a paper with writers like Mr. Gordon. I am not saying Ms. Atkins is an angel, but she doesn't have her own paper by which to write rebuttal articles. So, let's take what the Sound writes about her with a grain of salt. I also think this is a lesson for society at large. In this day and age, people give far too much deference to and put far to much faith in the press. Let's get wise.

8/04/2007 2:14 PM  
Blogger David Pritchett said...

Wheter or not people agree that Daily Sound should have given up its photos, Daily Sound actually did maintian a clear distinction in the wall between editorial opinion and objective news.

If one actually recalls their past content (available at their website), Jeramy Gordon definitely editorialized stidently in their very clearly marked editorials, even though he was sort of poking that wasp nest with a stick and inviting retribution.

However, the news reporter/writer Colby Frazier wrote up a couple of clean objective news articles about the whole issue, and quoted his newspaper publisher properly, Jeremy Gordan.

The Big Point here is that they reported on a hot issue about their own newspaper, instead of pretending nothing was happening that was newsworthy. Have any other local newspapers not reported on themselves when their publishers were the story in the first place??

8/05/2007 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Steve Carrol said...

The Daily Sound has said many times in both their fairly written news stories and their one sided opinion articles that Atkins did not give them the opportunity to help out by just asking to see the photos. Don't quote me on this, but I believe Gordon said in one of his columns that has she just asked to see the photos he would have probably let her.

To Anon 8/4 2:14: You obviously work for an attorney or are an attorney (Atkins, maybe?). I know this because I consider myself a highly educated individual, yet I have sat on a jury a felt completely dumbfounded by they way lawyers speak in court.

Plus, and I may be wrong here, but my understanding of the whole situation is that it's not the responsibility of the news media to act as evidence gatherers at a crime scene. They are there to report the news for us citizens.

Now that some local judge has decided that the newspaper must help the police and PD with evidence, what's to stop that newspaper from destroying all future unpublished content before they get a subpoena? Unless the PD is going to rush down to each and every crime scene with subpoenas in hand, she has just screwed herself out of future evidence.

Atkins targeted the Daily Sound. Why? Who knows. Both parties behaved badly, but at least the Daily Sound had some leg to stand on. To me, the PD just looks desperate, and that's more damning to the jury pool than any number of published photos.

8/05/2007 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am confused. Why did McCaw have PhD Laura write about the Daily Sound yesterday? I don't read the newspress much. Would that help this make more sense?

8/10/2007 4:37 PM  

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