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Monday, July 15, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On The Death Of Criminal And Journalistic Investigation

A mother and her child were found dead in the rubble of their burned house. They had been both shot in the head with a semi-automatic pistol. Two days after the discovery, the authorities declared the case a murder-suicide. According to the official version of the case, the mother had shot her child to death, set fire to the house, then killed herself. Case closed; a two day story in the local newspaper. Notwithstanding the fact that women rarely kill their children by shooting them in the head and rarely kill themselves the same way and almost never set highly destructive house fires, the case went into the books without being criminally investigated. Members of this small community were not told why this mother would commit such a crime, if her child had been abused, if there was someone close to the family who wanted this mother and child dead, if the mother had a history of mental illness or if she was abusing drugs. Also left unknown was the history of the handgun or whether or not a child protection agency had failed to its job. The local authorities bundled this case in a neat package and buried it. If the profession of journalism hadn't predeceased these victims, some reporter would have dug into the case to answer these and other questions. No one seemed bothered by this failure of criminal justice and journalism. Perhaps no one cared because these victims were not rich, politically connected, or well known. And the real tragedy: this is not an unusual story. Institutions necessary for the survival of our country are failing us. When our leaders fail us and there is no one to hold them accountable, we are all in trouble.

Thornton P. Knowles

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