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Our Coverage of the Merrick Molestation Case

We answer the DA's criticism of coverage on Lamorinda Patch.

Here at Patch, we are committed to an open and honest dialogue with you, our readers, about the news and issues facing our community. When Patch itself becomes part of news coverage, it’s even more important to us that we respond to your feedback.

Recently, Lamorinda Patch has been the subject of attention for an article on the Michael Merrick molestation case.

In response to Judge Clare Maier’s decision to bar the public from the trial, some have questioned whether our article included too much identifying information about the alleged victim. Assistant District Attorney Johanna Schonfield has said Lamorinda Patch's Dec. 9 story was the reason she asked the judge to ban the public from the courtroom. Schonfield called Lamorinda Patch’s journalism “irresponsible.” In addition, a private attorney hired by the alleged victim’s family said our story was “reckless and insensitive.”  

We felt it was important to note that no one has said Lamorinda Patch got its facts wrong in the story, which was based on a public document obtained from Contra Costa County Superior Court. In fact, Lamorinda Patch avoided using information that was not redacted by police that would have made identification of the victim possible. 

Lamorinda Patch disagrees with the assertion that its reporting of a high-profile case is justification for closing that case to public scrutiny. Doing so undermines public confidence in our judicial system.

Patch stands by our story and our decision to publish it.

Clarification: This story was updated to clarify that the Dec. 9 story was based on a publicly available document.

Carol Ann Long March 20, 2011 at 06:30 PM
As much as I hate to say it, this sounds like a fairly plausible explanation of what has happened with this case. The elephants in the room that are not mentioned are that the Patch reporter used to work at the Times so isn't exactly new to the game and that the Times, which we see now tried to "borrow" the Patch story on the day it broke definitely had something to gain by calling Jimmy Olsen and the "upstart" inept and irresponsible. It may not be Watergate, but it does smell fishy!!
Lafayette Curmudgeon March 20, 2011 at 07:05 PM
I think you've likely nailed it. If the DA, defendant and victim all want some silence, then let them. The court has a lot of leeway in protecting minors in these cases, so if we have a First Amendment beef, it has to be laid at that power in general, not the particular application in this case.
Chris Nicholson March 20, 2011 at 07:55 PM
I think the public/press have (or should have) an independent right to open courts. The privacy rights of a minor in a molestation case are very strong, but I am not sure if a good faith balancing was done here. As I noted above, the privacy breach, if any, seemed to be historical, and I don't think retribution is a good basis for closure when the risk of future harm seems low. All of that said, I would certainly give a lot of deference to the cild and family if there was a real risk of incremental harm.
Hannah lefcourt April 03, 2011 at 07:06 AM
I feel that if the judge says we are insensitive to the family, she is insensetive to us. We all loved mr.merrick and if she doesn't like it, that is insensitive toward us Lafayette school goers. And that,my friends, is unfair and why I hate the goverment. And I'm only in seventh grade.
LafayetteRez April 12, 2011 at 11:52 PM
"We all loved mr.merrick" is a false statement. This may be your personal opinion to which you are entitled but it does not hold true for 'all of us'. For example, as a Stanley parent a multiple times over, my experience and that of my kids differs from your.

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