Robert Durst has been arrested for the deaths of three individuals, including his wife, after he admitted to killing them in “The Jinx,” an HBO documentary. Photo from nojesguiden.se
By Stephanie Schieda
The media is our fourth estate — the independent regulatory body that ensures the rest of our government is properly doing its job.
Cases must be closed. Justice must be served. However, all humans — even police officers, lawyers, judges and juries — are subject to error. Perhaps they didn’t get enough sleep last night, their wives were nagging them all day or their bills are due tomorrow.
When simple mistakes are made, the guilty can walk free while the innocent are in shackles.
Equipped with voice recorders and a camera crew, the journalist can bring new coverage to a sealed crime. They know how to talk, not interrogate.
Have you ever been accused for something you didn’t do, or did do, by a parent? You probably got defensive, either clamming up or lashing out — definitely not a smooth conversation to say the least.
What about if a friend asked you what you were up to last night? Or someone else who couldn’t punish you for the answer you gave? You’d be more willing to let them know you had a few drinks, or bombed your test in calculus — or even that you “killed them all.”
Robert Durst shook up the finale of the HBO documentary series “The Jinx” with what appears to be a muttering confession to the killings of three people close to him. Durst, 71, was the subject of the series and while still wearing his wires in the bathroom finally let his guard down — something investigators and lawyers were unable to do in court. This ultimately let a guilty, smug man walk free for over three decades.
Eric Glisson, 38, spent nearly two decades behind the bars of Sing Sing Correctional Facility for a murder he did not commit. However, with the aid of a nun, lawyer and Dan Shepian, a Dateline investigative reporter, Glisson’s innocence was eventually proven.
Shepian’s use of sources, fact checking and research proved in a documentary, “A Bronx Tale,” what Glisson’s defense lawyer could not. Glisson exhausted his appeals, but because of a journalist’s persistent pursuit of the truth he was exonerated and able to reunite with his daughter and family.
As of August, there have been 1,408 documented cases of exoneration dating back to 1989, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Of the 1,281 individual exonerations from January 1989 to December 2013, one-half served at least eight years, and more than three-quarters served at least three years.
A journalist’s job is to fact check, pursue the unbiased truth and question authority. Without checks and balances, democracy wouldn’t work.
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” Thomas Jefferson once said.