The death of former Denver judge and city attorney Larry Manzanares has raised sharp ethical questions about the news media and prosecutors for the way the case was filed and covered, reports the Rocky Mountain News. Colleagues of Manzanares blamed the media in general, and the Rocky Mountain News in particular, for what they felt was sensational treatment of the fact that pornography was discovered on a stolen state court laptop computer found in his possession. Others were critical of Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey for including the pornography allegations in an affidavit filed to support charges of theft, embezzlement, evidence tampering, computer crime, and official misconduct against Manzanares.
Manzanares, 50, resigned as Denver city attorney in February after news of the stolen laptop became public. He said he bought the computer from a man in a parking lot and did not know it was stolen. He was found dead Friday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a few hours after he had appeared in court on the charges. Rocky Mountain News Managing Editor Deborah Goeken defended the paper’s coverage. “Such a tragic death in such a high-profile case naturally invites scrutiny of the media and how we handled our responsibility to cover the story. We understand that,” she said. “Judge Manzanares was an important leader in our community, a man of the law who had been charged with a crime. That was newsworthy, and we covered the developments as they unfolded, reporting on public documents and official statements. At the same time, we worked to present a more nuanced portrait of Judge Manzanares, talking to his friends and colleagues and reporting on their admiration and love for him and their concern about the pain he was experiencing during this challenging time in his life. We feel we reported fairly on this troubling story.”