Wilderside prophetic: Newsday and DWI Wall of Shame unjust

Through the (bad) leadership of Democratic Party County Executive Thomas Suozzi, Nassau County started a program of publishing the photos/mug shots of people accused of Drunk Driving on a “Wall of Shame” and giving those photos to the press. Local Long Island newspaper Newsday has been publishing these regularly, and aggressively pushing the images onto its readers by publishing constant links and previews at the Newsday web-site.

In May of 2008, a wilderside post pointed out the injustice of publishing the photos while the people were not yet proved to be guilty. The post went as far as to say that sometimes people can be perceived as being drunk when they are diabetic.

Now, that dilemma has in fact happened. Newsday reports that a woman who was arrested for drunk driving, who was unable to get out of her car without help, and whose photo was posted by Nassau County and Newsday as a drunk driver, has now been vindicated by a judge. Her alcohol test came back negative, and the woman was, in fact, experiencing the symptoms of diabetes.

People expect Republican politicians to posture as “tough on crime” and to blur the line of violating civil liberties. But, this whole situation is an example of how local Democrats, and even many progressives, have also lost old American values such as “innocent until proven guilty.” My background as a progressive blogger and a Green Party activist gave me some insight into the problems the Wall of Shame system presented. Still, if it was obvious to me as a lay person that “innocent until proven guilty” had been violated, then someone in Nassau County or at Newsday should have understood it. In addition, Newsday is still publishing photos from the Wall of Shame, and has not been outspoken enough against Suozzi, or sorry enough for its own editorial decision. Therefore, another value has been lost, the idea that it is a grave concern when a system is designed that is so eager to catch “bad guys” that it does not have enough protections for innocent people.

Our founding fathers would be gravely disappointed in us. The Democrats of only a few decades ago would be disappointed in Thomas Suozzi. People in the criminal justice system who understand progressive values should be shocked at the behavior exhibited by Nassau County, County Executive Thomas Suozzi, and by Newsday.

excerpt from a Newsday story:
Judge dismisses “Wall of Shame” DWI prosecution

8:19 PM EDT, September 11, 2008

As part of Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi’s Wall of Shame program, Andrea Sangermano’s name and photo were published on the county’s Web site and elsewhere after her arrest on drunken-driving charges over Memorial Day weekend — but the Bellerose woman was not drunk or high when she was arrested, a Nassau County judge ruled as he dismissed Sangermano’s charges yesterday.

Her erratic driving was the result of complications from diabetes, officials said…

Prosecutors with the office of Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice recommended yesterday that the county and Newsday remove Sangermano’s photo from their Web sites. Both did so. Nassau’s Wall of Shame photos appear on Newsday’s Web site…

Before the results of her urine tests came back, county officials released Sangermano’s mug shot and personal information along with those of 80 other people charged with driving while intoxicated over Memorial Day weekend. Suozzi said the goal was to use the humiliation of the defendants to deter other drunken drivers.

excerpt from a wilderside story (written months before this incident was revealed)
Nassau County: Showing photos of people accused of DWI

…I feel assaulted for having to look at these people’s photos in a way that is supposed to shame and humiliate them. I am being used. I don’t know if they are innocent. There are machines that malfunction: Could be what happened with the breathalizer one day. There are policemen out there who are bad: They might have blamed someone wrongly. There are stories I have heard of people being thought of as drunk, because they are having diabetic shock symptoms: There could be reasons these people are driving wild. I don’t have time to know and solve all the problems. Therefore, I don’t want to just be a voyeur in this system, and a cog in some politician’s p.r. stunt...”

2 Responses

  1. […] Update: (9-12-2008) Wilderside is proven prophetic -here, as woman with diabetes wrongfully […]

  2. […] also was a tool to glamorize politicians and make them look tough. Kimberly was right all around, even predicting some of the unfolding events. The ultimate resolution of all this for Nassau County is that the Wall of Shame was changed to […]

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