By Wayne William Cipriano
We saw a very interesting piece of news reporting on NBC’s Sunday morning program Meet the Press. The producers put together a news story concerning the death of Walter Scott, the South Carolinian who was shot by a police officer following a traffic stop.
What captured us about the report was the fact the producers told the story of Scott’s death relying completely upon the official reports and formal interviews but totally omitting any reference to the video recording made by a bystander on his cell phone that we have all seen by now.
The narrator went to great lengths to explain, both before and after the audio report, that it did not use any information, inferences, nor interpretations based upon the video recording, and during the audio a crawl line ran under the picture also noting these were official reports and direct quotes delivered accurately but with no attention paid to the video recording.
What was most intriguing was how mundane, how ordinary, how familiar the audio news story sounded to us. How many times, we all asked ourselves, have we heard almost the same circumstances reported to us in the aftermath of a shooting of a civilian, occasionally unarmed, by police, or have we heard or read about the beating of a civilian by police where no credible witnesses except those persons involved in the incident were available?
It brought to my mind the intolerable number of death row inmates who have been exonerated by irrefutable DNA evidence, and the horrifying question of how many innocents have been executed or are awaiting execution where DNA evidence was disallowed, unavailable or not germane. The lack of appropriate technology resulting in the worst of all miscarriages of justice.
Lots of discussion remains to be exchanged on these issues but one fact is clear. Those who possess cell phones, video cameras, motion picture cameras and the like can assist in the rendering of justice by employing those recording devices whenever even the hint of their usefulness presents itself. Such recording of public servants as they conduct official business is a well-established legal precedent that benefits everyone when it occurs.
And if you were to have the opportunity to make such a recording but “don’t want to get involved” or “don’t have the time” to assist your community out of a sense of community responsibility, consider that you can sometimes make a dollar or two selling the right to use your recording to one of the many media outlets frothing to be first to publicize such recordings.