by Marion Marks
When a former judge steps down from the appellate bench to run for DA and has a case involving an arrest for battery dismissed the troubling questions are more than a one-day headline. Too many people are protesting that these questions should not even be asked, and that even asking them creates improper issues designed to inflame voters. If the facts are inaccurate I would personally apologize, but the evidence sent to us, and the front page of the Shreveport Times from August 2001 contains the same troubling questions of the dates of the trial that have been asked. The public can turn a blind eye to the facts only if questions are not repeatedly asked and answers are not demanded.
The headline of the Shreveport Times from 2001 states that the case was dismissed, but reading beyond the headline it clearly includes the problematic issue that the Shreveport Times planned to cover the trial. But the Times was given the same wrong date witnesses were given to appear who may have been excluded from the courtroom. Yes, the headline softens the impact of the story, but the date of the actual trial has never been explained to the public. The summons date clearly shows August 30 and the court date of August 20 seems to indicate intentional misleading information that is confirmed in the last 5 pages of the court documents. The complete 2001 headline and story proves the discrepancy between the date the Times believed the trial was to occur, August 30, and the date of the actual trial, August 20. From the Times – “His trial was held Monday. Though the city clerk of court’s office in New Orleans said as late as Friday that the trial was set for Aug. 30.” If an effort to minimize media coverage of the trial was intentional, it certainly appears to be confirmed in the Times reporting.
“Ultimately, I was exonerated by a judge” Stewart said. “I’m a father. I had a daughter and we moved forward.” This is all fair to report, based on the story, but that’s never been the issue. The issue is voters have questions about events disclosed and reported that deserve complete answers. Why were key witnesses summoned to be in the court ten days after the actual court date? Why was the media misled about the date of the trial and therefore excluded from covering the trial?
Marketing & Political Story Telling
Facts (truths) cannot be altered – Facts ARE. Facts exist; facts are timeless, uniform, necessary, and unchanging. We recognize the role public relations – advertising or the media plays in changing “opinions” regarding facts. Sources use facts, but may have no real knowledge or care about the truth. Sources explain to us that appearances are far more important than reality, because people vote on appearances, not the truth. Irresponsible sources try to justify or rationalize that our senses lead us to accept facts which may be misleading, perhaps intentionally deceitful and specifically designed to trick us.
Stories that are intentionally not factually honest are regularly given to the media. These stories are designed to convince us that it is far more important to accept a certain view of reality someone has created that rationalizes a bias or discredits the truth. The slippery path of justification and selling our souls begins with a simple deceit. This website takes great efforts to document articles we publish, but we do make mistakes. When we make mistakes, we make every effort to correct the record.
If we accept and report half-truths or intentional lies, then the facts or truths no longer matter. We will have taken propaganda that was a trap designed specifically by deceit. Elections and politics are made of too many such marketing plans. This year is no different from any other, and we will continue to scrutinize all information given to us as factual, even when it comes from a normally reliable source.
No candidate is perfect, and no campaign is without question or above the law. There will always be traps as we seek truth, regardless of efforts we make for verification. Every candidate will have an advocate who wants to present us with stories to assist us in telling their view of the truth. Our goal is to help give information that is accurate and timely. We will continue to give candidates space to write, but we will also remain critical of their writing.
Fall Election Candidates & Issues
The State of Louisiana and Caddo Parish have been blessed with some outstanding as well as some less than perfect leaders. From the governor down to the legislature, from district attorney to sheriff to our parish commissioner, we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. None can be described as perfect, but all have been elected via the ballot, often only because they were able to hire the best at convincing voters to push their button on the electronic ballot. Other times we selected the lesser of problematic candidates.
This fall we will have another opportunity to elect leaders to parish and statewide offices. The greatest disservice we can commit in choosing leaders would be to not demand every question raised be addressed as completely as possible. Here are some issues I believe must be addressed:
- Upon being elected, Caddo Parish Commissioners attend in-service training run by the parish administration where newly elected officials have a form of “in-service” regarding remuneration, legal obligations related to accepting money from the commission and specific policies related to elected commissioners. These in-services are critical to be understood by the public, because in this election policies and procedures and the way they have been explained in the past are at the heart of on-going litigation. It is probable that the Caddo Commission senior staff may have been responsible for errors and legal pitfalls regarding the CPERS program and reimbursements in question. Errors may have been by either omission or commission, but if the litigation and ground-swell negativity demands answers and transparency, now is a time to provide better professional leadership.
- If criminal charges, court records regarding prior criminal issues, convictions or closed cases regarding candidates are published and available for voters at the filing deadline, there would be fewer last-minute surprises. Candidates whose records are not clearly published and understood by the voters are problematic. Full detailed records concerning candidate records should be published by the media. Too many “October Surprises” are based upon half-truths brought out in the last week of an election because the media did not assist in vetting candidate records.
- Voters want to know the background of issues from any candidate who now claims that the record from a dismissed case is not pertinent. If he did not seek to expunge the case records, did the case still have merit? Certainly a well-respected legal authority, whom I personally believe has given great service to the public, should seek to expunge such a case, if the option is available. The facts of the case seem troubling when the DA’s office must handle so many similar cases.
- Finally, any elected official who is under indictment or tied to any illegal action deserves a day in court to determine guilt or innocence. However, the legal system is littered with political charges against politicians who use the system to assist political associates and punish political enemies. In cases that are often call political prosecutions voters must scrutinize those under investigation as well as those who are behind the investigations.
Our electoral system may not be perfect, but making it work is the responsibility of all citizens. Scrutiny of “the usual suspects” who promote candidates, as well as the money behind the candidates and their messages purchased for and against candidates is the responsibility of the media as well as every voter.
It has been said, “you can’t step in the same river twice” because the river is flowing and it changes from any given moment to the next. We live in a world where the truth at any given moment is a unique commodity. It is difficult to reconcile every statement we hear in the moment it is spoken, but we continue to try to demand the complete truth.
Words often described as truths during an election are no more than campaign rhetoric. Words candidates and their paid spokesmen want to call “truths” are scrutinized for accuracy, because we find far too much manipulation of truths. Candidates and their spokesmen work far too hard creating half-truths for designed to fool uneducated voters who fail to ask difficult questions. Too many voters blindly follow poor advice and we continue to elect poor leaders. But we continue to try to do a better job.