Thursday, December 4, 2008

Plaxico Buress and Shooting From the Hip: Mayor Bloomberg Shooting From The Lip

Plaxico Buress has been a popular topic of conversation in New York City lately. Last week, the Giant’s linebacker was in a Latin Quarter night club when a gun he was carrying discharged, striking himself in the leg.

Newspaper columnists like Andrea Peyser and cartoonists like Sean Delonas have made maximum mileage of the story. As a well paid athlete, Mr Buress has attracted a lot of negative attention. It seems clear that he has gotten breaks from the law before in the course of various offenses, including an altercation with police officers. Even a doctor at a hospital at which he was treated was suspended for allegedly participating in a coverup.

According to The Daily News,

“An irate Mayor Bloomberg Monday demanded that prosecutors throw the book at Giants star Plaxico Burress for bringing a loaded handgun into a crowded midtown nightclub and accidentally shooting himself in the leg.

Bloomberg also slammed New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell and the Giants for not immediately reporting the shooting to police - cops learned of it from TV - and said it would be an “outrage” if Burress got special treatment.

“It’s pretty hard to argue the guy didn’t have a gun and that it wasn’t loaded,” Bloomberg said, lashing out at the man who caught the winning touchdown in the 2008 Super Bowl.
“You’ve got bullet holes in and out to show that it was there.”"

If Mayor Bloomberg were Andrea Peyser or any other newspaper columnist, I would be giving weight to their words. I think that Sean Delonas did a great job at extracting maximum humour from the situation.

I do NOT however want the Mayor of the city to comment on an ongoing legal case with an identified suspect. It is one thing to condemn a crime with an unidentified defendant. But to comment on a specific individual is prejudicial to his rights to a fair trial. Bloomberg even went so far as to comment on the quality of evidence against Mr. Buress. Any statement by a public official on such a matter should be couched in concern that the crime be thoroughly investigated.

If Buress is convicted, then he is fair game for the comments of public officials. Anything said now reeks of jury contamination. He is entitled to a fair trial. Bloomberg’s comments compromise that basic right.

Additionally, there is the issue of the sense of priorities among New York’s tabloids. I picked up a New York Post with four pages of Buress shooting coverage. During a time when there was a massive terror attack in India and ongoing financial anxiety revolving around the big threee auto companies, the tabloids are living up to their reputation as “chewing gum for the mind”.

I find myself wondering when I pick up a copy of a paper who is assigning priority to the various news items. Why is the war in the Congo getting no coverage? Why is the price of oil plummeting? These are stories that could be explained to laymen. The Congo story might even spur charity.

There is a place for crime news. Proper coverage can educate the public in protecting itself. Mr. Buress allegedly had a friend who was held up. It is not unheard of for celebrities to become victims of violence. This story is being spun as an argument to ban guns. I am looking at the story and seeing it as a case for gun safety training. Mr. Buress may have had good reason to be fearful. Even if there are no legal norms in the court of public opinion, there are moral obligations.

I hope Mr. Buress gets a fair trial. I wish him a speedy recovery from his self inflicted gun injury. And I wish he would take a course in gun safety.

No comments: