As Verdict Approaches, Tribune Ramps Up Attacks
In a Cook County Criminal Court bench trial that struggled to present any real evidence of a conspiracy against three Chicago police officers accused of a cover-up, the Chicago Tribune is now leading a media attack on the judge in the case as the accused officers await her verdict.
Attorneys for the Tribune marched into court this week and demanded that Judge Domenica Stephenson release trial documents in the criminal case against former Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh, and Officer Thomas Gaffney, accused of conspiring to cover up certain evidence in the Laquan McDonald shooting. Stephenson rejected the motion.
A Tribune attorney told Judge Stephenson they wanted the documents because the press functions as “the eyes and ears of the public.”
From the Tribune:
Attorneys for the media organizations argued that documents admitted into evidence at trial are a matter of public record. There is particularly no need to shield them from view now that the trial has all but concluded except for Stephenson’s ruling on the officers’ guilt or innocence.
Attorney Kristen Rodriguez, representing the Chicago Tribune, told the judge that the failure to publicly display the evidence was “effectively closing down a part of the trial.”
“The exhibits as they were being discussed and entered into the evidence were not presented to the press, which functions [as] the eyes and ears of the public,” she said.
Judge Stephenson blasted the claim:
Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson sharply questioned and repeatedly interrupted attorneys for several media organizations who sought the documents on First Amendment grounds, wondering aloud why they thought the issue was so urgent as to file an “emergency” motion last week during the trial.
“The exhibits were testified [to] in open court,” she said. “There’s no right of the public to have a [television] monitor that flashes or shows the exhibits to the gallery. . . . Even allowing the media’s presence in the courtroom is not a right. It’s a privilege. I don’t understand where you’re coming from.”
Indeed, FOP attorney Tim Grace, who is not involved in the trial, said the demands by media attorneys for such records were almost unheard-of.
“You don’t release the court documents before the verdict. I’ve never seen this before. I don’t know where these media outlets get such audacity,” Grace said.
So what, then, are the Tribune attorneys talking about? What is truly going on in the trial? Why did the Tribune and other media attorneys make a sudden, last-minute demand for records of the case as the trial was coming to a close?
Here is one possible answer. The trial of Gaffney, Walsh, and March is key for the Tribune to maintain a narrative of police corruption that they have been foisting on the public for four decades. That narrative has taken some mortal hits, particularly in calling into question the Tribune’s relationship with Northwestern University’s law and journalism schools and other wrongful conviction law firms.
Tribune claims have fallen apart time and again. The cases of Nicole Harris, Anthony Porter, Stanley Wrice, Glenn Evans, Robert Rialmo, and many others now offer as much evidence of trumped-up charges against the police as they do of any police misconduct.
Rather than embrace that evidence and cover it, the Tribunehas ignored it. In doing so, theTribune has moved radically away from objective reporting and into the realm of being a misguided advocate. Indeed, the Tribune is a key force in the anti-police movement in the city, so much so that a reasonable person monitoring the criminal justice system is forced to ask a question: Would the case against these three officers have made it this far without media outlets like the Tribune acting as virtual public relations specialists for the prosecutors?
And here is another question: Is pressuring judges through biased reporting now a media strategy at the Tribune?
The same journalist who wrote Wednesday’s article, Megan Crepeau, is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She also authored another article about this case, in its earlier stages. Back then, the case was originally assigned to Judge Diane Cannon.
Cannon is a judge who has refused to buckle under the weight of Tribune narratives. In 2011, for example, she approved a controversial subpoena by former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alverez of records from Northwestern University students and a professor there, David Protess. That subpoena, originally condemned by the media establishment, including the Tribune, released a mountain of evidence that the anti-police machinations at the university are rife with misconduct.
Judge Cannon then acquitted accused former Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans in a 2015 criminal trial that revealed evidence of collusion between the media and the city’s police oversight agency. Evans is now suing, claiming he was framed by the oversight agency and the media.
The evidence that emerged in both these cases remains uninvestigated by the Tribune and the Chicago media machine. Indeed, the fact that Cannon has stood tall on such cases and revealed so much evidence of corruption in the criminal justice system has not earned her any support from the media. Far from it.
Here’s what Crepeau had to say about Cannon when the special prosecutor now accusing Gaffney, Walsh, and March of conspiracy argued that they wanted to get Cannon off the case:
A Cook County judge with controversial rulings in her past was appointed Monday to preside over the indictment of three Chicago police officers on charges they helped cover up the circumstances of Laquan McDonald’s shooting.
Controversial rulings? The fact that Cannon’s rulings uncovered the treasure trove of evidence against Northwestern and the wrongful conviction movement—and Tribune narratives along the way—was not even mentioned in Crepeau’s article, an omission that points powerfully to the Tribune advocacy in place of reporting.
Here’s how it works. When a judge goes against the narrative of the Tribune, he or she is controversial. When they abide by the Tribune’s narrative, they are courageous.
So why are Tribune attorneys making such a big deal about these court records, and why are its reporters spinning it as a quest to enlighten the public? Two possible reasons come to mind. One is the fact that the Tribuneis now engaged in a full-court press to find something in those documents to resurrect its narrative in the case. Another is that the paper is putting pressure on Judge Stephenson.
Doubt it? Ask Judge Diane Cannon. Ask the detectives in the Nicole Harris, Stanley Wrice, Anthony Porter, Nevest Coleman, and Madison Hobley cases. The list goes on . . .
What is being whispered around 26th and California and the offices of attorneys throughout the city is the fact that the case against the officers lacks little real evidence. How, then, did it get this far? What would happen to the city and its criminal justice system if a judge ruled against police officers in a case so lacking in evidence?
These whispered questions will never find their way into the articles and editorials of the Chicago Tribune, that black hole of advocacy in Chicago that was once a mighty force of objective journalism, one that seems to believe it knows better than anyone what is befitting the “eyes and ears of the public.”