by Homicide Watch
I don't know Laura and Chris Amico but I was once a police reporter and I absolutely love what they've done. Homicide Watch D.C. strikes me as so important that I've donated -- and emailed five Washington friends who are senior journalists to urge them to pitch in and pass the word forward.
Here's wishing you a booming success -- may you raise way more money than you're asking so that you can hire a full-time pro to handle the site. And have a fruitful fellowship year, free of worry about your site.
Thanks Tom. Means a lot to have your support.
It concerns me a little bit that HW publishes the names of suspects who have not been convicted. We are an innocent until proven guilty country. Could you please justify this practice?
We thought a lot about this when building the site. Arrests are part of the public record. Police announce them and post names online, and they're reported by other news organizations. So names are out there, searchable, and we can't make them disappear.
However, because we follow cases throughout the court process, we're able to show how cases end, including which ones end in acquittals or dropped charges. So when you search someone's name, the fact that they've been acquitted should be at the top of their profile page. Here's an example: http://homicidewatch.org/suspects/patricia-ann-cave/.
It's important for us to show how the justice system works, so that means writing stories on arrests and posting court documents we use in our reporting. We're also trying to create a space for suspects' families to share their experiences, because there is loss on both sides.
A thought: It might also be worth throwing in some robots.txt action on the site for suspects who are innocent -- provided you create a directory structure that allows for that.
We thought about that, or just taking acquitted suspects off the site. What we decided, though, was that if we did that, the next thing likely to come up in search results was someone else reporting an arrest. We didn't want the permanent record on the internet for someone cleared of a crime to be a news brief of their arrest. So, since we have really, really good SEO (especially where we're the only site following a case), we decided it's better to make sure the top story on their profile is absolutely clear.
We also added outcome tracking, so someone cleared (by acquittal or dropped charges) won't be listed as "suspected" but "acquitted" or "charges dropped" for that case. Here's the full list: http://homicidewatch.org/suspects/status/