Homework: Separation of Church and State

When confronted with a constituent, what should elected officials do? Regardless of what the confrontation is about, what should their reactions be? Listen? Deny? These are just a few questions we should be asking ourselves when talking about the separation of church and state. From our founding fathers perspective, this was something that needed to be taken seriously.

There should not be, in any way, shape, or form an adopted religion that all members of the United States. But in all reality, what kind of government is being affected by the church? We see it on our money and we see it in monuments and murals. We say it in our pledge and its on various public spots.

Why would having these things, including prayers (of any religion or non religion) be included in our government? Reasoning should be the only factor that one should use to decide whether or not new legislation or enforcing what is currently in place is the correct way to go. This allows reasoning, rather than singling out others who do not have the same views.

Homework: Black Hawk County Jail

On Tuesday April 4th, 2017 our Journalism and law class took a trip to the Black Hawk County Jail and learned more about the every day life of an inmate as well as the sheriff Tony Thompson. Tony, the sheriff of Black Hawk County since 2009, has definitely seen a thing or two. Sharing stories with our class that some may seem to be horrifying – while he see’s it as his every day job.

In the actual jail itself, there are 240 or so inmates (every person we talked to said a different number). Among these inmates, about 1/3rd of them are locked up for a forced felony: fighting, rape, etc. Their average stay is about 90 days but because the judicial system is slowed down to prevent anyone from having to spend extra time in jail because of a mistrial, it can go from 4 to 5 months. Personally, I couldn’t imagine myself going to jail… and I don’t think I want to!

Speaking more on the personal, Sheriff Thompson stated his work down at the Capital to try and influence bills that would allow a “Stand Your Ground” style bill. Because of the Cedar Valley’s record of crime, the Sheriff does not believe that this would be a good idea. An example he kept going back to was what if two rival gang members started shooting at each other and one ended up dead. Under this law, the one who was still alive could say he was fearful for his life and had to shoot back. In all reality, he was the one to shoot first or other scenarios. Makes sense, but personally, I’d rather be able to protect myself lawfully than not be able to against criminals who do NOT follow the law.

One cool feature about Sheriff Thompson was his body camera. He started to wear this after various calls from the public to do so and now has all of his deputies doing the same. According to their statistics, nearly 98% of cases that come up in court favor with with police officers statement because it is seen on the body camera. Speaking of cameras, there are 130 of them scattered around the jail and for good reason. The jailers can now watch the inmates and make sure they are not causing any harm to themselves or others. They can also listen in to jail cells and know if something is wrong/needs to be done.

Walking through the general population cell was crazy. Literally all that separated us was a yellow line on the floor. All of the inmates just stared at us and would lightly walk around us when they had to do so. Asking for permission to do everything, like getting a cup of water, was very common. Permission and discipline is a very strategic way to keep order in their jail and that is why they do it each and every day. Overall, it was a very cool experience and I will never forget it!

Homework: Spotlight Review

Investigative reporting is represented at its finest when the film “Spotlight” took its own take on crimes that have been ravaging the United States, and frankly the world for years. In the film, staring actors such as Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton, an investigative group from the Boston Globe dives deeper into claims of sexual misconduct within the Catholic church.

Due to the touchy subject and the fact that people of the Catholic church were a majority of the reader base the Boston Globe had, it was difficult for some reporters to jump on this type of story. Enter Spotlight. Though Marty Baron, the newest owner of the globe, says that the “internet is cutting into the classifieds”, they know something of this caliber could potentially help put them back on the map.

Months pass by but nothing is published for fear of the church addressing the smaller issues and brushing them aside. By doing this, if the Globe were to publish the results again their credibility would go down. Spotlights decides that it is best to find the entire story and hit the church so hard that they couldn’t possibly cover their tracks.

Similarities in reported sexual misconducts not just in the Boston area, but the whole world as well. After speaking with upwards of 90 victims, the whole picture begins to become more clear for the investigative teams purpose on this case. Though there was and still continued to be a spree of sick priests who would do these unspeakable acts to the children whom attended their services, there was a system of cover up which deceived even the reporters who’s sole job was to investigate this situation.

In published books, there was a code written to show where exactly priests who were accused of sexual assault were at in the eyes of the church. Some would say they are on a mission trip or had a holy event come up. All of these similarities matched when and where these assaults were taking place. From there, more conclusions as to the types of action the church had taken to prevent these acts came to full light.

In the second part of this assignment, we were supposed to go to http://www.pulitzer.org to find two prize winners and briefly discuss the reasoning for their awards. My selections are listed below with direct links so you can do more of your own “investigative” research if you so choose.

Associated Press – Winner 2016 – Public Service Link

“For an investigation of severe labor abuses tied to the supply of seafood to American supermarkets and restaurants, reporting that freed 2,000 slaves, brought perpetrators to justice and inspired reforms”


Los Angeles Time Staff – Winner 2016 – Breaking News Story Link

“For exceptional reporting, including both local and global perspectives, on the shooting in San Bernardino and the terror investigation that followed”.


Homework: Eramo vs. Rolling Stone Complaint

How to turn a court decision into a news story: Have a headline, lead, sources, language, specific length. This changes depending on the story but quotes should be a major part of your story. Be authentic and original with your writing.

“This defamation action arises out of the publication of the false and later discredited article in Rolling Stone magazine entitled,A Rape on Campus:A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA (hereinafter, Rape on Campus or the article ).
Rolling Stones Contributing Editor, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, wrote the article, which caused a national media firestorm and has been viewed online more than 2.7 million times” – Nature of Case – Complaint
The article talks of the extremely graphic language and information that was shared with the Rolling Stones journalist.
More information about Nicole Eramo and those who met with her and went through the regular processes. The question about what was or was not done arises. Giving Eramo a bad name or in other worlds “defamed”. This is why this is a defamation suit – much like the Burke Ramsey Case… except it’s murder against rape allegations.
Erdely pushed the idea of truths, false truths, and even half truths and that is one of the reasons why
November 26, 2014 –  Rolling Stone finally forced to admit to fault of this caliber.
This case was eventually exposed a hoax and this does not help Rolling Stones or Erdely’s case when it comes to non intentional defamation – regardless – get in trouble for having over 2 million people reading article – going to get in trouble.
Rolling Stone is an LLC or a limited liability company – question is, will this affect their information that they share… being an LLC?
Rolling Stone regularly solicits businesses who advertise in their magazine. This is completed by sales – was this done just for magazine sales?
2010 Eramo became Associate Dean of Students
Police also found that there was no evidence of Jackie’s claim of being attacked with a bottle.
Police found no evidence that two other girls had been assaulted at the Phi Psi house in 2010 and 2014
Erdely also never communicated with the friends who Jackie said didn’t want to talk with her about what happened. This was a lie.



Homework: Iowa Supreme Court Case July 20, 2012

State of Iowa vs. Mark Daryl Becker

This is over the Iowa Court of Appeals

“Mark Becker appeals his conviction for first-degree murder claiming the district court erred in refusing to give his proposed instruction defining the elements of the insanity defense and that the district court erred when it refused to instruct the jury of the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS AND JUDGMENT OF DISTRICT COURT AFFIRMED”.

A background is listed and is quoted below from Zager, Justice –

“On June 24, 2009, Mark Becker shot and killed Edward Thomas in
a temporary high school weight room in Parkersburg, Iowa, in front of
numerous high school students participating in summer workouts.
Becker was charged with the crime of murder in the first degree in
violation of sections 707.1 and 707.2(1) and (2) of the Iowa Code. Becker
provided notice that he would be relying on the defense of insanity to the
charge. The jury rejected the insanity defense and found Becker guilty of
first-degree murder. Following the guilty verdict, the district court
sentenced Becker to life in prison without the possibility of parole and
ordered him to pay restitution to the victim’s estate. He was also ordered
to pay restitution for his attorney and expert witness fees. Becker has
appealed his conviction and the imposition of expert witness fees.
Becker claims the jury was improperly instructed on the insanity defense
and that the jury should have been instructed regarding the
consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. He also
claims the restitution order for expert witness fees exceeded the statutory
limitations. We transferred the case to the court of appeals which
affirmed the conviction and restitution orders. Becker sought further
review, which we granted. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the
district court.”

The reason for copying this length of text is so I can break it down and make smaller sections that make a little more sense.

June 24, 2009 – Mark Becker killed his old football coach Edward Thomas in a weight room.

He had claims of insanity which where not deemed to be true. So now this case is in the court of appeals to either approve of the insanity plea or not.


Some time on that morning, Becker pried open a gun cabinet at his parents home.

“He took a .22 caliber revolver and practiced shooting the gun at a birdhouse in his parents’ yard” – page 6

“Iowa courts first considered the proper instructions for an insanity defense in State v. Felter, 25 Iowa 67 (1868)” – page 12

“If the Defendant has failed to prove either of the elements by a preponderance of the evidence, then the Defendant is guilty” – page 15

“Paragraph three says a person is “sane” if he “had sufficient mental capacity” to do certain things, as opposed to the statute, which says a person is “insane” if he is “incapable” of doing those things. Iowa Code § 701.4. “Incapable” means “lacking capacity, ability, or qualification for the purpose or end in view.” Merriam–Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 628 (11th ed. 2004). Thus, a person who is “incapable” of knowing or distinguishing would, by definition, “lack capacity” to know or distinguish” – page 18 –

I think this part above is important when it comes to what a judge will look at when the case is trying to get called insanity.

“See State v. Kehoe” – Interesting referencing that case, we “covered it” in the past!

We recognize that confinement following a not-guilty-by-reason-of insanity verdict is not “punishment.” – Page 38

“In State v. McMullin, 421 N.W.2d 517 (Iowa 1988), we addressed a defendant’s claim that placing “the portion of the insanity instruction that told the jury to consider the insanity defense before it considered defendant’s guilt or innocence of the crimes charged” violated procedural due process” – page 46

I thought this was interesting because it talks about part insanity rulings instead of just a full out acquittal of a case because they are fully insane.





Homework: Getting to Know Judge Staudt

Getting to know your local legal system is something everyone should do. In an effort to promote this behavior, let’s dive a little deeper into one of our very own. Judge David Staudt, graduate of the University of Iowa and Drake University, is your Iowa District 1B District Judge.

In September of 2010, Governor Chet Culver appointed David Staudt to succeed Jon C. Fister in the District 1B Court. Prior to joining the court, Staudt served as the Chief Public Defender in the Waterloo Office for the Iowa State Public Defender. “After graduating from law school, he worked in private practice until 1997. That year he first became a public defender and continued in that office, working up from Assistant to Chief Public Defender.” stated the Ballotpedia website.

If you are unfamiliar with how the court system is structured here in Iowa, this is the place for you to learn. There are various levels and each works as a hierarchy as to what cases they can and cannot hear. The different courts are the Magistrates, Assistant District Court, District Court, Court of Appeals, State of Iowa Supreme Court. Judge David Staudt works in the district court and can hear anything that the Assistant District Court and Magistrates can hear.

Some of the types of cases that get up to a district court are feuds of $10,000 or more, divorces, civil cases like car accidents, contract problems, felony’s, and criminal cases. Something to remember though, is bankruptcies are not heard by a state level judge. You can only be heard by a federal judge because of the severity of the situation.

To become a district judge, you have to go through an election process. The interesting part is, once you are in – you are not guaranteed to be re-elected. Judge David Staudt, was re-elected after his last term in 2012 with 78.06% of the vote. His tenure will be from 2010 to 2018, time is closing in on that date!

Regardless of what you need from the courts, there will be a place for you. Whether you need help with a simple misdemeanor or settling a civil case, you will be able to have a fair and balanced trial and/or hearing with a great legal team here in the great state of Iowa. Judge David Staudt is a man who is passionate about what he does and will continue to fight for justice for all whom deserve it.

Homework: Ductaped and Afraid, Kehoe Son Shares His Frightful Night

October 26th will forever go down as Sean Kole’s worst day of his life. Sean, who is 7, experienced his accused mother attempting to kill him right after she killed her 2-year-old son by slitting his throat with a hunting knife. The same day as the arrest, Michelle Kehoe, attempted to commit suicide before the police could make the arrest.

The day after the arrest, both Michelle and Sean were in the court room in front of our Iowa Assistant Attorney General facing questions of what exactly happened the night before. Michelle, a resident of Littleton, Iowa inside of Buchanan County is now facing a life sentence without parole. During the hearing, for which Kehoe was present, there was a certain mood amongst the court room that some may have called puzzling.

Looking down at the ground for the entire duration of her son’s testimony, you did not see any variation of facial movement other than a large frown coming from Kehoe’s face. As the prosecutors brought little Sean to the witness stand, you could feel a sense of confusion and fright coming from his statements. The Assistant Attorney General, Andy Prosser, began to ask little Sean questions about the night before that sung the true terrors of what happened to him and his brother.

As Sean began, his mother sunk lower in her chair and kept the same frown on her face until Prosser asked Sean if his mother hurt him anymore past what his injuries currently are. He simply answered, “No”. Almost simultaneously, Kehoe shook her head, no, in agreeance with what Sean was saying after the Prosser asked the question. This lead him into further questioning about the events that happened during that night.

Prosser asked Sean if his mother had covered his eyes or restrained him in any way shape or form. Sean stated that his mother had put duct tape over his face during this heinous crime. Wanting to make the record straight, Prosser asked if there were multiple pieces of tape over Sean’s face or just one piece. Sean said there were a lot of pieces. Some of which were on his eyes and even covering his mouth.

When Sean was finally able to take the tape off of his face, he looked over to see something most of us would never hope to see in our life time. Sean described it as his mom, “hurting my baby brother” in a way that we could only assume would be horrifying to watch. From there, Sean was able to escape his mother’s watch and run to their family van where he locked himself in for the duration of the night.

“I just hopped in the van and locked the doors” little Sean said to Prosser. Questions of where exactly the keys to the van were at are not really clear because Sean began to answer Prosser’s questions by nodding and using other non-verbal gestures. A follow up question after Prosser asked Sean to start telling him with words how things happened really opened the eyes of the entire situation.

“Did mom hurt herself?” Prosser questioned hoping to receive a response worthy of an actual verbal quote. “She did” answered Sean.  “Do you know how she hurt herself” Prosser continued. “I don’t know” replied Sean. The questions about Sean’s mother continued when Prosser asked If Kehoe was bleeding. “Yeah” replied Sean in a small and quiet voice that stopped the Assistant Attorney General in his tracks.

After this questioning, Prosser explained that the county’s Sheriff department will be here soon to pick Sean up and take care of him. Prosser said, “They’ll be here to help you too when you get your throat fixed up. The most reassurance that little Sean would be hearing that day was that the Assistant Attorney General said, “I’ll stay with ya” until the police come to keep him safe.

More information to come as this case continues on with the reasoning behind these insidious acts evolve and come forth to the public eye. For more information regarding this case, or if you or someone you know has any information that would be useful to the police department or Sean, the sheriff has asked that you contact the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office with that information as soon as possible.


Homework: JonBenet Ramsey Case Alive and Defamation to Blame?

Defamation suit being brought against the CBS Corporation by Burke Ramsey, brother of JonBenet Ramsey, infamous murder mystery from late 90’s. The suit came after the airing of a four hour long documentary, “The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey”, which suggested that Burke either was the murderer of his sister or had a key role in her death. A brief reminder of the case of JonBenet and her mysterious death that was never solved are as follows:

At 5:22 am on December 26th, 1996, the Boulder police department received a 911 phone call from a very distraught woman. This woman on the phone appeared to be the mother of JonBenet, Patsy Ramsey. “Please! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” cried Patsy as she told the 911 operator what appears to have been a kidnapping of her daughter. After the police arrived on the scene they noticed a variety of things that led them to question who could have committed such a crime to the Ramsey family, especially 9-year-old JonBenet.

After reviewing the three-page ransom note, more questions were raised as to whom exactly might have taken JonBenet and their reasoning behind doing such a heinous crime. That’s when it all happened. Family friends had come to the home to visit with the parents and after the friend and father’s discovery in the basement of the body of JonBenet wrapped in sheets, John Ramsey (the father) carried his daughter and laid her down on the floor when they made it to the first floor of the home. JonBenet’s body was then moved to another location to remove her from the hustle of the investigation.

After reviewing the documentary that CBS aired, one would be able to see why Burke Ramsey is suing for defamation claims. It is with all intent of this reporter to refrain from being biased of either side of the suits claims or allegations. With this in mind, it is important to the reader to understand what the CBS Corporation filmed and aired on their station as well as posted to their website and various other social media platforms. These claims and/or suggestions were taken straight from the documentary… These are their findings.

The 911 call to the Boulder Police Department was made on the night of the claimed disappearance of JonBenet. A hysterical mother on one end of the line; and a trained 911 operator on the other. “A note was left on our daughter’s door” Patsy, the mother, cried as the operator tried to gain as much information about the situation while she was sending an officer to visit the home. After Patsy told the operator to hurry, there was around six seconds of non-direct talking into the phone even after the operator shouted out after Patsy to stay on the line and talk with her until the officer arrived.

After further analyses of the tape in the original courtroom in the 90s, there was a large question as to what, if anything, was said during those six seconds from Patsy’s side of the line. What CBS found during their making of the documentary, was what most would consider shocking. After editing the audio so much so that the six seconds of inaudible words could be hear you can “distinctly” hear three different voices talking about something. During CBS’s investigation of the tape, they discovered that one can hear what apparently sounds like John Ramsey’s voice clearly saying, “We’re not speaking to you”. After that, you can hear a softer voice but what was found was interesting, to say the least.

“What did you find?” says a small, and fragile voice that many believe to be the voice of Burke Ramsey. This claim goes against the parent’s testimony that their son had been upstairs in his bedroom and was not involved in the situation at all. Another thing that was questioned about the case and the involvement from Burke, was the ransom note. The ransom note was roughly 300 words and requested exactly 118 thousand dollars in cash with various instructions building up to a trade. One of the most gruesome threats made within the note was that the captures, who supposedly worked for a “small foreign faction” would behead JonBenet if anything were to go wrong.

After CBS’s investigation into the note, they discovered that 76% of the words had already been said more than once within the note, the person who wrote it referenced a lot of crime movies that somehow involved the family, had English as their first language, and that a mother would most likely say, “Listen carefully” which was said a multitude of times. By making this claim, it appears as though CBS is trying to open the doors for a conversation about who exactly wrote the note based off of the physical writing and the words that lie beneath.

After the discovery of his daughter, John fled the scene but was not questioned by police for his actions. The same style of routine followed for four months after the death of JonBenet before Patsy and John went to the police station to talk about the situation. This behavior was also supposedly requested by the family to their friends to not talk to the police or the media. During the documentary, CBS claimed that they had found an old family friend who went against the family’s request to stay quiet. Because of these actions, that friend was supposedly made the outcast of the friend group and came to share her story with CBS. This cannot be proven by this reporter but one would only assume that these actions “taken” by the family would cause some distrust between the family and the investigators of the case.

Another key part to this suit is one that seem to be the gruesome. After bringing on an additional investigator to the CBS crew, questions of the actual cause of death were raised. A flashlight, found at the scene of the crime, fit the skull fracture on JonBenet almost perfectly. A small rectangular shape was formed after testing was done to see if the shape would match up and how much force it would take to make the same injury that JohnBenet would have suffered. From here they brought in a young boy who was about the same age as Burke was at the time of his sister’s death. When the young boy struck the fake skull, it was apparently obvious to the CBS investigators that this damage could very well have been caused by a young child.

Burke Ramsey had seen enough when this documentary and decided that it was time to take action for himself and his family name. The suit being brought by Burke began December 28th, 2016 – roughly two months after the first airing of the four-hour documentary. More information in public records on the Circuit Court of Michigan, Wayne County’s website. If you would like to view the documentary yourself, you can find it here JonBenet Ramsey.