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Letter: Wait to publish suspects’ identities

Police tape at an undated crime scene.

Police tape at an undated crime scene. Photo Credit: iStock

When reporting routine arrests, many newspapers print the names, addresses and sometimes the photos of the suspects. I understand that newspapers want to avoid confusion between two people with the same name. However, I dislike this practice because it creates a prejudgment of guilt, which can cause myriad problems for someone who might be innocent.

A person is usually arrested after a police officer finds probable cause of a crime. Probable cause is the lowest threshold in the justice system and very different from a conviction: Jurors finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty. Newsday does not always report when an arrestee has been acquitted, which would at least give the entire story.

The press should be free in reporting an arrest, crimes, circumstances, general locations and an arrestee’s age and gender. More specific details are generally consequential only to the suspect, and are particularly unfair to the many arrested who are never convicted and must live with the stain of an arrest record.

There are mug shots on Newsday’s app for weeks and sometimes months. Recently, there are several from June. How long must these people be the subject of public ridicule? How does Newsday rectify that after acquittals or cases dropped by the state when it’s still forever accessible via Google?

If publishing a suspect’s name is so crucial, wait to see if there’s a conviction, when the suspect will have retained defense counsel and the story will be more accurate and informative. Until New York joins other states such as Texas and Wisconsin that limit release of arrest information, Newsday should do the proper thing and not print information that causes more harm than good.

Michael Prete, Garden City

Editor’s note: The writer is a graduate of Fordham Law School.