Benjamin LaGuer, who became a cause celeb among the media and academic demigods of Boston until it turned out his DNA matched the crime scene (after faking his first DNA test by substituting another prisoner’s DNA), wants out of prison again (see here and here for earlier posts).
He has fewer supporters this time, but Noam Chomsky and John Silber are still ponying up. Most of his fan club went into hiding or mourning when it turned out that LaGuer’s DNA was indeed in the rape kit — rather than grope towards ethical consistency by apologizing to a rape victim they had viciously dragged through the mud.
After the DNA match, John Silber and Noam Chomsky, who led the race-tinged hate campaign against the elderly victim, continued claiming that LaGuer was really innocent or that, even if he was guilty, he didn’t really understand that he was guilty, so “technically” he was innocent . . . and other appalling nonsense. Silber, to the eternal shame of Boston University, actually testified on LaGuer’s behalf again last week. Here is what Silber said about the man convicted of binding, torturing and raping an elderly woman for eight hours — before spending years attacking her from behind bars:
“I think he is one of the finest examples of a courageous, honorable human being I’ve ever met,’’ John Silber, a former president of Boston University, said at the hearing.
The victim’s son-in-law commented:
“There was never a question in her mind of his identity,’’ he said. “She was a courageous woman, and that seems to have been forgotten.”
John Silber is playing an extremely ugly game on the back of a deceased, scapegoated rape victim, and nobody in Boston, or elsewhere, seems to have the integrity to call him, or his elite peers, out.
The worst behavior, however, has been exhibited by the media itself. Reporters abandoned all traces of objectivity or ethics in their rush to champion LaGuer. For years, they published “articles” that were, in reality, mere regurgitation of the latest defense strategy. They behaved as if there had never been a prosecution, or a successful trial . . . or a brutal rape. As time passed and appeals piled up, both the facts of the case and the details of the crime were buried in favor of speaking for the defense, or shilling breathless feature stories about LaGuer’s writing, personality, his preening supporters, and his courageous suffering.
Print journalists misrepresented the judicial record to such an extreme degree that it can only be called intentional. And the lynchpin of all this behavior was attacks on the victim, sometimes veiled, sometimes not. In their self-centered desire to be part of a narrative that reminded them of To Kill a Mockingbird (“Benjy Brigade” members repeatedly cited the book), reporters helped foment a hate campaign against an elderly victim of rape.
It is astonishing that people could even call themselves reporters while exchanging personal letters with LaGuer, giving him money, chattering about his “art,” and advocating for his appeals, but the media in Boston shamelessly did all of these things. The LaGuer coverage became a textbook example of violating journalistic principles and practices. Except, this textbook will never be written: local academicians were themselves too busy piling onto the “Benjy Brigade.” There has been no public reflection on the rules that were broken. Why bother? It’s just the victim and her family that were harmed, and their humanity doesn’t matter.
Was it really a reporter, for instance, who helped LaGuer gain phone access to the victims’ hospital room, enabling the convict to pose as a priest on the phone and lash out at the dying woman? Others proudly announced to the world that they had become one of LaGuer’s “pen pals” or prison helpmates. Where were their editors; where were the media ethicists and academic onlookers while reporters were acting this way?
Eagerly doing the same.
Some are still whitewashing the record. Recent news coverage questioning the veracity of the DNA test fails to so much as mention LaGuer’s earlier botched attempt to substitute another prisoner’s DNA for his own — an important part of any story. Such omissions, large and small, are par for the course for reporters who once lined up excitedly to befriend LaGuer and accuse the victim (a U.S. veteran) of everything from insanity to racism — reporters who then lapsed into silence once they didn’t get the DNA results they were eagerly anticipating.
The handling of the LaGuer case says a great deal — and nothing admirable — about the ways the media is covering other claims of wrongful conviction. The pattern of acting as mouthpieces for advocates, burying non-DNA evidence, ignoring actual court records, attacking innocent victims, whitewashing convicts’ records, and wildly misrepresenting the actual causes and prevalence of wrongful convictions is now sadly routine.
Benjamin LaGuer’s victim endured an unusually brutal rape, and then a public lynching at the hands of the most powerful people in Boston. The lynch mob is still attacking her memory, after her death. They have learned nothing, and they have no shame.