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PUBLISHER'S COLUMN | Ignoring arrests flies in face of transparent judicial system in U.S.
Two recent stories in Whidbey newspapers drew some particularly emotional reactions from some readers.
The first was an article about the arrest of Coupeville Deputy Marshal Hodges Gowdey III. Gowdey, 44, was charged with unlawful imprisonment and witness tampering in connection with an incident that allegedly occurred in 2007.
Gowdey was ordered held in lieu of $30,000 bail and put on administrative leave.
The second story was about a police officer candidate and former firefighter Dylan G. Jefferies, who reportedly failed a lie detector test required for the position and allegedly admitted to having child pornography on his home computer.
Friends and supporters of each man went on the attack, accusing Whidbey newspapers of convicting each man in the court of public opinion.
Talk about shooting the messenger.
Both articles were clear that the allegations against the suspects are just that — allegations, meaning they are yet to be proven in court.
However, charges were filed against both men, and the cases for those charges were laid out in detail out by the investigating agencies.
The fact that both men held positions of public trust — police officer and firefighter — means society and the courts hold them to a higher standard than the average citizen.
In the articles, the newspaper offered absolutely no observations about either man’s innocence or guilt. Rather, they presented the information obtained from court documents — that’s the information investigating agencies rely on when taking cases before a judge.
The appearance in court by Gowdey and Jefferies is the beginning of what may be a long and detailed legal process, one in which this country has placed great faith and trust.
Nearly all Superior Court proceedings, particularly in criminal cases, are open to the public, and court documents are available for any citizen to review.
The judicial system in the United States is open for a reason. Transparency ensures not only that everyone receives a fair trial, but also that justice is properly served.
Will Gowdey and Jefferies receive a fair trial? I believe they will. Both men will have representation and have the legal right to trials by jury or judge, if the cases get to that stage.
Suggesting that local newspapers should ignore the arrest of Gowdey and Jefferies is in contradiction with a judicial system that functions well because of its transparency.
I believe the public deserves and wants to know what is happening in its courtrooms.