The acquittal of kindergarten teacher Tonya Craft for the alleged molestation of three young girls is a victory, of sorts, provided you don’t demand too much of a win. At the same time, it was big, ugly loss for Herbert E. “Buzz” Franklin, district attorney for the Lookout Mountain Judicial District. Buzz didn’t come out looking very good.
While the DA handbook says that it’s impolite for a prosecutor to whine about a loss, Buzz tries to get as close to the line as possible in his post-verdict interview with the Chatanoogan.
Mr. Franklin said, “I was disappointed with the verdict in the Tonya Craft case. The state presented a strong and compelling case to support a conviction. However, the jury chose to acquit her and we must accept this decision. Unlike the defendant, the state has no right of appeal. However, we need not agree with the verdict.
The word “compelling” is always one of the prosecutor’s favorites. It’s never been clear to me what exactly is meant in this context, since the jury obviously didn’t feel compelled to convict, but it makes their prosecution seem so much more reasonable, more necessary. As if they had no choice but to serve justice by prosecuting false accusations.
Why then, since the case was so compelling, did the jury acquit?
“In most cases the media strives to present their coverage of criminal trials in a fair and even-handed way that serves to inform the public. In this case, a number of local reporters openly took sides and heavily slanted their coverage in favor of the defense.”
When the media condemns a person who is presumed innocent, they are fair and even-handed. When the evidence doesn’t seem nearly as “compelling” to the media as it does to Buzz, the coverage is “heavily slanted.” Fair is good. Heavily slanted is bad. But if the case was so compelling, was the heavily slanted media coverage enough to overwhelm the jury?
“Combined with the dynamics of the Internet blogosphere, it created an environment hostile to the state’s ability to receive a fair trial and portrayed the victims and their families in a negative light. This was an integral, purposeful and shameless part of the defense strategy. This will result in child victims and their supportive family members refusing to come forward for fear of a similar portrayal in the public.”
It’s the Internet blogosphere. I knew it. The collective blogosphere conspired to deny the state’s ability to receive a fair trial. And you probably didn’t even know the state had a right to a fair trial, and here we are screwing it all up for the state. Poor state. How evil of the internet blogosphere to assert its vast power and rip the state’s right to a fair trial right out from under it. Evil blogosphere.
Buzz goes on to present his rather uncompelling detailing of our evil doings, none of which bears much on the negligible detail of the failure of the evidence and manipulation of the children’s memories and testimony in this modern day witch hunt. Apparently, the acquittal couldn’t have much to do with the fact that the prosecution’s evidence against Tonya Craft was just not as compelling as Buzz thought.
It’s highly unlikely that the blogosphere had anywhere near the influence on the outcome of this case as Buzz would like to believe, thus shifting the responsibility for this debacle off of his shoulders and onto the keyboards of blawgers everywhere. No, the blogosphere can’t take that much credit. The failure is his, and the success belongs to the defense.
But it’s good to know that the blogosphere was there to help. To the extent that the acquittal of Tonya Craft was a victory, it’s good to think of the blogosphere as a laboring oar in the effort.