Has 15-Year-Old Jewell Case Made Crime Reporters More Cautious?


Fifteen years after a bomb exploded at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, a libel case against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the estate of the late Richard Jewell still is alive, says the Fulton County Daily Report in Atlanta. Jewell, a security guard who was mistakenly identified as a suspect in the case, died in 2007 at 44. Last week, a Georgia appeals court ruled in favor of the newspaper on Jewell’s libel claims, but the case may have made some journalists loathe to identify someone as a suspect.

The Daily Report quotes some analysts as saying that the episode, even if the newspaper wins in the end [the case still could be appealed further], has encouraged reporters to be careful when dealing with a private citizen’s reputation and made police and journalists alike cautious about terming someone a “suspect.” Jewell sued the newspaper for stories saying authorities suspected him of planting the bomb and believed he made an anonymous 911 call warning of an impending bombing. The Justice Department later cleared Jewell. The bombing killed one person and injured more than 100.

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