Saturday, October 5, 2013

Letter Questions MPR's Journalistic Ethics Over Its Coverage on Priest's Alleged Possession of Pornography

The following was submitted to Minnesota Public Radio.

Listening to the update about Father Jon Shelley wherein it was reported that a citizen has turned over to police something purporting to be a copy of his laptop's hard drive from nearly 10 years ago set off warning bells in this criminal defense attorney's mind.

In light of the emotionally charged nature of the allegations against Father Shelley, the prospects for someone"ginning up" the case against him are great.  This is one reason why in the law of evidence there is something called "chain of custody", something that the purported "copy of a hard drive" sorely lacks.

Furthermore the reporting yesterday seemed to imply that Father Shelley was somehow to blame that the purchaser's intended use for the used laptop was to give it to children six or 7 years of age.  This aspect was emphasized in bold print and a separate balloon in your article and it was ridiculous, created an unfair impression that this somehow involved child pornography and was plain bad journalism.

I would lastly submit that someone who was truly a pedophile would have more than one or two questionable images among thousands of adults engaging in sexual activities.  If the Catholic Church is going to adhere to its archaic sexual norms and mores, the media and the public should not be in a rush to engage in an electronic lynching of a human being's reputation and character before all admissible evidence is in.

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