No Trial For Chicago Media
Opportunity to hold Chicago media accountable for manufactured narrative slips away
On August 3rd, Chicago Tribune federal courts reporter Jason Meisner penned an article outlining a $25 million payout being prepared for two men who were convicted in 1996 for the murder of a youth basketball star in 1993.
The settlement that will make millionaires out of once-convicted killers Tyrone Hood and Wayne Washington, both of whom were imprisoned for the murder of Marshall Morgan Jr., is a no doubt a great relief to the Chicago media. The coverage of the Hood-Washington case by Chicago journalists is one main reason the defense attorneys representing detectives specifically focused on the media’s role in creating a bogus narrative of innocence.
Lawyers representing the detectives who led the investigation into the murder case have argued it was this bogus “media campaign,” not evidence, that paved the way for then-Governor Pat Quinn to commute the sentences of the two men. Quinn’s commutations begin Hood’s and Washington’s trek from prison inmates to wealthy victims.
In a broadside against Quinn, defense attorneys asserted:
"Mr. Quinn’s decision set in motion a chain of events that led directly to the reversal of Plaintiff’s [Hood’s] convictions and these lawsuits, but the decision was not based on the discovery of any new evidence exonerating Hood ..., such as DNA or eyewitness testimony excluding [him] from the crime—that evidence does not exist. Rather, it was the product of an intense media campaign by Hood’s attorneys involving local and international celebrities, NBC Chicago, Peacock Productions, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Yorker Magazine."
Media activism is a common allegation by active and retired police officers exasperated with the behavior of Chicago’s monolithic media. The Hood-Washington exonerations were one instance in which this view was perfectly aligned among city attorneys and detectives, so much so that defense lawyers even deposed and attempted to depose reporters who covered the exoneration narrative.
Serious questions have emerged as this media narrative has developed. After making such allegations against the media, why would the attorneys representing Chicago advocate settling the case? If city attorneys believe the media manufactured this narrative, wouldn’t it be crucial to confront those who concocted it? City attorneys often come before members of the City Council to explain their rationale for settling legal cases even after spending several years fighting litigation in court. It is frequently alleged to be cheaper to settle than go to trial and risk losing a larger amount in a verdict.
However, if the city is claiming the media is pushing false narratives around these cases, isn’t failing to confront the media ultimately costlier?
This demands further questions be asked and answered. In the Hood-Washington case, city attorneys are clearly admitting there is merit in the complaint by police asserting media dishonesty in its coverage of these cases. It seems the city is arguing they are being tried in a court of public opinion controlled by a press machine. Why, then, don’t city attorneys have a strategy to confront this press machine? In other words, could one skilled and energetic media representative for Chicago hold the press accountable for their coverage and allow these cases to go to trial?
Meisner’s announcement of the settlement comes after a long and deafening silence about the case as it wound its way through the federal courts, a beat he supposedly covers. These allegations against the media, including the depositions of reporters, were never addressed by Meisner or any other media outlet. This is quite a telling silence from a media cabal that publishes an almost daily article about the importance of police accountability and transparency.
What makes the allegations against the Tribune and Meisner even more troubling is the fact that detectives in the case have been under relentless attack from the newspaper since 2001. In this hostile media environment, these detectives have taken the great personal risk of testifying rather than invoking their Fifth Amendment privilege.
The Hood case, with its all its allegations against the media, was a key opportunity to reveal not only the tactics of the media in the mythology they have generated against police investigators, but also a blueprint for how the media functions as a bullhorn for the anti-police movement.
A review of police misconduct cases going back decades reveals a staggering level of media silence in the face of evidence contradicting their narratives, raising a question: Has the Chicago media abandoned the duty of informing the public in favor of creating anti-police hysteria?
In settling the case, the city has apparently decided yet again not to confront these questions about the Chicago press, kowtowing to Chicago’s media cabal rather than support the officers and detectives who are out on the street trying to put rapists and killers behind bars.
It is not just the Democrat dominated City Council that will capitulate. Detectives who worked the Hood case have been abandoned by an entire legion of conservatives who consistently claim they support law enforcement in Illinois.
The consequences are dire. The attacks on police in federal court play a crucial role in the decline of the city’s financial health when the city settles cases such as this. Worse, it is also a key force in the decline of policing, one that directly influences the level of violent crime, posing an important, elemental question: Is the Chicago media a “root cause” of Chicago’s violent crime?