Jeff Pelline: Who let the accused killer out?
Remember the song that goes “For one zillion dollars, the question is: Who let the dogs out”?
(“Who let the dogs out” by Baha Men became a cult song in 2000, including at Major League Baseball games. It also became a cult video, with the dogs running out from behind a guarded door.)
We had a more serious version in our county on Tuesday. In this case, it was a man that was let out – the man accused of shooting and killing his father on Sunday afternoon. He faces charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
As our reporter, Robyn Moormeister, writes on page A1, Franklin Brown V of Cedar Ridge was released from jail Tuesday night due to a – well – miscommunication between correctional staff and prosecutors. He wasn’t re-arrested until Wednesday afternoon in Granite Bay, in another county, at his girlfriend’s house. Then he was taken back to jail.
Here’s the background: According to state law, a person who is arrested is entitled to see a judge within 48 hours of his or her arrest or the prisoner must be released. “Our hands are tied,” the jail captain told Moormeister. “If we held him, we’re in violation of his civil rights.” According to the DA’s office, investigators knew where Brown was the entire time after his release.
Wouldn’t this make an interesting episode of TV’s “48 hours”?
Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal and District Attorney Cliff Newell both agreed to a lack of communication between their offices, as well as a difference of opinion on the interpretation of the state law. To avoid this in the future, the two officials will meet this week, Royal said.
“This (incident) will certainly make us pay attention to any chinks in our armor,” Newell told our paper.
This is not the first time we’ve reported miscommunication between the DA’s office and law enforcement. In October, the Grass Valley Police Department complained about not being consulted by the DA in the case of Jesse Rider, a father who was accused of sexually molesting his toddler son. Later, the DA’s office and Grass Valley police held a meeting and worked out their differences. According to our sources, the situation has improved.
We write many positive stories about the legal system in our county – a lot of ink on the recent “Red Light Ball” was only the latest example, not to mention our paper’s joint sponsorship of the annual event. The other Jeff (Ackerman) and I brought our wives. We got snubbed by some people, but mostly were warmly received by Royal, Newell, Sean Metroka (the court’s executive officer) and others. I had a good discussion with outgoing DA Mike Ferguson about sailing, a common interest of ours.
But it’s also our newspaper’s job to scrutinize the public sector and elected officials such as Newell, Royal and others. We do that – on the news pages and on the opinion pages – and we’ve taken heat.
But without a newspaper like ours (and in this case, Moormeister’s enterprising reporting), you wouldn’t know, for example, that an alleged killer was let out of jail for a night because of miscommunication about procedure. We told both sides. Nobody issued a press release on this one.
Earlier this week, I read about the owner of the Sacramento Valley Mirror, a small paper in Glenn County, named Tim Crews. The 63-year-old man, who also is editor and reporter, told The San Francisco Chronicle: “We’re s— disturbers. It’s what a small county needs. It is really important for a place like this to have somebody hold up a mirror.”
The article also pointed out “the kind of scrappy journalism Crews does may become harder to find if current media trends continue. With classified advertising usurped by the Internet, newspapers across the country are facing mounting losses and, in many cases, cuts in staff and resources. First Amendment scholars fear that investigative journalism may die as newsprint fades away.”
I don’t agree with the “s” word part. But I do agree it is important to investigate and hold up a mirror, and I agree that a small county needs a rolled-up newspaper. As one of my favorite dogs Snoopy once said (in his case, being house trained with a rolled-up newspaper): “It does tend however to give one a rather distorted view of the press!”
Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays. Contact him at 477-4235, email@example.com, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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