Crime is ‘alleged’ until there is a finding of guilty | Publisher's column

By Keven Graves

We always have lively discussions on our website, www.whidbeynewstimes.com and on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WhidbeyNews

Some news gets posted online before it appears in our print edition.

Last Thursday, between print editions, we picked up an item posted by the Oak Harbor Police Department about a man who allegedly went into the back area of Oak Harbor Safeway and kissed her.

Of course, there was more to the story, but at that time we had only the small amount of information posted by the police department on its own page. We shared it verbatem with our Facebook readers and included a surveillance photo.

Police had asked for the public’s help in identifying the man.

Some remarked that there didn’t seem to be a crime committed, just a simple kiss. Some made callous jokes. However, there were some who either surmised there might be more information that police hadn’t yet shared, and there was at least one person who seemed to have insider information about the crime.

By  Saturday, a News-Times reporter had interviewed the alleged victim and Oak Harbor police officials. The article published in our weekend edition included details more alarming than shared in the police department’s initial Facebook post. The woman said she was grabbed from behind and placed in what she called a “chokehold.”

The one “insider” was critical of our original Facebook post and accused the News-Times of withholding details. We did not.

However, her perception was that the newspaper was keeping information from the public.

The same commenter also took issue with the use of the word “alleged” to describe the incidents in the story.

The use of the word “alleged” is not a reflection on the character of the woman who reported the incident. “Alleged” is a crucial word when reporting a crime in which someone has not been convicted. Until a judge or jury issues a verdict, or the suspect pleads guilty, he or she is presumed to be innocent.

That is a fundamental American right — Innocent until proven guilty.

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