Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Weekend Of The First (Not Second) Amendment

I don't remember what we were discussing before Saturday. Health Care? Unemployment? North Korea?

We've now spent the last two days watching the aftermath of the attempted assassination of a member of congress. We've learned in the path of this attempt, died 6 people including a respected federal Judge, a staff member of Congresswomen Giffords, and a 9 year old girl recently elected to student council, a girl who went to the Safeway grocery store for the sole purpose of meeting a government official she could imagine becoming, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Now Jared Loughner sits in federal custody as the suspect, charged with a slew of offenses including murder, and we await the (truthful) updates regarding the recovery of Ms. Giffords.

Now let me get one thing out of the way for you anonymous snipers. Yes, if I was an attorney in Arizona and I was asked to represent Ms. Laughner, either by appointment or retention by the family, but for a conflict of interest, I would accept representation. So stop typing your simplistic "oh sure, I'm sure you're all broken up about this but you would represent that monster wouldn't you, huh? huh? Yes. So shut up and go find another blog to anonymously spew your lack of intelligence. I'm not interested in that debate right now and the First Amendment doesn't apply to this blog, even though the ignorant believe it does.

Looks though like Judy Clarke, former counsel to unabomber Ted Kaczynski, will competently represent Mr. Loughner. So go yell at her, tell her you believe in only parts of the Constitution, the parts that allow you to live free because "you'd never be a defendant in a criminal case."

Mr. Loughner needs a lawyer more than anyone in this country right now. You want him to have a good lawyer, because if he doesn't, oh never mind. Let's move on.

I was stunned Saturday. I was told I shouldn't be. because this was bound to happen. I explained it's like knowing a hurricane is coming and then seeing the damage. Reality is always different than the idea of reality.

I don't know who's fault this is, and I'm not all that concerned about it right now. All I know for sure is that somebody shot, wounded, and killed a bunch of people and a congresswoman is in the hospital recovering from brain surgery.

Between Saturday and now, I knew many different things. I knew about the shooting. I knew 5, no 6, no 9, no 3, no it's 6 people died. I knew 15, no 19, no 30 shots were fired.

I knew Congresswomen Giffords died.

I knew that the current state of the media, is in complete disarray.

I took journalism in high school. I learned about the "2 source," rule. Always make sure you have 2 sources. Then, with CNN, MSNBC, and FOX, talking to 2 sources became too time consuming. One person was enough, even if that person was a crank caller trying to get Howard Stern's attention.

The definition of "source" has even changed. It's no longer a public information officer, or assistant, or family member. It's SDOT (Some Dude On Twitter), or a kid with a cell phone at the scene. It doesn't matter who is giving the information. Being wrong doesn't matter, it's being first that matters.

I saw little restraint. Actually, I saw one instance of restraint. FOX's Shepard Smith was hesitant to announce the name of a member of Congresswoman Gifford's staff because he wasn't assured the family knew of his death.

Reporters and anchors have become creative in violating ethics at every instance in the race to be first. Over and over again we hear speculation in the form of non-speculation - "we have no evidence that this is terrorism." Ok, so why mention it? Because "terrorism" attracts viewers. Journalists guess how investigations will proceed, bring on psychiatrists to "evaluate" the suspect, and of course, bring on lawyers to discuss how "they" would handle the case from their TV studio stool.

All of this is ok. That's my point. This weekend was not about the Second Amendment. Congressional events will have more security, people will talk about gun control, but that's about all that will happen as a result.

What I haven't seen is deep, sincere apologies regarding all the bad information that was put out this weekend. We all saw the press conference from University Medical Center where the doctor said Congresswomen Giffords was alive and he was optimistic. I guess that meant (oops) she wasn't dead.

We've heard a lot about "discourse," and "rhetoric." Someone said that we live in a country where when it comes to politics "you either agree with me, or you're evil." I believe that, but I believe that the bigger issue is the proliferation of communication. People can talk all day, all night, in the middle of the night, every day, and do it anonymously. Most important - none of it has to be true. The days of a half hour news (real news) program in the evening, is long gone. News is 140 characters, or less, all the time. John Doe from Tupelo can tweet something and in 10 minutes it's on CNN as news, our new definition of "unconfirmed sources."

I was embarrassed this weekend. I think some people in the media were as well, but their voices are being drowned out by talk of whether this is the fault of one person or another. The media has a way of moving on from mistakes, especially in these days of blaming others for your lack of ethics.

If anyone questioned the strength of the First Amendment, you saw it this weekend. You can basically say whatever you want, and while as the Sheriff of Pima County said there are "consequences" that come with the First Amendment, he was speaking of the consequence that is death and destruction.

For those unfamiliar with the First Amendment, here's a familiar face reading it last week on the floor of Congress.



Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter