Man electrocuted while "allegedly" stealing wiring (HOUMA, LA)

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What gets me is that the AP feels some sort of idiosyncratic need to report that this guy was "allegedly" trying to steal copper wire.
Would it kill them to NOT use the word "allegedly" in their reporting?
Could it be more obvious that he was absolutely trying to steal copper wire?
======================================================== http://www.wafb.com/story/15201683/man-electrocuted-while-allegedly-stealing-wiring
Man electrocuted while allegedly stealing wiring Posted: Aug 03, 2011 11:33 AM EDT Updated: Aug 03, 2011 11:33 AM EDT HOUMA, LA (AP) -
A 34-year-old man was electrocuted while allegedly breaking in to steal copper wiring.
According to the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office, electric company workers found the body of Timothy Lewis of Houma after getting a call early Wednesday about lost power.
Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene.
A Houma newspaper reported Lewis broke through a fence at a substation there and was killed when he cut a ground line with a pair of wire cutters.
The death was still being investigated, though no foul play is suspected.
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You're right it would not kill them to leave out the word allegedly. But the problem is this. Who then decides and on what criteria to leave the word out and accuse the guy of stealing? If they come to the wrong conclusion, they will be accuse of false reporting and potentially open to a lawsuit. I can see it taking a lot more time and money for the paper than it's worth. I would not want to be the guy deciding when to leave the word out.
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. wrote:

Sigh. If only there were such a tort as "false reporting."
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Libel or slander was the reason we were told in J-School to use alleged until the jury returned and the gavel went down.
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Kurt Ullman wrote:

The guy is dead. He's not going to sue.
And what's more, there will never be a determination (legal or otherwise) that he was infact trying to steal the wire. He'll never be tried or convicted of the crime.
The only public opportunity to label him or describe him as a thief, or to say in a public venue that he died while thieving, was lost.
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Just for the sake of argument, suppose the alleged wire thief was in fact murdered, and the murdered concocted a plot to kill him by electrocution, then cover it up br dragging his body into the substation, planting a pair of wire cutters on his body, and snipping some handy wire nearby?
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Larry W wrote:

I think this is what you're looking for:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occams_razor
Or perhaps, to put that another way:
"Murder, she wrote." is a fictional TV show.
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reporter by a guy's estate.
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Kurt Ullman wrote:

This is why you guys (the USA) is going down the toilet.
Punative damage awards.
Some 2-bit piece of what trash dies while messing around in a power sub-station cutting live wires, and the media reporting the story is afraid that what's left of his family is going to sue them from their mobile home because they didn't use the word "allegedly" in their reporting.
They'll take them to court and sue for $10 million for some sort of crazy-ass "pain and suffering" and the jury (also composed of trash of one color or another) will give it to them.

Why did they sue you?
Because they wanted to rob you because they perceived you (or your employer) had deep pockets?
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Oren wrote:

In Canada, we can do all 3. Not as many people choose to do #2.

Not only can we own land, no level of gov't can force us to sell our land to a private corporation for commercial use.
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Oren wrote:

Considering what caused your last recession, and the number of vacant homes being canibalized, I'd say we're doing a better job here in Canada of owning land than you are.
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lose. I had it more so I could afford to win. Even if they don't get the $10 million, I am still out $10,000s. The funny part is that the utility company is probably gonna get sued because they were negligent in securing the site or he wouldn't have had the opportunity to fry himself.

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On 8/4/2011 7:23 PM, Home Guy wrote:

His estate can.

You are right. We should always run with whatever the local newspaper prints. That would sure save a lot of time for the police and the courts.

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George wrote:

A journalist is supposed to report the facts of a story, and to describe the story in terms of how it's observed by a "reasonable person". Additionally, the concept of the "reasonable person" is well enshrined and used by law and the courts.
To a reasonable person, this was an attempted theft of copper wire.
Apparently it's your thesis that a reasonable person would NOT conclude that this guy was trying to steal copper wire through the act of breaking into the substation and using cutting tools. Perhaps you'd like to offer an alternative (but reasonable) explanation.

It would have to be proved in court that the newspaper (or some employee thereof) was intentionally "malicious" in their erroneous reporting. That maliciousness could take the form of financial gain, or could be the result of a pre-existing relationship between the object of the story (ie - the dead guy) and the newspaper.
Otherwise, if someone (the police, the family or estate of the dead guy) made new information available to explain how this was not attempted theft of copper wire, then the paper would or could simply print a retraction or addendum to their original story - especially because such new information would be newsworthy in it's own right given the circumstances.
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Nope. Maliciousness is only required to be proven if the person is a public figure (see Times v Sullivan). Besides, as I mentioned, it is not so much that the person could win, but that he could sue with the attendant lawyers fees. You can argue the esoteric points forever, but it in the final analysis, you have a couple cents tied up in typing and printing "allegedly" vs $10,000 and probably much more in potential attorney's fees to win a case. No brainer in the real world.
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Kurt Ullman wrote:

When a journalist writes that someone "allegedly" did something - who exactly is doing the "alledging" ?
Doesn't it read that the journalist or the newpaper is saying that *someone else* (presumably a cop, utility employee, etc) is claiming that the guy was trying to steal copper, and hence the newspaper reports that the guy was "allegedly" stealing copper?
When a newspaper prints the lottery ticket numbers for the pick-6 or powerball (or what-ever) results, do they say that these are the "alledged" results?
Where does the use of "alledged" or "allegedly" end?
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commission (which of course you know, but feel the need to be silly).

As I mentioned earlier, after the jury decides and the gavel goes down.
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Kurt Ullman wrote:

I notice you didn't speak to this point:
When a journalist writes that someone "allegedly" did something - who exactly is doing the "alledging" ?
Doesn't it read that the journalist or the newpaper is saying that *someone else* (presumably a cop, utility employee, etc) is claiming that the guy was trying to steal copper, and hence the newspaper reports that the guy was "allegedly" stealing copper?
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Allegedly in this case fits the "accused but not proven or convicted" definition." It is merely a reinforcement of innocent until proven guilty.

Not exactly sure where this fits in with your discussion about use of allegedly. As I mentioned (a couple of times) this is merely a way to avoid being sued every once in awhile. It is purely a cost (almost none) benefit (not having to pay out fees to defend a case) analysis.
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Kurt Ullman wrote:

In this case, the "justice system" didn't exactly get a chance to issue any such pronouncement.
The story was reported on hours after the incident happened. The Justice System would not have issued any such announcement that they were alleging that the guy was commiting burglary.

The courts were in no position (at the time of the publication of the story) to accuse the dead man of anything.

It's central to the issue.
The journalist and/or the paper take pains to use the word "alleged". In so doing, they are necessarily intimating that someone other than themselves is speculating or "alledging" that the guy was commiting theft of copper wire during his death.
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