I couldn’t figure out why this post — the Lynch mob mentality — was suddenly attracting comments again, 10 days after it was first posted in this space.
The column suggested that the legal system be allowed to work — or prove it can’t — in the tragic case of Anousone Phanthavong, who was struck and killed by an SUV we now know was being driven by the wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser (the original post was written when the twitterverse assumed it was Mr. Senser).
The mystery was solved when I saw City Pages posted an interesting story about an op-ed from Anna Prasomphol, owner of a restaurant where Mr. Phanthavong worked.
For her part, Prasomphol is sick of local media taking the point of view of the Sensers, and not the Phanthavongs. She writes that coverage has been from that perspective since the Sensers admitted it was Joe Senser’s Mercedes SUV, driven by Amy, that killed Phanthavong.
In her piece, which you can find here, Ms. Prasomphol says…
But I do not think the local news media cares about Ped’s side of the story. Gail Rosenblum’s column does not allow people to leave comments. You can leave a comment at Bob Collin’s (sic) MPR News Cut blog, but if you defend Ped, he will argue with you in the comments.
I can surely understand Ms. Prasomphol’s pain. Who couldn’t?
But my “arguments” have nothing to do with defending Mrs. Senser nor failing to understand the position of the family of Mr. Phanthavong. My post and subsequent comments were strictly on behalf of the investigatory process and, ultimately, the judicial process.
What we don’t know yet are the details surrounding that acknowledgement. Clearly one side believes it’s unmistakable to have known she hit a man. The other side would appear to be positioning for a defense she didn’t. That’s was investigations and — if necessary — subsequent trials are for.
I get that it’s not popular. There are certain constitutional protections that are guaranteed to people, even the ones who may be detestable to some people. Extending those protections to the popular isn’t where the strength of the constitution comes from.
In the legal system, there is no crime of “killing someone.” Every charge depends on the circumstances surrounding it. First-degree murder, manslaughter, vehicular homcide, inattentive driving… which one of those the authorities ultimately employ in this case is not up to me; it’s up to them after they do the job we pay them to do, in consideration of all of the civil rights we decided long ago we would convey.
“There’s the notion that someone else, whoever else that would be, a normal citizen, would be in jail right now,” Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol told MPR’s Tim Nelson last week. “We’re not focused on putting someone in jail right now. We’re focused on gathering evidence for a criminal conviction. And if it takes a couple of weeks to do that, we recognize that it’s just going to take that long. We don’t want put together a shoddy case and rush through something.”
In journalism, there are only 6 elements to any story: Who, what, why, when, where, and how. Whatever action is eventually taken against Mrs. Senser will depend on the “why,” the one question for which we do not yet have an answer. In the absence of an answer to any of those questions, we’re not ethically licensed to make them up.
Anyone who’s not a journalist, is under no such restriction.