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Archive for Friday, December 4, 1992

NAMES IN RAPE CASES

December 4, 1992

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It is reassuring to note that the Lawrence police chief, Ron Olin, believes local media have done a responsible enough job on the use, or non-use, of names in rape cases that a state attorney general ruling won't affect how the issue is dealt with here.

Kansas Atty. Gen. Robert Stephan has issued an opinion saying that law enforcement people may withhold names of rape victims. Olin says he is satisfied with the judgment which has been exercised locally, so the state ruling will have no impact here. Where names have been made available in the past, the confidences have not been violated enough to warrant any change in current policies. We can assume the county sheriff's office is in agreement.

Generally, Journal-World news policy is not to publish the names of rape victims. Until an alleged perpetrator is convicted, there is a usual policy not to use that name. Original charges sometimes are altered and watered down by the time there is a conviction. In some cases, false charges may be made out of anger or revenge. Yet in the eyes of some who read the original charge, there is always a presumption of guilt. Further, all the people who read the initial charges may not see the altered state of the case in its final disposition.

There are exceptions, of course, where special factors are involved. But each case is handled on its own merits. The Journal-World's general rule in sex-related cases is not to name victims and to delay using the names of the accused until there is a conviction in the case.

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