Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ordeal of Richard Jewell Shows Danger of Hysteria over Terrorism

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ordeal of Richard Jewell Shows Danger of Hysteria over Terrorism

Article excerpt

We in the press have engaged in quite a lot of navel-gazing over the ordeal of Richard Jewell, the Atlanta security guard who discovered the bomb that exploded during the July Olympics but soon thereafter found himself the prime suspect in the case.

Certainly we contributed handsomely to Jewell's misery. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, tipped by a police leak, identified Jewell as the prime suspect. The usual drenching excess of press-pack publicity followed.

All along, however, we should have paused from our narcissistic breast-beating to question more closely the role of federal officials. It is they, after all, who searched Jewell's apartment (as well as a mountain cabin he had stayed in), plucked hairs from his head, impounded his pickup truck - all on the basis of a search warrant whose justification has never been explained. After three months they have neither charged nor cleared him. Jewell's case took a long overdue turn last Wednesday when U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester declared that, in the eyes of his court, "the Jewell chapter of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing investigation has been closed." Forrester gave the FBI five days to disclose what evidence its search warrant was based on. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution stipulates that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation." I am still waiting, as is Forrester with more power to enforce his impatience, for federal authorities to disclose what evidence justified t heir intrusive attention to Jewell's abodes. All we really know about the much imposed-upon Mr. Jewell is that supposed experts in criminal investigation thought he might fit the "profile" of a familiar type, the fantasist who becomes a fireman or polic e officer in search of the limelight - even if he must first set the fire, or commit the crime, that is the precondition of his own celebrity. Had Jewell not, after all, spotted the backpack containing the bomb and tried to warn people away from it? By this investigative standard, the famous biblical parable would doubtless end with the Good Samaritan's arrest as the one who'd robbed and beaten the wayfarer in the first place. …

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