LYING BY OMISSION: Mark Twain once said: “Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.” Today’s Los Angeles Dog Trainer (aka Los Angeles Times) pays tribute to Twain’s wisdom in its stories about yesterday’s Miranda decision.
The decision held that police did not deprive Oliverio Martinez of a constitutional right when they interrogated him without first reading him his Miranda rights. Martinez was riding a bike and was stopped by Oxnard police officers conducting a drug investigation. They frisked him and found a knife. Then there was an altercation, which ended up with Martinez getting shot multiple times. A supervising officer thought Martinez might die, and wanted to get his side of the story. So he followed Martinez to the hospital, and asked Martinez questions about what had happened while Martinez writhed in pain. Martinez was never charged with a crime, but he sued the police department for the shooting — and for asking him questions without first reading him his Miranda rights.
The parties disputed why Martinez was shot. Police claim Martinez pulled an officer’s gun from its holster and pointed it at them, so they shot him. Martinez says he never touched the gun. The police have one fairly major thing favoring their version: in a tape-recorded interview, Martinez admitted he pulled the gun on the officers. As you can learn from reading the opinion itself here, Martinez “admitted that he took the gun from the officer’s holster and pointed it at police.” (Page 2 of the opinion.)
But you will search our local Dog Trainer in vain for any mention that Martinez admitted pulling the gun on officers. In the main story covering the case, David Savage describes the interrogation — but never once mentions Martinez’ admission.
This omission, which seems merely surprising in Savage’s story, becomes shockingly dishonest in the context of the companion piece — a slavishly favorable portrait of Martinez titled It’s ‘Just Wrong,’ Says the Plaintiff. The sub-head reads: “Oliverio Martinez is blind and paralyzed, and lives in a cramped trailer. He attributes his problems to his shooting by Oxnard police.” You can get the flavor of this puff piece from the following quotes:
“Oliverio Martinez hadn’t yet heard the news about his case, but that was no surprise. . . . He lives a world away from the marble chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court. He doesn’t have a phone, or even a bathroom. With his father, Oliverio Sr., he resides in a dark, cramped trailer about the size of a suburban walk-in closet, a dilapidated tin box outside Camarillo beside the strawberry fields he had worked for the better part of 20 years. . . . Martinez, 35, is blind and paralyzed. His prospects shrank dramatically one November night in 1997 when he was shot five times by Oxnard police. . . . Celebrating his father’s birthday, Martinez planned to go out with [his girlfriend] tonight, perhaps for seafood. . . . She will give Martinez’s father a shirt and a pair of pants. Martinez will give him the only gift he said he could afford a hug.”
What a great guy, huh? The story makes Martinez sound almost like a saint — by carefully omitting any hint that maybe he brought this on himself by grabbing a policeman’s gun and pointing it at him. This is a fact that the Dog Trainer editors don’t want you to know. So, they just don’t tell you. The deception is breathtaking.
UPDATE: I thought I’d plumbed the depths of the Times‘s lies on this issue, but that’s because I hadn’t read their editorial titled Justice Takes a Beating, which contains the following bald-faced lie: “In the end, the officers got nothing useful from Martinez and never charged him with a crime.” Nothing useful — other than what the Supreme Court described as an admission that he had pulled the officer’s gun and pointed it at police!