Vanguard to Remove Reference to Names of Those Accused in Court Watch Coverage

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

The Vanguard is continuing its ongoing effort to provide transparency to the criminal legal system while highlighting injustice and official wrongdoing.

Since March of 2020, the Vanguard has expanded its court coverage from primarily three counties Yolo (2010), Sacramento (2017) and San Francisco (2019) to regular coverage in Alameda, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles with auxiliary coverage in a number of other counties—Fresno, Riverside, Ventura, Merced, Stanislaus, Contra Costa and a number of others.

As our coverage has expanded, we have become keenly aware that our coverage creates unintended consequences.

Previously the Vanguard has issued two policies that have separated it from other media.

While most media will not use the names of minor victims or victims of sexual assault, the Vanguard has for a number of years had an express policy not to name any victims EXCEPT those who are decreased.

In addition, the Vanguard also in 2016 stopped reporting the names of civilian witnesses.  That means witnesses who are otherwise private citizens.  While it is important to identify people like police officers, experts, and other professionals, using the names of civilian witnesses puts them into a Google search and connects them with the case and potentially the crime.

The issue of identifying people accused of crimes is more complicated.

There are a fair number of higher profile cases and certainly a fair number of individuals who committed serious and dangerous crimes and are rightly being held accountable following their constitutionally protected due process of law.

Further, it is difficult to hold the government accountable for official misconduct—prosecutorial, police or otherwise—without a clear record that includes a visible victim / witness to that misconduct.

At the same time, we receive a number of requests to remove names and, in fact, entire articles in order to lessen the harm done to people who are otherwise minor actors in the system—some of whom were accused but not convicted of crimes, and others who are accused of minor offenses.

And we are aware that prosecutors often accuse people of crimes for reasons other than justice, and until and unless those charges are proven, those accused should not suffer negative consequences by being named.

While these are very much public hearings, there really is no benefit to the public or the people involved to name many of the people in these cases.

The key, then, is to find a way to hold the people accountable who should be held accountable without making life unnecessarily difficult for those who made mistakes but are trying to get past them, get jobs, and otherwise move on with their lives.

Over the years, the Vanguard has debated these questions, not only internally but with people who work in public defender and district attorney offices.

In an effort to balance these competing considerations, the Vanguard is rolling out a new policy:

We will continue to publish names of those accused in the following instances:

Cases where the individual accused of a crime will be identified:

  • High profile cases
  • Cases involving serious felonies
  • Cases involving government or police misconduct

Cases where the Vanguard will no longer name them:

  • Misdemeanor cases
  • Other low profile cases that do not have justice implications
  • Sexual abuse cases where there is a name tied to the victim

The Vanguard will not under any circumstance depublish an article, but individuals can request the removal of their name from past publications or cases where the alleged offense is non-serious, the matter has been dropped or the charges were dismissed and potentially other considerations, as determined by the Vanguard Editor.

Requests should be written with as much detail as possible:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Miller

    Interesting.  I believe I agree, because whatever the role, using the names of [any role] puts them into a Google search and connects them with the case and potentially the crime.

  2. Keith Olson

    I can agree with most of this.

    The one problem I can see is often the Vanguard only gives one side of the story.  It’s quite often the side that is most advantageous for the person accused or the criminal.  It’s not until readers themselves have to look deeper into the story to find the other side.  Without names that will be next to impossible.

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