Wait for facts before judgments
Three stories in this issue relate heavily to the concept of not jumping to conclusions before all the facts are in.
Assembling facts after a tragedy occurs or even after an episode of some sort with far less dire consequences is something that takes time. The facts in some cases are weighed in courts by judges and juries. In others, details emerge over time in newspapers or other media, which can contradict things are we knew them to be when initially reported.
A quest for facts is what causes reporters to ask questions, sometimes in a way that can make people uncomfortable. But for press as well as public officials, asking questions is the only way available facts can be determined. Failing to ask questions leads to information vacuums, which are easily filled in by doubt and rumor.
One of today’s stories concerns the death of a toddler in a family swimming pool. The incident leading to the child’s death occurred on the same morning as Chauvin’s traditional Carnival parade, although family members were not engaged in “Mardi Gras-ing.” There was no drinking. There was no evidence of neglect determined by authorities. But we are painfully aware that on both social media and in conversations along Bayou Little Caillou, people jumped to conclusions due to circumstance and said things an already pained family found caused more hurt.
Another story in this issue concerns a federal judge’s determination that a lawsuit brought against Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter and two dismissed deputies was not founded properly in law and so had to be dismissed.
A deputy who was accused of mistreating a young suspect he was arrested was fired by Sheriff Larpenter when the incident occurred. A second deputy was also dismissed, for not speaking forthrightly about what he had witnessed.
There is a difference between not following a law enforcement agency’s rules and actually breaking the law. In the case of the deputies, an allegation was made that the constitutional rights of a young man were violated by people whose job is to uphold the law. Judge Ivan Lemelle’s decision to toss the case came as a surprise, even to some people in the law enforcement community locally, who tend to peg federal judges in a light suggesting partiality toward complainants in such matters. We think it would have been wrong to conclude without a proper examination of evidence and argument that a violation of civil rights had occurred in this case. While the complainant may — should he be advised to — file an appeal to the judge’s decision, a thorough read of his reasoning indicates that a different finding is not likely.
Finally, there is the matter of Tate Songe, a South Terrebonne High School student booked on a felony terrorizing charge in connection with a day of rumors at that institution. Evidence indicated that while a meme the teen sent out on a social media app was ill-advised and reflecting questionable wisdom, it did not in itself constitute a threat to students or teachers. Because the future of a student who appeared to display no criminal intent was at stake, District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr. did his own research and determined that there was a better way to handle the case.
Social media posts that appeared after Songe’s arrest — in no way based on fact — were cruel and unnecessary.
Although Tate Songe is expected now to graduate with his senior class in May, as his grandmother points out, some of the ill-informed comments will remain readable online forever. We hope along with her that this is experience does not affect future choices for a young man who in all ways appears as an asset to his community.
The decision by the family of Chauvin toddler Carter Lirette to have usable parts of his physical self available to others once his angelic self made its way to heaven is heartbreakingly laudable and worthy of praise Organ donation is something we all must consider. A man who once lived and ultimately died in Terrebonne Parish may have put it best when stating he did not wish anything that others could use being put in the ground. If you want to be a donor, be sure this is indicated on your driver’s license, or make your wishes known to family before the time for painful decisions arrives.