FixedIt: quotes from his footy mates are not relevant to a murder charge

The ABC reported that Matthew Ross White, 25, has been charged with the murder of Donna Steele. Her body was found in Isabella Creek about 20 kilometres from her home in Cooktown in August last year.

Obviously White’s guilt or innocence will be determined by a court. This commentary has nothing to do with whether or not he is guilty, it is only about the way the charges against him were presented by the ABC.

White was charged with the most serious crime any person can commit. Whether his footy mates liked him or has absolutely no relevance to the charges against him. Journalists have a responsibility in crime reporting to avoid any commentary that could be prejudicial to a trial. It’s the reason we always refer to the “alleged” crime and carefully avoid calling someone a murderer if they have not been convicted of murder. No one wants to cause a mistrial or poison the mind of a jury.

This kind of commentary borders on being prejudicial in the other direction and it’s far too common. I’ve written before about the “but he’s such a nice guy” descriptions of men who have been convicted of murder or killed women and then themselves.

“Nice guys” can be charged with crimes. Men who play football can be charged with murder. “Quiet kids” can commit crimes. The only facts relevant to the case are the ones presented in court.

FixedIt is an ongoing project to push back against the media’s constant erasure of violent men and blaming of innocent victims. If you would like to help fund it – even $5 a month makes a big difference – please consider becoming a Patron

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