Media Justice: Dennis Carstens
What would happen if the news was delivered without bias, slant or the direct viewpoint of the commentator? What would happen if the media treated the public as intelligent human beings and not complacent citizens not capable of comprehending what they are reporting or stating? The story begins with a group of father and sons on a hunting trip. Young Jackson goes back to his father’s truck but first he needs to relieve himself. As he goes to do just that what washes up in front of him will forever change his life. The body remains of a young girl and several things belonging to her stare back at him. Reporting it is standard but first the author flashes back to where it all began, the possible reasons for the child’s death and the suspects involved. Brittany Riley is a young mother who appears to be devoted to her child yet feels bogged down at times and wishes she could be free again. Marrying the child’s father was a positive step but his death proved more than difficult for her and her attitude and way of dealing with Becky, changed. With the help of her mother Barbara she was able to work in Macys and enjoy time out with her friends. But, meeting a man named Bob Olson would be her ruination.
Brittany Riley’s relationship with Bob Olson comes into the limelight but not before he manages to endear himself to her and Becky and then take her away. Bob Olson is not really his name and his goal for whatever reason was to get close to Brittany and Becky and then take away the one person she claims to care about her daughter. But, this was not his first kill as you will learn later on. Brittany and Bob spend the night and in the morning she has a rude awakening. Becky is gone and she rationalizes that she is with Bob and he will bring her back.
Brittany waited 10 days before something was done to find Becky. When the police were finally informed and her mother took charge of the situation, she was arrested and charged with child neglect. Reporting about the situation was Melinda Pace a no nonsense, unscrupulous and hardnosed anchor of new show The Court Reporter. Melinda was tough and working with her did not come easy. Robbie Nelson was her producer and seemed to have her under control. Added in Melinda had a drinking problem that often got in her way and at times was evident when on air. Melinda would feed the public the juice about a story, a murder or a philandering husband and manage to create enough hype, dissension and anguish to stir up the audience. Melinda did not care if the facts were honest and true she wanted money and ratings. As the host of the half hour show seen daily in the Minneapolis St Paul area, the title the Court Reporter focused on stories coming from the judicial system both locally and nationally and even internationally at times. Melinda would dig into a story, find out the dirt about those involved and never think twice about airing it with her own special spin.
When the truth about Becky’s disappearance came to light and Brittany was taken out in handcuffs and arrested, her aunt and uncle sought out the best criminal defense lawyer: Marc Kadella and Margaret Tennant were returning from a vacation when Marc was approached about Brittany. But, while on vacation Sheriff Cale and his men were out to learn more about Brittany, find a way to arrest her. Forming a search party to cover the area where the hunters found the body and where she was reported missing, a plan was put into action by Cale and his investigators.
Melinda Pace was relentless and her goal was headlines and ratings. She did not care if she sandbagged someone she interviewed. She did not care about what the interview would do to Brittany Riley. The first time she was gentle but the second interview was brutal where she asked her if she could explain whey she did not tell anyone her daughter was missing? The end result was startling and Brittany could not talk her way out of it. Added the background pictures of her and her four friends snapping selfie pictures giving the impression that she could care less about the welfare of her child. Newscasts that were inflammatory, and the first step was to review the case and hopefully find the missing or elusive Bob Olson. But, from all of the discussion and the lack of evidence it seemed to everyone that he was a figment of Brittany’s imagination.
But, things heat up and the evidence points right at her when the remains are found and she is charged with murder. Enter Marc Kadella, his investigator Madeline Rivers and his entire legal team. As Marc decides to take the case and begins to get to know Brittany’s mother Barbara the reader will also see just how in control of her daughter and the situation she is and just why Brittany hesitated to admit that Becky was missing.
As Marc was assembling his team Cale was enlarging his as they now searched the social media, check her facebook posts and page, realized that she joined some online dating services and never suspected what was going to happen next. As the team for the prosecution goes deep into Brittany’s social media posts they find pictures of her that would indicate she was a party girl and a negligent mother.
The author introduces the reader to courtroom procedures explaining the steps, the reasons for different actions and how members of the jury are selected. Readers will become familiar with Marc’s thinking and introduced to a woman named Vivian who is close to an old friend of Marc, Tony. As Lowell Vanderbeck and Danica Hart present their case for the prosecution, Marc, his prime investigator Madeline and his team are ready to countermand whatever is thrown at them. With Judge Connors on the bench the trial is well run, interesting to watch and listen to and the reader becomes familiar with how a murder trial is run.
Gabriela Shriqui along with Melinda Pace is covering this story but in two different ways. Sharing information to a point they report the news together each giving it their own special slant. While Melinda has ex-prosecutors join her hoping that they will agree with her take on the situation or the way she wants viewers to perceive it, Gabriela seems more focused and uses the leak in the police department to filter out the information and get it over the airwaves. But, when the final summations are given and the case is sent to the jury what happens will shock readers and make you wonder about our judicial system and the safeguards that are supposed to be in place. An ending that you won’t expect and a powerful story that will hopefully make readers understand the power of the press, the biases of many commentators and what would happen if someone presented just the facts and left the rest to the viewer. Media Justice: What’s your definition? Should a case be tried in the media? Should newscasters, news editors and those that are in charge of airing these broadcasts make sure that the public is not riled up, the facts are just the facts or is it okay for them to present it with their own special slant? What would happen as the author states in the Author’s Note: It is my hope you will appreciate the difference between what is reported and what really happened. Should cameras and the press be allowed in courtrooms? Should what is presented be checked, verified and rechecked for authentication? When will the media treat the public as intelligent people? Trials as the author states in his notes once again are serious events. Making a media circus and creating as the media does in this book riots, two groups protesting and not allowing anyone to speak out in a normal fashion, can often cloud what is going to happen and put a veil of what is suppose to be Justice and turn it into what the Media calls their special brand of Media Justice. A must read for everyone and definitely a thought provoking and compelling story that could have been ripped out of the headlines. Marc Kadella and his team rock the courtroom and the author presents the events in a realistic and timely fashion as once again the reader holds his or her breath until the verdict is read and the courtroom is cleared.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer