County Gov't Tries To Dodge Liability In Jailhouse Deaths By Intimidating The Journalist Who Exposed Them

from the step-aside,-Constitution! dept

To keep itself from being held liable for inmate deaths, San Diego County (CA) has decided to target the journalist who exposed them. Kelly Davis, along with the EFF's Dave Maass, used public records requests and investigative journalism to detail 60 deaths in the county's five jails, which occurred over the course of five years. The death rate in San Diego jails was consistently higher than those of comparably-sized systems. In fact, the death rate was higher than that of the 10 largest jail systems in the country. Documents showed almost a third of those were preventable.

But when a lawsuit was filed by the wife of an inmate who died in a San Diego County jail, the county argued there was no negligence. The presiding judge disagreed, citing Davis and Maass' journalism.

The Marine’s widow is suing the county, claiming the jail system didn’t protect Nesmith from himself despite multiple warning signs. A judge allowed the case to go forward, noting that news coverage could “plausibly” have given the county a heads-up of “a pattern of deliberate indifference” to suicidal inmates.

Ok, if that's the way you want to play this, said the county in its next filing. If these reports should have given us heads up on negligence in county jails, let's see if we can't dispute the accuracy of the reports. The county has asked the judge to force Kelly Davis to turn over everything she has on jail deaths, including documents and interviews that haven't been published.

Randy Dotinga of the Voice of San Diego explains what the county is really trying to do with this discovery demand:

Let’s dig beyond the legalese into what the county is actually saying here:

So you’re suggesting we should have known that we had a big problem with jail suicides because of those “60 Dead Inmates” headlines and done something? Maybe those stories were wrong, and we didn’t need to know about a problem we didn’t actually have! We can’t be bothered to run the numbers ourselves, so we’ll force the reporter to do it for us.

This part is unsaid: This will also suck up hours of depositions and cost everyone a bundle. Luckily, we’re taxpayer-funded! And hey, we’ll learn who squealed to the reporter too. Bonus!

This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance. The county has plenty of previous reporting it could dig into, as well as unfettered access to jail records and jail employees. Instead, it's dragging the journalist to court and attempting to unmask sources. The county is trying to bypass First Amendment protections and the state's journalist shield laws to skirt liability in jailhouse deaths.

Fortunately, Davis has pro bono representation pushing back against the county's demands. It appears the county didn't think the journalist would stand up for her rights. So, it's changed its arguments. Instead of bypassing Constitutional protections, the government is hoping to get every damning piece of journalism booted from the ongoing civil rights lawsuit. The new "deal" proposed by the county would be to rescind its demands for sources and source material from Davis if the plaintiff agrees to never bring up Davis' reporting during the lawsuit. One way or another, the county is hoping to bury inconvenient facts. The widow bringing the lawsuit has refused this deal, meaning the reporting is still in play and the demand for Davis to reveal everything she's collected still an ongoing concern.

For now, Davis won't have to turn over anything. As Voice of San Diego reports, the judge has ruled against the county's request. The county may appeals this order, but for now, Davis won't have to produce documents or testify.

As Dotinga points out, this is nothing more than intimidation from government reps who think they can push their constituents around.

We’ve seen several recent cases of overreach by lawyers who work for taxpayers. The city attorney’s office slut-shamed a victim of a predatory cop and held an extensive jail term over the head of a man who protested a bank by writing slogans in chalk on a sidewalk. The district attorney’s office, meanwhile, targeted a rapper over his lyrics and tried to send a group of men to jail for having links to a gang involved in a fatal shooting.

This is how San Diego is handling problems with its law enforcement officers. It's punishing citizens for speaking up, protesting, engaging in journalism, or being the victims of sexual assault by people in positions of power. Every single aspect of this is shameful, but having a sense of shame means admitting the county has a problem (well, several of them). County reps aren't paid to admit fault. But they shouldn't be collecting paychecks for violating the US Constitution and state law, either.


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:23pm

    I’m shocked—shocked!—that the county government would abuse their power this way!

    I thought they would have convinced the cops that the reporter was some sort of drug dealer or something and used the arrest as a pretext to seize her work material.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:32pm

    First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

    2nd, when you initiate suit, that party gets to DISCOVER ALL EVIDENCE POSSIBLE, even from 3rd parties. Even if respondent is county gov't. I expect that to win on appeal. It's "plausible" you KNOW that, except as always you kids believe that law goes only YOUR way.

    3rd, the charge is "didn't protect Nesmith from himself"! Pretty much non-starter with a jury, likely to require explicit proof not just weeping widow.

    4th, "plausibly" is the requirement of giving every benefit to Plaintiff. It's "plausible" that Masnick gives Commenting Guidelines here at TD, IF one has read every last word, but sure as hell ain't on the front page so it ain't "effective" for a reasonable person. But county gov't can't read AND believe everything that's in a newspaper, now can it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:37pm

      Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

      NONE of which should be read as ME having decided.

      I'm impartial as always, except to point out that this minion has already decided the case based on biases against police and prosecutors. -- But that's not LAW, kids. It's exactly what you complain about with police and prosecutors, besides Pai and Trump, among others, and any prejudice will not help you in law or discussions.

      (Sigh. "Oh, but YOU'RE SO PREJUDICED!" -- And it doesn't help me, now does it? Huh? Ain't I right on that narrow little point?)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:39pm

        Re: Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

        It does not matter if TD is biased or not... it only matters if they are correct. And it looks like they are.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:55pm

        Re: Re:

        I'm impartial as always

        I wish I could mark individual phrases with the “Funny” tag.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:37pm

      Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

      What is your shoe size? I bet it matches your IQ.

      This is obviously intimidation. Not only it is obvious, there is no secret that intimidation is the go to tool for law enforcement on all initial interactions with anyone or anything they determine to be hostile to their shiny and pristine armor.

      And you have to be a fucking idiot to believe a suit against government agency is going to be allowed to discover evidence easily either. The police are not only allowed but encouraged to lie to suspect, the court, and to the people.

      It's all one big dishonest Olympic sporting event.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:17pm

        Re: Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

        > What is your shoe size? I bet it matches your IQ.

        You're right: 254! In millimeters. I suppose you're one of those narrow-minded bigots who still use the Imperial system, though.

        > This is obviously intimidation.

        It MAY BE, but YOU will never be on a jury if state such a prejudice, because there can be no fair trial from you.

        FAIRNESS is absolutely essential to JUSTICE, people. You cannot just point at gov't employees and state that they're by that very fact guilty. You are EXACTLY bad as what you accuse them of, then. Prejudice rarely wins in public opinion, let alone in court. You need nailed-down FACTS.

        Techdirt's schtick, of course, is to inflame the rabble. -- Only narrrow-minded rabble, who see only one side.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:32pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          FAIRNESS is absolutely essential to JUSTICE, people. You cannot just point at gov't employees and state that they're by that very fact guilty.

          Actually, we can. Whether we should is the thing you want to argue against.

          Prejudice rarely wins in public opinion

          Which is why so much of your anti-Techdirt schtick falls flat.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:57pm

          Re: Re: Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

          Do you remove all the mirrors from your house, or just ignore them?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:42pm

      Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

      You are wrong, as always.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

      Why would they need to go after Davis’s source material when they can ask the actual source—the jails where all these deaths happened—for most, if not all, of the same information that she used in her reporting? Going after her reeks of trying to intimidate a reporter into not reporting something that embarasses government employees. It also comes off as secondary intimidation to whoever gave her that information, since a perusal of her source material would likely reveal sources who thought they would remain confidential.

      when you initiate suit, that party gets to DISCOVER ALL EVIDENCE POSSIBLE, even from 3rd parties

      Again: What makes Davis’s source material worth digging into when the county government can ask the jails for much of the same information? If the employees of those jails lie to or obfuscate the truth from the county government, that is not Davis’s concern.

      the charge is "didn't protect Nesmith from himself"! Pretty much non-starter with a jury, likely to require explicit proof not just weeping widow.

      Yes, which is why Davis’s reporting has been allowed in: to help show proof of negligence. The county knows that her reporting is one of the key factors in the lawsuit being allowed to go forward, which is why they offered the plaintiff that (rejected) deal.

      But county gov't can't read AND believe everything that's in a newspaper, now can it?

      Which is why they should have asked the jails for any relevant information that would either prove or disprove Davis’s reporting. They did not need to go after a journalist—and possibly her sources—just so they could get that information. This whole situation reeks of the county government being embarassed in a bunch of different ways and trying to punish the person who embarassed them. It spits in the face of First Amendment protections for journalists and their reporting. I see no reason why the county government should prevail here, and you have not offered any such reason.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

        > Which is why they should have asked the jails for any relevant information that would either prove or disprove Davis’s reporting.

        No, you're accepting an assertion slipped in to confuse this. -- It's certainly "plausible" that journalist has sources NOT available to internal investigation, as those who committed whatever alleged misdeeds will NOT run to their supervisor and confess.

        It's "plausible" too that county has information that the alleged incidents were fabricated by disgruntled, fired, guards, or fully gruntled political opponents, and so on.

        YOU DO NOT KNOW UNTIL DISCOVERY PROCEEDS. YOU ARE SIMPLY PREJUDICED THAT THE COUNTY IS EVIL. THERE CAN BE NO FAIR TRIAL WITH YOUR ILK.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

          It's certainly "plausible" that journalist has sources NOT available to internal investigation, as those who committed whatever alleged misdeeds will NOT run to their supervisor and confess.

          If a jail employee lies or obfuscates the truth to the county government, that is not Davis’s problem.

          It's "plausible" too that county has information that the alleged incidents were fabricated by disgruntled, fired, guards, or fully gruntled political opponents, and so on.

          Then they should use that information in court to discredit Davis’s reporting, rather than go after her in a blatant attempt to intimidate her.

          YOU ARE SIMPLY PREJUDICED THAT THE COUNTY IS EVIL. THERE CAN BE NO FAIR TRIAL WITH YOUR ILK.

          One: Calm down, Spanky, you do not need all-caps for emphasis. Two: I am not involved in this case in any way, so I can be as prejudiced as I want; my opinion is not going to change the outcome of this situation.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:20pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

            > so I can be as prejudiced as I want

            Yup, but entirely unconvincing.

            You admit that you're prejudiced, FINE, that's all I wanted from you.

            By the way, you forgot to strip off my subject line that time.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2018 @ 9:15pm

        Re: Re:

        _when you initiate suit, that party gets to DISCOVER ALL EVIDENCE POSSIBLE, even from 3rd parties_

        I think it's worthwhile to point out that out_of_the_blue never, ever argued for this for people defending themselves from copyright trolls. Heaven forbid anyone try to find out if Malibu Media's evidence is legit, just suck it up or spend thousands of dollars fighting it out in court, based on sheer benefit of doubt...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 4:51pm

      Re: First: "This is an obvious attempt to intimidate a journalist who exposed misconduct and malfeasance." -- NO, that's yet to be proven; just stating YOUR blatant prejudice.

      For a sovcit you sure love to suck off cops.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:53pm

    And hey, we’ll learn who squealed to the reporter too.

    Just once I'd like to see a reporter "comply" government agency style by releasing documents with blacked-out redacted bits. Including the odd page blacked out entirely except for a few random words.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 12:56pm

    Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information? Withholding it from public for private gain?

    Notice I write "publish the information", not sources, which avoids the tangle minion tries to insert above.

    However, it's not unknown for "journalists" to fabricate stories, so sources (or lack thereof) may well be relevant soon as the information is checked...

    Most likely, compromise will be reached on sources, but the information SHOULD ALREADY be public. "Journalists" aren't given license to hoard information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:03pm

      Re:

      Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information?

      I would assume that some of it is irrelevant to her reporting and thus did not need to be published. And feel free to correct me on this if I am wrong, but I am fairly sure that a journalist is under no legal obligation to either publish the entirety of their work product or show their source material to anyone they do not believe needs to see it unless a court says otherwise.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:25pm

        Re: Re: Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information? Withholding it from public for private gain?

        > I would assume...

        FINE. All that I needed you to admit.

        I have evidence then, that you are not fit to serve on ANY jury (not just the one you won't be on here, silly): you've stated that you're prejudiced and assume. If ever on a jury, be sure to inform judge and defense that you are by nature prejudiced and assume, and you'll be dismissed, sure fire.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I have evidence then, that you are not fit to serve on ANY jury (not just the one you won't be on here, silly): you've stated that you're prejudiced and assume.

          Everyone has prejudices and assumes things. It is inescapable human nature; being told to set aside prejudices does not rid you of them. By your logic, nobody is fit to serve on any jury—including you, since you assume people can just rid themselves of their prejudices at the behest of a court and you have a distinct prejudice of your own against Techdirt and its writers.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Rapnel (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 2:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Damn, this is one fat, well-fed, troll mofo. What do you guys think about butterflies?

            The king of the happy hypocrite troll warriors says that you're prejudiced and assumptive .. and you should feel bad.

            Can't everyone
            Understand
            Not to feed this
            Troll quite so much?

            ( !! + 1 )

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 11:10pm

        Re: Re:

        More than that, a journalist won’t have an audience if they don’t edit down to the critical few facts. It’s called editing!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      HTB, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:16pm

      Re: Actually, the question is [...]

      What is it with you and the word "minion"? Why is it that someone agreeing with a viewpoint you dislike equals them being servile stooges to the author or their boss?

      You're being very cavalier about the fact that most of the time publication of underlying documentation is intrinsically linked to revealing the sources. Whether it be eyewitness testimony that gives a clue as to which department a source works in or a photocopy of internal documents with identifying marks. There's also personal information that isn't relevant to the story and is therefor omitted.

      A lot of outlets actually »do« publish various source documents (see DocumentCloud), but they're curated to remove information that is not germane to the story at hand or to remove content that compromises information about low-level employees irrelevant to the scandal.

      I'm fairly certain none of this will convince you, and most other readers seem to have made the decision to ignore your posts outright. After reading your rantings on every single new article in the last few days, I can't say I disagree with their reasoning.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2018 @ 5:22am

        Re: Re: Actually, the question is [...]

        It's an old SovCit canard. Anyone who disagrees with them is "brainwashed" into obeying the government, and only they are smart enough to resist.

        In their mind, everyone else is servile to a government without authority, and they're they only truly free people.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Chris-Mouse (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:24pm

      Re: Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information? Withholding it from public for private gain?

      Information given to a journalist is not necessarily true. It's also quite frequently damaging to someone's reputation. a good journalist will use multiple sources to corroborate the information. A smart journalist will also require evidence for the truth of anything that ever gets published.
      Since there's always a part of the story that cannot be proven, it makes a whole lot of sense for a journalist to have a whole pile of unpublished information that will never see publication.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:43pm

      Re: Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information? Withholding it from public for private gain?

      Journalists are not required to publish everything, indeed part of their job is selecting the most relevant infomation, so that readers do not have to plow through reams of incidental and trivial data to find the useful nuggets.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 1:58pm

      Re: Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information? Withholding it from public for private gain?

      ""Journalists" aren't given license to hoard information."

      This is the dumbest thing I've read in some time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gwiz (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 2:25pm

        Re: Re: Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information? Withholding it from public for private gain?

        This is the dumbest thing I've read in some time.

        And that's saying a whole lot considering how much "dumb" Blue has been posting lately.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      someoneinnorthms, 18 Feb 2018 @ 8:15am

      Re: Actually, the question is WHY hasn't journalist not published entirety of information? Withholding it from public for private gain?

      I don't think I've heard such a stupid question in all my life. I suppose this fellow wants to read her grocery list, too. After all, this is "information" the journalist is "hoarding."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2018 @ 2:08pm

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary
    O'er many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
    While I, to the subject clinging, facts and judgment all forth-bringing,
    Suddenly there came a ringing, ringing at my website door.
    "'Tis some dung-laden troll, I muttered, flinging at my website door.
    Only this, and nothing more.

    Ah, distinctly, he is present, rampant raging and incessant,
    Anthropoidish adolescent, pissing in the comment pool.
    And each separate post he disses, every fact and reason misses,
    Every form of law dismisses, like a madman or a fool.
    Every post with rude demeaning, "all the world but he a fool."
    Darkness there, both mean and cruel.

    And the blighter still is bleating, all our patience still depleting,
    New supplies of dung excreting, flinging at my website door.
    Never "natural human" writing would so heedless be inciting
    Such a meaningless infighting, and in language all abhore,
    If his heart were not pure evil, to its stygian inner core:
    And his talk--he's just a bore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wronski Feint (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 2:48pm

    County reps aren't paid to admit fault. ???

    Yes they are. They are paid to serve the public, not themselves. Please don't blithely accept this dereliction of duty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Snape (profile), 16 Feb 2018 @ 8:11pm

    Just an FYI

    The jails are run by the Sheriff's department, and our current Sheriff is Bill Gore, who was the FBI agent who gave the shoot-to-kill order at Ruby Ridge, then refused to testify to Congress over what happened.

    Source: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/oct/29/ticker-remember-ruby-ridge-sheriff-gore/#

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scott, 17 Feb 2018 @ 12:08pm

    Actually, it is VERY clear that this is a shot at the journalist since under the notice standards for common law tort liability the truth or falsity of the statement (in this case the articles) is irrelevant. The statement (articles) are not excludable as hearsay since their truth or falsity is irrelevant. All that matters is that the statement was made.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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