Vic Ryckaert's notes are safe, judge rules

Dateline: Thu 27 Mar 2008

The Star reported this morning that police reporter Vic Ryckaert will not have his notes turned over to the Marion County Prosecutor's office after Ryckeart interviewed a suspect in the Hovey Street killings last winter.

This was the interview that produced the memorable headline, a quote from suspect Jasper Frazier, in a phone conversation Frazier had with Ryckaert from Toledo:

"I ain't kill them kids."

The Star's Jon Murray reports today that Frazier is one of five men facing charges in the case, where two young mothers and their babies were shot to death on Hovey Street on the Indianapolis Eastside. Over objections from Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, the newspaper prevailed, thanks to a ruling by Judge Steve Eichholtz.

Says Ryckeart:

"I believe the judge made the right decision. This is a win for the First Amendment and the watch-dog role of the press in Indiana. Now that some time has passed, I hope Prosecutor Brizzi realizes he does not need my notes to prove his case and decides against an appeal."

This is a victory for the newspaper, but it is somewhat overshadowed by the comments section from readers that follows the online version. This feature used to be called TalkBack and has now been renamed "Add your thoughts," all part of an effort by editor Dennis Ryerson to elevate reader discussion. Somehow, that has not happened, if the following is a representative sampling:

"These thugs are so completely guilty that no extra input is needed to fry them. This poor jasper frazier seems to be the most simple minded of the group, although it is hard to tell with the geniuses in this pack of ghetto scum. The shooter needs the death penalty without a doubt, as he is obviously totally deranged. Put the rest of them on a chain gang out on 465 so people can toss things at them."

"I hope you can sleep at night if this stone cold killer walks, and your notes could have helped put him away Mr. Ryckaert!"

"This is worth one cheer. The problem with it is that reporters and editors think they deserve and have special rights, but they do not in the constitution, and they should not in principle. If the notes of a journalist should be protected, then so should those of any other citizen."

So much for improving the tone of discourse among readers at the paper.

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