Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Presumption of Guilt

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Presumption of Guilt

Article excerpt

Among the curious onlookers at Richard Jewell's press conference Monday was Michael Moore, the irreverent author and documentary producer. Moore said he was considering making a film about Jewell. If so, I imagine it as being something like Franz Kafka's classic "The Trial," a surreal story of a man whose good deeds are not left unpunished.

Jewell went from hero to No. 1 suspect to officially exonerated citizen in 88 days in connection with the Olympic bombing in Atlanta. During that time he apparently saw a kooky little stranger described on national television who was supposed to be him.

"The media said I fit the profile of a lone bomber, That was a lie," he said, reading a statement with home-spun eloquence at the press conference. "The media said I was an overzealous officer. That was a lie. "The media said I sought publicity for my actions. That was a lie." Judging by the FBI's announcement that Jewell was no longer a suspect, the man was done wrong for doing right. As a security guard amid thousands of Olympic concertgoers, he risked his life to warn others of a suspicious knapsack he spotted. When it exploded, two died and more than 100 were injured. But it could have been much worse, had Jewell simply walked away. Instead, Jewell suffered from his media exposure. Even while he was basking in national publicity for his heroism, an Olympic "extra" edition of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution was announcing to the world that he was being investigated as a suspect in the bombing. "I hope and pray," said Jewell, "that no one else is ever subjected to the pain and the ordeal that I have gone through." But someone else could and probably will be subjected to it, sooner or later. Whenever there is a heinous, high-profile crime there always is the danger of a rush to judgment in the low court of the public eye. News organizations, like other citizens, want closure. We want happy endings. We want simple, easily stereotyped, uncomplicated good guys and bad guys. We want nice hooks in the story, like a hero who turns out to be the conniving villain. Unfortunately, life is seldom that easy. That's why news media usually do not name suspects before they are charged with a crime. …

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