Furthermore, the state leaks information about arrests and misrepresents "facts" they cant prove in court all the time to tip the scales of justice against the accused, and the media so often plays along. Once you're condemned there, a plea deal favorable to the prosecution is much easier to obtain - as are a conviction and severe sentence if the defendant dares go to trial. Never mind that "innocent until proven guilty" standard you learned in civics class - you're pretty much done in America's injustice system if the news gets a hold of you before the jury ever hears a word.
No, as far as I was concerned, despite an occasional exception, neither the liberal "alternative" press or conservative local media could be trusted to get to the bottom of what this state was doing to those of us it accused or held in custody any more than Joe Arpaio could be counted on to care who died on his watch. The only stories that would ever play here would be those who served the corporate media's own interests - or the state's.
After the death of AZ state prisoner Marcia Powell in 2009 I began blogging and trying to figure out how to get at the truth and put it out there myself, cursing the cowardice of journalists and news outlets in this state (except for the guy who followed her case more closely, Stephen Lemons at the PHX New Times, that is...). My favorite target of criticism for pandering to police and political power was the Arizona Republic - albeit a favorite target of the right, as well, for not being loyal enough to conservative mores. As far as I was concerned, they did the dirty work of the state whenever bidden to do so by publishing their press releases as if they were "truth", which was all I needed to know. The only people I could really trust were fellow bloggers, it seemed.
Since then, this blog has resulted in literally hundreds of letters and phone calls from prisoners and their families with information about abuses in the state prison system, as well as local jails and police departments. Unfortunately, no matter what I learned in my work with prisoners (and their survivors, in cases where they died in custody), I didn't have enough audience to ever impact a state policy or liberate someone wrongfully imprisoned, so I nevertheless often appealed to mainstream journalists to help those I couldn't. They seldom ever did. I really resented Arizona's media for awhile for whitewashing the DOC with silence on the state's real crimes, in fact. Big media, especially, was wholly knowingly complicit, as far as I was concerned.
Then I noticed investigative journalist Wendy Halloran covering what was happening in the prisons, the courts and the larger world of crime and punishment that I'm now tuned into. She exposed the gross neglect of Tony Lester as he lay bleeding to death, unassisted in any way by the first responders of the AZ Department of Corrections. Her investigations into the DOC's, Wexford's, and Corizon's shoddy treatment of the sick and mentally ill has helped bring the problems of prisoner's health care to the forefront, such that there is now a class action suit alleging system-wide negligence and abuse. And she's gone after corruption, racism and shady cops in the Mesa, Phoenix, and Goodyear police departments fearlessly in the past few years. She sticks up for the underdog behind the scenes, too - she's not just out for her own glory, she's out for justice.
Because of their willingness to believe the unbelievable about the conduct of state agents, Wendy Halloran and the folks at 12news/KPNX have now helped bring about a criminal investigation into the conduct of the "crack" Phoenix arson squad, demanding justice for those wrongfully targeted by them. She and her station went out on a limb doing so, too. I even worry for Wendy's safety due to the heat she's brought down on powerful people in this state, so when you see her out and about in the Valley of the Sun, dear People, please watch this woman's back. After all, she's been watching ours...
Here's the latest in Wendy Halloran's coverage of the Phoenix Fire Department's Arson Squad, followed by links to the rest of her work on that case. Thank you, KPNX/ AZCentral and Gannett News, for supporting this kind of journalism, and Wendy Halloran for your courage and commitment to pursuing the truth.
"Three members of the Phoenix Fire Department's once highly touted arson squad were put on leave Friday in the face of the release of a state criminal investigation, according to a departmental news release released to the media.
Capts. Sam Richardson and Fred Andes and unit director Jack Ballentine were placed on paid administrative leave a day after the Arizona Department of Public Safety reported it had concluded a criminal investigation into the members' alleged misconduct and improper investigative techniques.
A final, redacted review has not yet been released to fire officials.
The DPS review came at the request of the department after a series of 12 News reports into the squad.
1. Raked Over the Coals
2. Phoenix City Councilman calls for inquiry into arson unit
3. Mayor responds to investigation
4. FBI Launches probe/The Captain, His Crew and Carl Caples
5. Phoenix Fire Department Captain insists his investigation was solid
6. Phoenix Fire Department releases findings from arson review
7. Which Lab is Better? The chocolate lab or the crime lab?
8. One-on-one with Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan –Phoenix Fire Department inflates arson clearance rates
9. Officials want outside inquiry into Phoenix Fire Department
10. Judge Orders depositions of fire investigators in death penalty case