Patterico's Pontifications



Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:27 pm

FURTHER RESPONSE ON OLIVERIO MARTINEZ: I told you recently about a response I had gotten from the “Reader’s Representative” at the Los Angeles Times on the Oliverio Martinez case, which I have discussed extensively on these pages. As before, I warn you: this is long. Read it only if you have been following the issue, or you are otherwise interested. To get acquainted with the issue, read my last post on the topic. Background and links to earlier posts are all provided there.

Here is the latest missive from the Reader’s Representative, which I received (and replied to) today:

We’re not always this slow in responding, I’m sorry. It’s been particularly busy lately.

The reporter did get back to me on this. He read and listened to the taped recorded statement to which you refer. He says that toward the end of the tape, after Sgt. Chavez asks Martinez repeatedly to admit he grabbed the officer’s gun, Martinez says “yes”, meaning he grabbed the officer’s gun. However, the reporter made the judgment that he thought no one “put a lot of stock in that admission.”

Here, according to the reporter, is paragraph 2 of Justice Thomas’s opinion siding with the Oxnard police:

“There is some dispute about what occurred during the altercation. The officers claim that Martinez drew (Ofc) Salinas’ gun from its holster and pointed it at them. Martinez denies this. Both sides agree, however, that Salinas yelled, ‘He’s got my gun!’ Pena (the other officer) then drew her gun and shot Martinez several times, causing severe injuries that left Martinez permanently blinded and paralyzed from the waist down.”

Added the reporter in his note to me, “In reporting this incident–a shooting at night when no one can see well–I thought it best to use the officer’s shout–‘he’s got my gun’–followed by the shooting.”

The reporter’s role is often to make judgments like this — to report the story based on his assessment of the facts. As readers, we hope and trust that the reporters are fair and intelligent. But editing is a subjective thing. You said you thought the information belonged in the article so readers could decide for themselves; other editors might have agreed with you. I would guess that, were an editor to have told Savage to include in his story information about the tape, Savage would have insisted on reporting that his judgment was that the “admission” was forced and that the justices implied they thought the same. That would have, of course, taken up more space, which is probably part of why it wasn’t part of the story.

In any case, the reporter knows that you thought that information belonged in the piece.

If you have time to respond, please feel free. Thank you again for your interest.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

I responded to the Reader’s Representative as follows:

Thank you for your reply. I expect this is the last message I will send you on the topic.

I still think your analysis entirely ignores the context of my complaint, which was addressed to the entirety of the coverage your paper provided that day — not just Savage’s story. Readers who followed Savage’s piece to the back pages had their eyes drawn to a companion piece on the facing page: a portrait of Martinez (the plaintiff in the case) which positively flowed over with sympathy for his plight. Let me give you the flavor of this piece, in case you have not read it. The piece was titled: “‘It’s ‘Just Wrong,’ Says the Plaintiff.” The sub-head read: “Oliverio Martinez is blind and paralyzed, and lives in a cramped trailer. He attributes his problems to his shooting by Oxnard police.” Here are some representative quotes from this piece:

“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.

You can almost hear the studio audience saying: “Awwwwwwww.”

If you think I am cherry-picking quotes favorable to Martinez, then please, by all means, go to your archives and read the whole thing. Look at the picture of Martinez in his wheelchair. See if you can honestly say you don’t think the paper was taking sides with this piece.

In addition, as I have mentioned, an editorial that day (titled “Justice Takes a Beating“) made the blatant misrepresentation: “In the end, the officers got nothing useful from Martinez and never charged him with a crime.” We have agreed that the editorial writer likely got his facts from Savage’s story.

This is the context within which I find it so outrageous that your paper never once told its readers that (to quote the Supreme Court opinion at paragraph 4): “Later in the interview, Martinez admitted that he took the gun from the officer’s holster and pointed it at police.” (By the way, the opinion does not imply that the admission was coerced; rather, at page 13, the opinion rejects the contention that Sgt. Chavez acted egregiously, noting that there was no evidence that the questioning was intended to, or had the effect of, interfering with Martinez’s medical treatment.)

I have a friend who read your coverage that day — including the puff piece on the plaintiff — and decided that he felt so sorry for Martinez, he was actually going to send him some money. I pointed my friend to the passage in the Supreme Court opinion which states that Martinez had admitted pulling the gun. My friend found this admission tremendously more significant than the predictable fact (which was reported in both news stories) that police had disputed Martinez’ current version of events. I think many of your readers might agree — if the paper had only bothered to tell them.

I do indeed believe that your readers had a right to know about this admission, and to decide for themselves whether to “put stock” in the admission. I have to tell you, I don’t think this is a close call — at all. I can also tell you that my friend felt betrayed by your newspaper’s decision to omit this information. Everyone to whom I have told this story has shaken their heads in disbelief that your paper could make such an egregious omission.

However, I can see that I have failed to persuade anyone that the Times‘s treatment of this story is problematic. To me, this is but further evidence of the problem you have over there.

Nevertheless, I admire the fact that you are making an effort to address questions such as these, however long it takes. And — although it does not appear that I will be hearing from the author of the puff piece or the editorial — I nevertheless appreciate the fact that you posed my questions to at least one of the reporters.


Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:19 am

WHY I AM VOTING TO RECALL DAVIS: I have opposed holding a recall election as a bad precedent, and I refused to sign the petition. Nevertheless, I am voting to recall the jerk.

(Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself.

I could never actually cast a vote against the recall, because that would feel too much like voting for Davis. Ick. Even if I were inclined to do that, how could I now that he is signing onto the “Republicans steal elections” mythology? Yesterday he said: “This recall is bigger than California. What’s happening here is part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections that Republicans cannot win.”

Yup, Democrats are planning to add this recall to the “Republicans steal elections” book of myths. It all began with the “Republicans stole the election in Florida” myth (long since debunked by the media, which said Bush would win virtually any recount — but what do Democrats care about facts?). Sorry, I can never vote for anything/anyone that embraces that pack of lies.

Well, guess what, Gray? The next time you want to shove, shake, scream obscenities at, or hurl objects at your employees, it’s gonna have to be employees you hired with your own money, ’cause you are outta here!

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