New Wrinkle In The Debate Over Publishing Mug Shots

The Kansas City Star has made an exception to its policy of not publishing the mug shots of suspects  in order to show the faces of the alleged Super Bowl killers. 

A photo of suspect Lyndell Mays, complete with a bandage on his face, was published. And the Star plans to put one up of Dominic M. Miller as soon as it can. 

Why is this open to debate?

The Star and its parentMcClatchy Company, decided in 2020 to stop publishing such shots, based on two considerations: the photographed person has been charged but not convicted; and the photos are sometimes available even after acquittal.  

The use of these shots results in a personal impact. 

What is different about the alleged perpetrators in this case? 

Mará Rose Williams, the Star’s assistant managing editor for race & equity issues, describes the possible exceptions as follows: 



“Among the questions we consider when deciding if we should use a mugshot: Is the accused a public official?” Williams writes. “Is the community at risk if we don’t publish it? Is the crime committed of such a high profile that the public right to know must prevail? We believe last week’s deadly mass shooting at Kansas City’s Super Bowl rally and celebration does merit an exception.”

That’s understandable, given the horror and tragedy of the event. But shouldn’t the policy be consistent?

Mays and Miller remain suspects. They have not been tried, and many details of the incident are unclear. Publishing their mug shots, in effect, convicts them in the public mind. 

Newspapers used to routinely publish the home addresses of suspects. This was unnecessary, and probably dangerous to the individuals.   

This is similar in that it leapfrogs over the judicial process. And showing the Kansas City suspects with bandages on their faces adds an extra prejudicial layer. 

Surely, there will be ample opportunity to get photos when the trial and court appearances are underway.

The Kansas City Star should be applauded for its 2020 change in policy. It could have waited on this. 

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