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Capizzi Gets a Bad Rap in the Media

October 23, 1994

I was absolutely astounded to see remarks attributed to me in a recent article criticizing the Orange County district attorney's office ("O.C.'s Capizzi Takes Hit from Busts-Gone-Bad," Oct. 9).

After 17 years as a criminal defense attorney, I am used to the occasional misquote or out-of-context statement. But in this story, absolutely every comment of mine was taken out of context and misquoted in the extreme.

The reporter said he was doing a story on Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi's recent problems. He mentioned several cases in which Capizzi's office has come under scrutiny, and suggested that I could "tie it all together" by commenting on Capizzi's responsibilities for these developments.

I told the reporter I did not think these disparate matters could in fairness be tied together because they have no common thread.

You would never know from my quoted remarks that most of my comments were about why I disagreed that the D.A.'s office was at fault in the areas discussed and why I believed the media in general and The Times Orange County in particular were behaving irresponsibly.

I also told the reporter that another recent Times story examining the D.A.'s handling of domestic violence cases was "a hatchet job" and misused statistics.

I believe that in the last few years the American media, once the pride of the Western world, have abandoned their role as professional journalists and now report crime not as objective news but as cheap, lurid entertainment to sell newspapers and TV time.

Crime news is a feeding frenzy for the press, with citizens whipped up to feel that no matter where they live, they are in constant danger of being raped or murdered at any moment. Someone has to be blamed for all the crime, and one of the possible targets is the D.A. of each county.

"D.A. Doing Good Job" is not news and will not sell papers. Attacking the D.A. provides a villain and sells copy. It also feeds Americans' existing post-Watergate fears that all their public institutions are corrupt or disintegrating, and erodes their belief in government overall.

Politicians have hopped aboard this train and hyped the crime issue at every opportunity in order to get votes, are in turn egged on by the media, and the cycle escalates. Few prosecutors can withstand this kind of pressure.

I was also quoted out of context and erroneously as saying, "I don't like Mike Capizzi and he is the opposite of everything I stand for. But I think he is being affected by forces greater than himself, just like every other D.A."

What I said was that I am no fan of Mr. Capizzi's policies, particularly the lack of discretion given to his deputies to tailor justice to the individual case. I am not accustomed to defending him because we are opposites in the court system and our politics are poles apart. But I think The Times is being unfair to him and to his office.



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