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Printing names of Juveniles? (Now with updates!)

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Sleepy Pete, Oct 9, 2007.

  1. Sleepy Pete

    Sleepy Pete New Member

    Longtime poster who needs to post under another alias so I don't get outed. This is a pretty sensitive topic for me and I don't want to risk being found out - or tip off my competition.

    In an open court plea hearing, a 18-year-old implicates three star high school football players, who are all juveniles, in a burglary. One of these dirty angels is a "Major" D-I propsect.

    I went to court clerk's office, paid the $13 for a copy of the court transcript and voila!

    Can I print it?

    Can I write a story reporting that Johnny Thuglife in a open-court plea hearing in front of Judge Roy Bean named Chris Goldenboy, Biff Fuckedyourgirl and Ricky Allamerican as accomplices to the burglary?

    Personally,I think I'm in the clear: Writing a story reporting the transcripts of an open-court plea hearing.
    However, when I run it by the editor, who runs it by the publisher, who runs it by the paper's lawyer, I don't think my little gem will ever make it to newsprint.

    I'm looking for opinions from reporters who have been in similar situations. What did you do and what was the outcome?
  2. Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    Dude, are you kidding me? If you have a city beat writer, check with them on their contacts with your City PD. It's important to know if there is an ongoing investigation into this particular robbery and whether the kids named are active suspects. Just because a kid discloses his accomplices in a court hearing doesn't mean they are guilty. However, a better way to get a response is to contact the kid or the kids parents to get a response. The story is not that they were named, but what their reaction to being named is.
  3. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    First off, one of my great regrets last year was when a star player of a certain team was kicked suspended from school on a gun charge (not sure all details). No one would report it and our town reporter got stifled because of the juvy laws. No one would talk to me about it.

    I am not even sure her school status.

    I gave up because it wasn't really my gig, but I have been kicking myself ever since. This would have been a big story. Lack of digging and I told myself never again. If you got court documents, on the record, you are not obligated to keep it private.

    You are not an officer of the court or the law. You have no obligation to keep the names iif you do indeed have confirmation of it. But, don't get chicken. You got to call the coach, principal, superintendent, athletic director, and lastly the kid or the kids parents and give them a chance.

    That is the only way to do it.
  4. Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    Run it.

    Court testimony is exempt from libel. I promise. Look it up.

    From your friends at wikipedia, though there are much more reliable sources out there.

    "Privilege is a defense when witness testimony, attorneys' arguments, and judges' decisions, rulings, and statements made in court, or statements by legislators on the floor of the legislature, or statements made by a person to their spouse, are the cause for the claim. These statements are said to be privileged and cannot be cause for a defamation claim."
  5. RedCanuck

    RedCanuck Active Member

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    Exempt from libel, yes, most likely. In that situation, you also have to look at whether there was a publication ban and whether you might be looking at contempt of a further trial in that reporting.
  6. Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    A publication wha? The record is sealed or it isn't. If it's not, it's yours. Don't ask the court if they accidentally forgot to seal something.

    The kid was 18 in the initial post so I don't see any reason the court would have to keep any of it secret.

    Sleepy, if this is indeed a big story, raise it with the fellas he named and their families. Get their responses and then ask police and prosecutors what they plan to do with the information. If they say there's no case against the kids the suspect named, then you probably don't have a story unless there's some other angle.

    Feel free to PM me if you want.
  7. hondo

    hondo Well-Known Member

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    Printing the names of minors is not illegal. The legality rests with law enforcement and the courts: they can't release the names, unless it's a capital case, etc. But if they do let it slip, or you find out through reporting, it's up to your paper to decide, based on its policy.
  8. boots

    boots New Member

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    I don't think you have a story unless this kid has been charged. Anyone can make an accusation. If he is charged as an adult, you're in the clear to print the name (but check with the company lawyer first). If he's charged as a juvenile, you won't be able to print his name.
    If he misses time from playing, you can note that in any game story or notebook saying something along the lines of Joe Blow will miss the remainder of the season for violating team rules. I think you get the picture.
  9. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    A kid is on the stand naming three others as accomplices in a burglary -- last I checked, that's a felony. If these kids are some form of public figures, which they would be if they are athletes, this deserves to be reported. You are doing a disservice not reporting it.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?


    The question is not can you print the names -- of course you can.

    Question is: Should you?

    To me, that would depend upon:

    1. How well-known Major D-1 prospect is;

    2. How serious of a crime are we talking about (burglary could range from stealing everything out of Wal-Mart to swiping a tricycle off a carport.

    3. Whether charges are being brought on the kid;

    4. Whether the kid is being punished by the school/coach in any way.

    Assuming it's a serious burglary, I think most papers would run it in some fashion, but remember the kid is only being accused, so it should be approached that way. You may or may not know if he is charged if the kid is a juvy.
  11. boots

    boots New Member

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    It's a felony if they are charged. Naming someone as an accomplice isn't a charge. It's an accusation.
  12. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Re: Printing names of Juveniles?

    They are accused on the stand of a felony. In a plea hearing, meaning this guy rolled on the others for the DA/AG.

    That's news.
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