Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Got That Three Strikes Story Right After All

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:49 am

I recently wrote a blog post suggesting that the L.A. Times might have misstated the criminal history of John Wesley Ewell, a third striker who was treated as a second striker by my office on different occasions and is now charged with several murders. My piece was pure media criticism; I said that I tentatively suspected that they might have misstated the suspect’s record, based on the fact that another reporter (whom I respect) had reported something different. As before, I don’t want to get into a discussion of the current case, which is an ongoing and rather high-profile case. However, I want to put up a quick item to note that my (tentatively expressed) criticism of the L.A. Times was misplaced.

I began to suspect this within a couple of hours of publishing the piece, as I found new pieces appearing on Google News which also seemed to support the account offered by the L.A. Times. I added an update linking a couple of those pieces and noting the likelihood that the paper had gotten it right.

That likelihood is now confirmed. After the publication of my post, I was contacted by Jack Leonard, one of the reporters on the story. He indicated that he believed he and his colleague had gotten it right, and wanted to walk me through the facts. I exchanged some genial e-mails with him and asked for the specific evidence, indicating that I would write a correction if he sent me proof that the story was right. He did so on Thursday. This post is my correction.

I have uploaded the two documents that Mr. Leonard sent to me. The first is a 1989 sentencing memorandum, relating the facts of Ewell’s second robbery case, and alluding to the fact that Ewell had previously been convicted of robbery. The second is a 1995 criminal complaint alleging that Ewell had suffered robbery convictions in 1989 and 1985. The case numbers and dates on both documents match up.

These documents make it clear to me that the reporters got the story right. (The sentencing memorandum also makes for interesting reading.) I am updating the original post with a link to this one.

My apologies to Mr. Winton and Leonard for suggesting they might have gotten this wrong. Their story was accurate, and raised interesting issues about the Three Strikes law that deserve discussion.

11 Responses to “L.A. Times Got That Three Strikes Story Right After All”

  1. Patterico, I am curious as to your thoughts of the handwritten notes on page 3 of the sentencing memorandum. The copy appears to the court file copy (since it is not an endorsed file copy), suggesting the notes are the judge’s. “[PC] 667a, 5 years, punished for going to trial.” Sounds like a judge who did not agree with Prop 8.

    If the notes do belong to the judge, this attitude of repeated crime is not that big a deal, or that the prosecutors are treating the defendant unfairly, simply reinforces these views in the defendant. Not shocking that Ewell and everyone around him would take little from the sanction that was imposed.

    David (374c97)

  2. Patterico, the comedy response would have been to wait six weeks, then offer a correction for some portion of the story (i.e. spelling error, suspect’s birthplace, etc.) and bury it with an unrelated headline.

    Instead, you have chosen to be straightforward with your agenda being the truth. I love it that the LAT wanted a correction. Well done, sir!

    TimesDisliker (df7f26)

  3. This is why we have layers and layers of fact checkers.

    The MFM (fb8750)

  4. My respects, Sir. An example of integrity so many would do well to follow.

    Machinist (74634b)

  5. Ditto. Every reporter and blogger should have your decency and grace, Patterico.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  6. The criminal complaint seems a bit redundant in its recitations of priors. Is that normal?

    Kevin M (298030)

  7. Anyone who’s ever blogged comes up against this eventually. You post something you REALLY just want to make disappear down the memory hole. Some bloggers do exactly that. Others just pretend there’s nothing wrong (SOP for newspapers). Having to come out and admit you goofed isn’t easy, but really the only thing that lets an honest person move on.

    Kevin M (298030)

  8. This kind of correction shows Patterico is more in touch with the real world than the unfortunate sort of pundit who obsesses and never backs down.

    It’s not like the initial story went too far, either. It raised doubts without getting too far ahead of itself. It’s nice, when you realize your initial impression was off, to know you didn’t launch such a tirade that you have to eat crow.

    This is why Patterico really, really ticks off a certain sort of pundit. Whether they are on the left or the right, the sort of pundit that hates this blog always shares a trait of making exaggerations, unfounded accusations, leaps of logic, and generally trying to sex up their stories in order to gain lots and lots of attention. Some of them have a hard time backing down, ever. These people find respectable integrity to be insufferable.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  9. Now that’s how you do a correction!

    Craig Mc (11277e)

  10. I’m interested in discussing the 3 strikes law. I read an article yesterday regarding how Stanford Law School has a clinic that tries to help admittedly guilty persons convicted under California’s 3 strike law who they think don’t deserve that punishment. The article describes what sounds like a petty criminal convicted of 3 offenses and it’s easy to feel sympathy for him, but I also see great value in having a deterrent that prevents repeat criminals.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  11. Yes, that AP article showed up in this morning’s Long Beach Press-Telegram (which should be on PP’s daily read list).

    My first reaction after (actually, while) reading it was who will take responsibility if this person recidivates after his “compassionate” release?

    It is, after all, the revolving door aspect of the Criminal InJustice System that infuriates the average taxpayer/voter who gets stuck with the tab for all of this; first as the victim of the perpetrator, and then as the financier of his/her incarceration.

    AD-RtR/OS! (6dbf61)

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