Wrong About Jewell

Rushing to judgment is a common human error. It can be harmful in personal or business relationships. It can be devastating when the full power of the government and the news media is focused on a single individual.

Sober reflection is demanded by the case of Richard Jewell, who endured the national spotlight for three months as the only publicly named suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

Mr. Jewell's name should never have been leaked to the press. Why it was done, and by whom, may never come to light. The FBI decries the leak, but the suspicion remains strong someone in its ranks did it. Just as troubling are the tactics used by agents to try to snare Jewell into waiving his rights against self-incrimination. What did the FBI have to go on at that early stage? Only Jewell's purported similarity to the psychological profile of a lone bomber.

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution can be excused for breaking the story when it did. But an extra edition with a page 1 banner headline? There was drama, urgency - but not a shred of hard evidence. The media deluge that followed, including loose statements by television anchors assuming Jewell's guilt, was inexcusable.

Is it too much to demand a little more from our law enforcers and journalists - a little more deference to the principle that in America someone is innocent until proven guilty?

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