March 12, 2005

QC media companies file for access to case

The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus, WQAD-NewsChannel 8 and the Quad-City Times have filed a motion contesting a judge's ruling banning them and other media from covering proceedings involving a juvenile involved in the Adrianne Reynolds murder case. The judge had issued the ruling after media outlets published pictures of the minor as well as his name.
During testimony at Mr. Gregory's preliminary hearing Feb. 1, an Illinois State Police special agent identified the juvenile by name and outlined his alleged involvement in the case.

Later in the day, the juvenile made his first appearance in juvenile court. Prior to the start of that hearing, the court admonished the press not to publish the juvenile's name or his photograph.

Following the hearing, authorities led the juvenile to a waiting car out the courthouse doors where he was photographed by several news organizations.

The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus published both the juvenile's name and his photograph. WQAD-NewsChannel 8 broadcast similar information, while the Quad-City Times published his name.

The three parties in the motion argue that this ban amounts to prior restraint and cite a 1989 Illinois Supreme Court ruling dealing with similar circumstances involving a Kankakee newspaper they say support their claims.


At 3/12/2005 11:58 AM, Blogger Dissenter said...

This issue is so very interesting, on many levels. But to understand it fully, we must first understand the logic of the protective provisions of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act, and the fallacies of that Act. On a broader level, we might find it of interest to consider the misnomer of "adult crimes,"

First, the Illinois Juvenile Court Act exists to provide special statutory protections for "minors" (a term which is SOMETIMES defined as constituting persons under the age of 18). The rationale of the juvenile court act is the same as that which applies to the voidability of contracts into which minors purportedly enter. Put simply, as a result of the lack of sufficient mental capacity of minors (i.e., lack of mature intellect, reasoning, understanding), our society is not going to forever stick minors with the consequences of their actions as youth. Consequentially, we do not charge minors with adult crimes. Rather, if a minor commits an act which if committed by an adult would be a misdemeanor or felony act, then the State can file a Petition or Adjudication of Wardship on the basis of delinquency. If the minor is found to be delinquent, he or she can be made a ward of the court, after which the court can enter orders governing the ward (including the possibility of a sentence to juvenile department of corrections, where the minor can be held until the age of 21--this is not a typo--the age is 21). The thought process is that the minor should not forever carry the burdens of youthful indiscretions.

Accordingly, the Juvenile Court Act requires that juvenile court proceedings be held in a closed courtroom. The general public is not allowed in the courtroom. The judge, lawyers, courtroom personnel, and others in the courtroom are prohibited from disclosing or discussing the facts of the juvenile case. The court files are sealed, and not accessible to the public. Why? So that the minor is not forever stigmatized by the consequences of conduct committed when he or she was not possessed of a mental capacity sufficient to forever bind him or her to that conduct. HOWEVER, there is an exception in the Juvenile Court Act which enables the media to be present in the otherwise closed proceedings. Why? WHY?

I don't know. But it makes absolutely no sense to me.

Now, sometimes we here the public clamoring for a harsher consequence against a juvenile, if that juvenile committed what some refer to as "an adult crime." Perhaps it is on that very basis that our local media now desire to report the name of the juvenile associated with the Reynolds case.

So what is an "adult crime?" I will tell you that I have never understood what that term means, in the context of a juvenile court proceeding. I suspect that if the truth were told, an "adult crime" is a crime so heinous that an angry public's vicious hunger for retribution will not be satisfied by the less harsh remedies allowed under the juvenile court act. And so it is that we must treat the children who act horribly as adults, because it makes us feel better to know that they got what they had coming.

Either we have a uniform age of majority, or we do not. And either juvenile court proceedings should be closed to all, INCLUDING the media, or they shoud be closed to none.

It makes no sense to say that the age of majority is 18, unless the crime committed by a younger person is one that makes us suffer anger far more furious than that which should be felt toward a younger person. In which case we call it an "adult crime" and feel better for the hatred we feel.

Alternatively, we can simply abandon the concept of a uniform age of majority, and begin analyzing each situation on a case-by-case basis. We could assess the intellect, maturity and reasoning abilities of young people to determine whether they are smart enough, or mature enough, to vote. We can do that when they try to vote at the age of 14. We can do that when they try to drink alcohol at the age of 17. We can do that when they try to enter into a contract at the age of 12. Of course, our system will come to a screeching halt. Our society will not accomplish much, because we will be devoting so much time to the assessment of whether little Timmy down the block is smart enough to vote this year.

Or we can stop all of this contradiction and have a uniform age of majority for all things: driving, voting, drinking, contracts, and truly "adult crimes."

The media should stay the hell out of the juvenile courtroom in the Reynolds case. After all, though his conduct may make us hate him, he is only a kid.

At 3/12/2005 1:21 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

As to The Dope, you've won your case.

And thanks for enlightening us on this issue. I was not aware of the inconsistencies in and the basic proceedure of the juvenile justice system.

Given what you've said, and given that the juvenile in question seems to have only been an ancillary player in this sordid episode, it would seem more justified than ever to keep his identity secret.

And The Dope is also troubled by the increasing blood-lust of the public at large.


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