By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Then, a few days later, Judge Gibson Lee dropped a legal bombshell, barring admission of DNA evidence found on a black defendant’s jeans, reportedly arguing that he wanted to save courtroom time. At that point, the Times finally published a highly detailed piece about the trial, with Mozingo citing several inconsistencies, such as how a victim’s cell phone could have ended up in a suspect’s car if the women had not been overtaken by the raging crowd. (A defendant claims it was found abandoned.)
Mozingo wouldn’t comment on his December 19 piece, but he must have won an argument with his editors. The verboten phrase “white bitches” finally appeared in Times coverage seven weeks after the incident. (That story has vanished from the Times Web site. Conspiracy theorists might say the Times is sanitizing the news; a more likely explanation is that the story identified accused teens who turned 18 in custody, creating a murky situation about whether their IDs should still be protected.)
As the media struggled to find the right tone, Arthel Neville, West Coast correspondent for Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera Show, aired a segment on the intimidation of the 18-year-old female witness whose car was totaled by possible gang members. Neville’s piece starkly illustrated how little protection the police were capable of providing to the witnesses. It was so disturbing that it apparently scared off a key eyewitness, Marice Huff, a black man dubbed a Good Samaritan for stopping his car to break up the angry black crowd on Halloween. Huff, fearing for his family’s safety, had moved into a hotel, and told the district attorney he no longer wanted to identify the attackers.
While rumors abound around the courtroom that hardcore gang members are intimidating the eyewitnesses, the media have yet to do serious legwork on that angle. Yet, as if on cue, a film is opening in Los Angeles this week starring Hilary Swank and based on a real-life Long Beach teacher and her students’ efforts to escape gangs.
The trailer’s voice-over for Freedom Writers recites the conventional media wisdom: “In Long Beach, it all comes down to what you look like. It’s all about color. If you are Latino or Asian or black, you can get blasted anytime you walk out your door.”
Sadly, anyone can get blasted or beaten — and it’s still all about color.
Kate Coe blogs at mediabistro.com/FishbowlLA.
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