Sunday, November 07, 2004

A drunk driving case from Jasper County has made it all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Chad Madorie, 31, Springfield, will try to have his three-year conviction for drunk driving as a persistent offender tossed out by the high court when it hears the case Wednesday, Dec. 15. The appeal is being made by Jasper County officials since the Southern District Court of Appeals backed Madorie and sent the case back here.
According to the Southern District Court decision, Officer James Kelly of the Joplin Police Department was sent to an accident scene around 1 a.m. on Sept. 8, 2000. Kelly saw a 1994 Mazda Protege in the ditch, facing the road with its nose "kind of pointing straight up.'
Another officer was already there, talking to Kevin Dunn, who allegedly was a passenger in the car. Kelly saw Madorie standing off to the side and noticed that he was not steady of his feet and was "stumbling from time to time." Madorie told Kelly he had been driving north on Main when he saw his friend, Dunn, and tried to stop to give him a ride but ran into the ditch while doing so. Madorie said he had been drinking "a little bit" earlier.
Kelly gave Madorie three sobriety tests, all of which Madorie failed. When they reached the police station, Kelly read Madorie his Miranda rights and the implied consent law and Madorie consented to a breathalyzer test.
After the breathalyzer had been administered, Madorie told Kelly he knew he was drunk and knew he had been driving but Kelly hadn't seen the keys in the ignition so he knew he would get out of it with the help of a lawyer.
A Jasper County jury found Madorie guilty after deliberating for 14 minutes on May 13, 2003. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Madorie, whose appeal is being funded by the taxpayers since he successfully appealed to the courts to file as a pauper, says his statements should not have been admitted since there was no evidence that any crime had been committed. No one had seen him behind the wheel, no one had seen him driving drunk, and Dunn, who was also at the scene was sober and could just as easily have been driving.
The Southern District Court of Appeals decision says, "He maintains there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of driving while intoxicated. We agree."
The judges noted that the officers never asked Dunn if he had driven the car. After the officers determined that it was Madorie's car and that he had been drinking, the investigation had totally focused on Madorie.
"There was no evidence that Officer Kelly asked Dunn if he was intoxicated or whether he had been driving the vehicle." The court said, however, that its ruling did not preclude a retrial. "Had the trial court properly ruled that (Madorie's) statements were inadmissible given the lack of independent evidence, the state might have elected to present additional testimony from Dunn or the other officer who responded to the scene to provide additional evidence." The judge at Madorie's trial was David Dally.
The case was sent back to Jasper County for a new trial.
In the appeal, Attorney General Jay Nixon, representing the state, insisted that state officials did prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Madorie had been driving while intoxicated. "(His) vehicle was in a ditch, with the nose of his car pointing up. (He) was standing beside his car when Officer Kelly arrived on the scene. (Madorie) was unstable, swayed as he walked and stumbled. (He) had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. (His) eyes were watery and bloodshot. (He) failed several field sobriety tests. The evidence corroborated his statements that he was driving while intoxicated and provided sufficient proof of the corpus delicti."
The appeal continues, "The fact that the appellant was discovered at the accident scene, near the car registered in his name, corroborates (Madorie's) admission that he was driving the car.
"Second, the fact that the officer had been called to an accident scene and the fact that the vehicle was discovered stuck in a ditch, facing the roadway, near a college campus, with its nose pointing up into the air- obviously not a position where people would park their car- corroborates (Madorie's) admission that he had been drinking and that he had driven the car into the ditch."
Madorie is asking that he be given a new trial and that the statements he made after he took the breathalyzer test be thrown out.
One of the best things about reading The Neosho Daily News in recent years has been the contributions of Kay Hively. I read with interest her column last week in which she addressed Neosho Forums' revelation that Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge is being investigated by the Missouri Ethics Commission.
"In most cases," she wrote, "websites and bloggers seem somewhat free of any responsibility toward the truth. They are, in a way, much like a group of people who gather around the water cooler at work and everyone can say what they want or what they feel. Unlike more traditional outlets such as a newspaper, radio or television which must meet certain legal and ethical standards. There are some very interesting websites and very capable bloggers, but there are many more that are not worth much. Many bloggers use their websites to strut and preen or promote themselves. Others are truly interested in presenting interesting and useful information."
I have no doubts of Mrs. Hively's sincerity. She absolutely deserves her reputation as a fair and honest journalist. I also have no doubt that her words were not directed at this website since I am one of those who established credentials through the "traditional" media. I also agree that journalists have certain legal and ethical standards, though I note just as many of those standards are being violated by the traditional media these days as by anyone practicing any of the new varieties.
"But being affiliated with a newspaper," Mrs. Hively continues, "I cannot tell you how many times a rumor or some piece of gossip has been passed along to me. I cannot write this information in the newspaper even though I may feel or even 'know' it to be true. In fact, there are many times when I hear a rumor that I already know and, in fact, know even more details than I am given,. But, until there is some 'official' documented evidence, it stays just a rumor in my head."
She continues by saying that newspapers and other traditional media outlets don't like being scooped, but it is going to happen more and more in these days of websites and bloggers. She does say that she likes the "free flow of information' and finds it "interesting."
I don't know the genesis of Mrs. Hively's column, but it is a column that could just as easily have been written by Neosho Daily News Editor Buzz Ball or someone with The Joplin Globe, The Carthage Press, the Lamar Democrat, or any other traditional newspaper in this area and perhaps across the United States.
This argument is not just one used by traditional media outlets against bloggers and website operators. I can remember hearing the same words when I was at The Carthage Press. One of my first big stories at The Press was uncovering an incredible amount of wrongdoing in the Webb City Police Department. Between October 1990 and August 1992, I ran a series of stories detailing everything from police brutality to illegal surveillance, to the illegal purchase of machine guns for recreational purposes. Everything I ran was carefully sourced, but I remember the Joplin Globe reporter continually saying, "There's no proof of that," or "my editor wouldn't let me get away with printing some of that stuff."
In late 1992, four fired police officers brought a lawsuit against Webb City officials asking to be reinstated. During the course of that two-day trial, every allegation I wrote about was sworn to under oath and documented. But why should the public have to wait two years to find out the people who are there to serve them are not doing so?
The same thing happened in 1994 when eight employees of Barton County Memorial Hospital filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Hospital Administrator Dewey Smith. The Globe was not interested. It was not the kind of thing the Lamar Democrat wanted to touch (pardon the phrasing), so I was on my own. I printed the information about the lawsuit, then continued to track down information about Smith's long record of sexual harassment during his time at hospitals in Ottawa, Kan., Aurora, Mo., and other places. Even though I was able to uncover some affidavits, most of my information came from people who were willing to go on the record to tell what Smith had done to them. The more information I ran, the more people who were willing to come forward.
Eventually, the Barton County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees asked for Smith's resignation and settled with the employees for $369,000, none of which would have been possible if I had followed the lead of the other "traditional" media outlets. The Lamar Democrat barely wrote about the issue and Democrat bigwigs were heard around the city of Lamar saying I was just causing trouble for the city. If so, maybe more people need to be out there causing trouble.
Part of the problem with the traditional media outlets, is that they are either not willing to dig or don't know how to go about it. When I first became managing editor at Carthage, I had a staff that completely consisted of University of Missouri School of Journalism graduates. They were excellent reporters, from what I gathered, not one of them had ever taken a course in how to use documents for research purposes. One of them, Amy Lamb Campbell, had learned to do so when she was in high school, working for me at The Lamar Democrat. The others had to learn on the job at Carthage.
And, as everyone who reads The Turner Report knows, I never went to journalism school. I am a graduate of the Missouri Southern State College School of Education. I learned how to research while on the job.
Young reporters today are not given the essentials. They are told to get both sides and don't know what to do when someone won't talk or doesn't tell them the truth. They either don't know how to keep contacting one person after another until you find what you are looking for (or find out there is nothing to whatever the story is that you are working on) or they are not given the time to do any digging whatsoever because they are being kept too busy writing articles for the never-ending special sections and niche fluff magazines that small newspapers have in abundance
Small newspapers have the money to provide training for these young people and owe it to them to do so. They also owe it to their communities. If someone had conducted a thorough investigation of Ron Doerge years ago, the situation may never have reached the point where the administrator of Neosho Forums felt the necessity of putting himself on the line to get the information out to at least a segment of the public.
If someone had investigated the allegations against members of the Newton County Commission several years ago instead of waiting for the Missouri State Auditor's office to do the heavy lifting, a considerable amount of taxpayer money might have been saved.
It is not always possible to come up with the story, but the effort must be made. That is the obligation the traditional media outlets have to the public.
If everyone who worked at the local newspapers had the writing ability and knowledge of Kay Hively, we would no doubt have better, much more readable newspapers. Unfortunately, that is not the case and until these traditional media outlets invest more time and money into hiring and training young reporters and paying them what they are worth, and more time and money into public service investigative journalism, then they should not be surprised when other outlets step up to take up the slack.


Anonymous said...

Dude if you think Kay Hively is a good writer, you've missed the boat. You admit you have no journalism degree - no kidding. It shows. In my time at MSSC, instructors in other areas often referred to education degrees as "Mickey Mouse"

Randy said...

I have never "admitted" I don't have a journalism degree, that's simply a fact. As for the degree, I have known a lot of people who don't have any kind of degree who are smarter than people who hold doctorates. You have every right to your opinion on Kay Hively's writing, but it has been my experience that there are few good writers who employ the word "dude."