Friday, November 30, 2007

Journalism: Where is the Consistency?

The news article below was posted here on November 27, 2007. I am saddened by the loss of life in this accident, and for those who were injured. Especially on Thanksgiving Day.

The atrocity of this accident is portrayed very effectively. When you read it, you might feel blind anger at illegal immigrants in general, and drunk drivers most certainly. Then you will feel anger that our law enforcement failed to keep this particular immigrant within his country's borders, only to return to the US illegally and kill innocent victims.

Nowhere in this article does it say if anyone was wearing a seatbelt, and surely not the young man who died of his injuries.

Illegal Immigrant Accused Of Driving Drunk, Causing Fatal Boone Crash

BOONE, N.C. -- An illegal immigrant is accused of driving drunk in Boone over the Thanksgiving holiday and plowing into a sport utility vehicle, killing a man inside.

Boone police said Juan Manuel Juarez Reyes slammed into the rear of a Lexus SUV that was about to turn from Highway 105 onto Poplar Hill Drive shortly before 11 p.m. Friday. The SUV was skidded 250 feet, hitting a Watauga County deputy’s patrol car. The occupants of the SUV were trapped inside their vehicle but the deputy was not hurt.

The driver, Sallie Ellis Newell, and passenger Jacqueline Elizabeth Newell were taken to the Watauga County Medical Center where they were treated in released. But Brian Alan Newell and Andrew Russell Newell, who was in the back passenger-side seat, were flown to Johnson City Regional Medical Center.

Andrew Newell, 22, died at the hospital. His father remains in critical condition.

Family members said the Newells were returning from a Thanksgiving trip to South Carolina and were only a quarter-mile from home.

Authorities said Monday that Juarez Reyes was caught in the country by Border Patrol agents in 2002 and was sent back to Mexico. They aren’t sure when he re-entered the United States.

Police say he was speeding and drunk when the crash happened.

Juarez Reyes was first charged with driving while impaired, driving without a license and three counts of felonious assault with a deadly weapon causing serious injury by vehicle. On Tuesday he was charged with second-degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

He is being held under $1 million bond and has asked for a court-appointed attorney. He’ll be back in court Jan. 14.

What is astounding about the outcome of this accident are the charges, and the bail.

At this point, you're probably asking why I would be astounded. After all, this man, an illegal immigrant, was drunk, speeding, and he killed an innocent American and injured others. Doesn't he deserve harsh punishment?

Why yes, I believe he deserves to go to jail the rest of his natural life. He broke the law - driving while alcohol impaired, and disobeying traffic laws, which resulted in one death and critical injuries to another.

I may be astounded at the severity of the charges and bail amount, but I am even further astounded that law enforcement sufficiently charged this man with his crimes in this case.

However, I'd bet a year's pay that it would not read this way had it been an innocent motorcyclist who had been plowed into and killed. I see it every day in the newspapers. Motorist runs down a motorcyclist, driver NOT charged, motorcyclist wasn't wearing a helmet. You could write a canned report, with [insert rider's name here], and [insert at-fault driver's name here] and they would look no different than the hundreds of articles written in newspapers about motorcycle accidents involving death or injury.

Even when the driver is drunk and kills a motorcyclist, the charges are never so severe as this report. So what is it this time around? Is this man being charged this way because he is an illegal Mexican? It can't be because he was drunk, as that hasn't produced charges like this for a dead motorcyclist. Is it because he caused the SUV to strike a deputy's patrol car? The officer wasn't hurt, so that can't be it. Why then?

When I read this report, and saw the injustice committed on those inside the SUV, I actually feel kindly toward the Journalist who wrote this, because it was written without placing any blame on the SUV driver who was merely making her way home with her family, after a Thanksgiving dinner.

So why is it when a motorcyclist dies at the hands of another at-fault driver, the Journalist must immediately discount the rider, and excuse the at-fault driver? He wasn't wearing a helmet, he was speeding slightly, the auto driver "didn't see him coming".

Would it matter if the motorcyclist was "just a quarter-mile" from home? Or returning from having dinner with his family? From what I've seen, the answer is no. All that matters is he was riding a motorcycle, taking a risk in competing with a 4000 lb automobile, and he lost. Too bad.

Even when the driver of the auto that kills him has been drinking and leaves the scene, when they turn themselves in, they get a pat on the back for being so "honest" and coming forth and confessing. "It's alright, we know you didn't see him".

I used to think Journalists were just stupid, and were blinded by the government about motorcycle accidents. I used to think that the pitiful laws we have are what allows people to walk away with a $45 fine and no jail time for killing a motorcyclist on the road.

From what I see above, in this news report, Journalists do know how to report an accident with facts in an unbiased way. Law enforcement does have the wherewithal to charge accordingly for killing someone in an at-fault accident.

Just not when it's a motorcyclist that dies.

I don't know whether to be angrier or sadder. Until now, I still held out hope that it really wasn't a predjudicial act upon bikers. I needed to be in that cocoon of naive trust, believing that I wasn't being profiled because I ride a motorcycle, that it was all just a coincidence.

But it isn't. My rights to due diligence won't be upheld if I am run down by a negligent motorist. Here's what it will read when my time comes:

"Early this morning, on her way to Starbucks just a mere quarter-mile from home, a woman riding her Harley Davidson motorcyle struck an SUV, who was attempting to make a left hand turn in front of her. She died on the scene. She may have been speeding, according to the driver of the SUV, I didn't see her coming. The driver of the SUV was not injured. She was wearing a helmet. The driver of the SUV was not charged."

Think that sounds farfetched? I challenge you to find me a newspaper report of a motorcyclist who is killed by an at-fault motorist, like the one in the report above, and show me where the driver was charged as that one is.

You won't find one. Your news report will read the same as mine, mark my words. But will it matter when we are already dead?

Journalists are just as bad as law enforcement. Both are responsible for the injustice done to dead American motorcyclists. Journalists are responsible for the attitude of the American public, who blame bikers for their own injuries and deaths at the hands of those same Americans.

And law enforcement could do something about it, but they don't. Not unless it's a scenario like above. They may be kind officers, they may shout 'rah rah' about Motorcycle Safety week (for that week only), but when the chips are down, the bottom line is, they don't care if we live or die. Better to target specific groups for being stupid and pulling wheelies; just another finger pointing game to say we kill ourselves. They might as well say I chose that SUV with the dumb driver behind the wheel as my suicide weapon of choice.

For the family in that SUV whose son is dead now at the hands of the drunk, speeding, illegal immigrant, I hope you see justice done. At least someone should have the right to it.

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