Thursday, January 29, 2009

Television Journalism

So, here we go again. Tonight is Oxygen’s turn via their program “Snapped”, produced by Jupiter Entertainment. I think I have a pretty good understanding about how these cheesy tabloid shows operate now. My first introduction was with “48 Hours Mystery”, and with certain producers who didn’t put a huge value on honesty and integrity. This made me quite jaded towards television “journalism”. Check out the previous three posts to follow my thoughts. “Not for Nothing”, but here is a take on contemporary tabloid journalism.
These productions that are broadcast, concerning my wife, are intended to produce ratings. The narrative that the prosecution pushed is awesome. Sex, lies, and videotape. Give me more. I’ll watch that. That is the bottom line. Give me a “True Hollywood Story”, and I am entertained. That was why the stolen picture of Mechele raised no concerns to the State or the CBS producers. They both get what they want. The prosecution gets to reinforce their “stripper” depiction and CBS gets to show some skin.
It is interesting to me, again, that Mechele’s previous occupation was so important to the prosecution and media narrative. The prosecution’s strategy was evident in retrospect when a juror commented how Mechele's past “profession” indicated that she was “manipulative”. A “profession” that lasted 1.5 years. As for the media, we know that sex sells. Shoot, the Alaska Daily News even referred to the case as the “Stripper Saga”. But you know what was missing? No mention or references to the fact that the men involved in this particular story were strip club “regulars”.
A “regular” refers to a patron, or client, of a strip club who comes in on a regular basis. I don’t know about you, but to me this is far more depraved then actually stripping. The stripper is making money and her clients know the score the minute they walk into the door. They are providing a service for the clients that the clients demand. However, if you go to a club all the time to pay for lap dancea, I would argue that it is you that has a problem, and not the dancer.
That is, of course, unless you feel men are helpless, mindless testicles running around with no control over their behavior. If you believe that is the case, I think you underestimate men and even “degrade” them. However, that was the prosecution’s narrative. They would have you believe Mechele was a 22 year-old “puppeteer” with magical control over men who were mindless servants. In other words, a fictional character. Maybe even from a movie?
Unfortunately, nuance exists. Please read my previous post that entails communication with the Jupiter Entertainment producers to get a feel for how nuance is ignored in favor of ratings. I redacted all names.
Thank you all for your support.
You give me and my daughter hope.

Colin Linehan

"Oxygen: Snapped" Fun Happy Time Emails

All the producers’ names have been redacted because I still try to retain honor: I also redacted anyone who I did not contact. That is the way I roll. The first email/letter was an open letter to Jupiter Entertainment after I found out they were airing their episode. Of course, I had to find out from a secondary source. Even after I asked Jupiter to contact me so I could prevent my daughter from channel surfing that night, I heard nothing. The second message is to my mother-in-law. The third email is my response to the message from my mother-in-law. Confused? Me too.

And Here We Go…”

(From me and myself…. And also I.)


As you are well aware, I have had multiple conversations with two of your fellow Jupiter Entertainment producers regarding the case, State of Alaska vs. Mechele Linehan. Ms. XXXXX contacted me while she was doing field research for your episode of “Snapped” that was to feature Mechele. Ms. XXXXX was invited into my home so I could show her documents and audio that are not congruent with the previous media narrative and coverage. The narrative, of course, is determined by the State of Alaska investigators and prosecutors because of the verdict. Therefore, data that shows the individuals, working on behalf of the people of Alaska, were dishonest and manipulative of the media is excluded from most narratives.
I decided to share much of this with Ms. XXXXX I have also had email and phone correspondence with Ms. XXXXX, who is your series producer. I also had a very brief correspondence with you. Through that correspondence, although brief, I gave you the opportunity to meet with me prior to your work on your part of the production of the episode. The correspondence was cut short, on your end, secondary to lack of email and phone reply. These claims are documented. This letter’s intent is to clarify some areas in the previous media narratives about Mechele that are false.
This is necessary because of Jupiter Entertainment’s decision not to fact check statements that might have been made by other individuals about Mechele. So, if the narration or promotion of your episode makes statements that are false, you will be aware that you are slandering my wife and my daughter’s mother. I realize it is difficult to slander a convicted murderer. However, our anticipation of a successful appeal and subsequent retrial will potentially make organizations that neglect to fact check responsible for the damage to my family.
It has already been brought to my attention that you have already neglected the truth to sell your program. In your promotion for your episode, you state that Mechele was secretly engaged to Scott Hilke at the time of the crime. This is demonstrably false via depositions, testimony and affidavit. I will, therefore, mention other aspects of the media/prosecution narrative that are also false via depositions, testimony, and affidavit. This will give you foreknowledge of any potential slander. These examples are by no means the only false reports. I, however, do not have the time to list all the fallacies reported so, I will elucidate a few. This does not absolve any statements made by Jupiter Entertainment that were not fact checked.
It was reported that Mechele was “on the run” when first indicted. This is the opposite of truth because we were pleading with the prosecution for cooperation. The prosecution also let the press know that Mechele ran away from home at the age of 14 to become a dancer in New Jersey. Mechele was in Louisiana at age 14, and she went to New Jersey at age 17 and worked at a deli. This is verifiable and can be corroborated by multiple witnesses and affidavits. Other false information that was put out included that Mechele was engaged to three men at the same time. There is no evidence of this and, in fact, the evidence timeline during the trial shows this not to be the case at all.
The portrayal of Mechele by the media and prosecution was always consistent. The term “ex-stripper” was always there, as was “seduction”, “manipulation”, and “mastermind”. The portrayal was based on a paucity of evidence during a 3 month period, yet that portrayal defined who she was to the public. This portrayal was used by the local Alaska media to twist the facts presented during the trial. . For example, during the trial, the Prosecution presented the fact that Mechele uses her possessions to document equity when purchasing her motor home. That night, a “journalist” on television, that was in the courtroom that day, reported that Mechele was “trying to sell” her possessions for a “getaway” RV.
Another point of contention is when Detective Stogsdale and Detective DeHart state that Mechele is a sociopath. A sociopath is a term used to describe a person with anti-social personality disorder. This is a DSM-IV diagnosis based on empiric findings and criteria. Mechele meets none of the criteria, therefore, the term is pure pejorative. This was well demonstrated by Dr. Mark Mills testimony during Mechele’s sentencing hearing.
I understand that your duty as “post producer” is to make an episode that will generate viewers and advertising revenue. That is your job. But, I would also expect that you would be very concerned that any statements, broadcast by Jupiter Entertainment, would be fact-checked for veracity.
This is an open letter.


Colin A. Linehan

II. Initial email to Sandy McWilliams (my beloved mother-in-law), from Jupiter Entertainment Producer:

XXXXX forwarded your message to me. I really hate that you are upset by what is on the Oxygen website. I am hoping I can address your concerns by, first, answering some of the specific questions you have.

As to the excerpt you viewed on Oxygen's website and the timeline of when Mechele met Kent Leppink and John Carlin, we referenced Mechele’s statement to Alaska State Troopers at her home on on May 5, 1996:

R: I’ve known Scott longer than I’ve known Kent.
I : oh okay
R: I was with Scott when I met Kent
I: oh okay
R: I think I had just, we had just started dating probably three months before my birthday. Right before I met Kent.
I: in ninety four?
R: yeah

and Mechele's statements to police on July 31st, 1996:
Q: Okay, where did you meet John Carlin?
A: Last summer

You also asked who all we interviewed, and here is the list: From the Defense: yourself, John Carlin III, XXXXX; From the police/prosecution: Linda Branchflower, Steve DeHart, Pat Gullufsen, Dallas Massie; journalists: XXXXX ; others: XXXXX.

If you have any question as to what any of these people had to say, please call or write and I will be glad to share that information with you. I simply cannot legally send out a copy of the show before it airs, but again, do not mind filling you in.

I also want to assure you that it is always our highest priority to produce accurate stories. This episode has been reviewed by four attorneys, who require that we back up all statements with public record. We also feel that, because we interviewed so many people, both sides are presented fairly. Below I have listed some (not all) sound bites from our show in support of Mechele. I hope they will put your mind at ease, and again, please feel free to call or write back if you have any further questions.

Series Producer, Snapped
Jupiter Entertainment
8923 Linksvue Drive
Knoxville, TN 37922

XXXXX (Journalist): I remember talking to a neighbor who was very, um, shocked and stunned and didn’t believe that Mechele could have had anything to do with this.

XXXXX (Attorney for John Carlin III): There was a lot of hearsay in this case, a lot of speculation in this case. A lot of stitching together of details with hypotheses.

XXXXX (Attorney for John Carlin IV): Mechele was convicted because she was a stripper they just figured she was a manipulative stripper, and that’s what they do.

Sandy McWilliams (Mother of Mechele Linehan): I think it’s really unfortunate what a young girl at nineteen did for a year and a half of her life be judged by that.
(regarding Kent's letter to his parents)

XXXXX (Attorney): It was a piece of hearsay. The person who said it wasn’t available to cross-examine.

XXXXX (Attorney for John Carlin IV): That’s a very odd letter. It’s a letter that suggests to some when you read it that he wanted to set people up.

III. My Unsolicited Response to the Inane (see above) Email Sent to Sandy:


I don't like snark, but I find it hard not to be snarky about your email response to Sandy. It was, in my opinion, kind of ridiculous. How do the quotes from the investigation you provided back up any kind of claim that Mechele's engagement to Scott Hilke was "secret"? It is pulled out of thin air.

You decided to not interview any journalists who were actually present during the trial, and to include XXXXX is farcical. This individual dismissed our polite requests to not contact us at our home on multiple occasions and was NEVER present during the trial. The reporting on the trial had little to do with what was actually going on during the trial. I was present the entire time. Sandy knows the players, but she was only present for a small part of the trial. Point being, your claim of "both sides being presented fairly" is seemingly disingenuous.

I realize you have a show to sell and advertising revenue to generate. Please don't insult my family's intelligence, however. We never expected balance from your episode. We never expected anything but a superficial examination of the prosecutions case. I gave the benefit of the doubt to two of your producers, but when the post-production was about to begin, it was clear that Ms. Houston wasn't interested in attempts to challenge the prosecution's narrative.

Unfortunately, my mother-in-law trusted Ms. XXXXX and decided to participate. Unlike myself, she hasn't been burned before, and one has to experience it to know it. I am alluding to my experience with CBS.

Enclosed is a letter I sent via mail and email to your producers.
Please don't attempt to state that your show is fact-checked when you relied only on the prosecution. As many involved in this case can tell you, they have been very dishonest multiple times. My offer to fact-check was turned down.

Also... I would not be surprised if your decision to not discuss the movie, "The Last Seduction", was not suggested by the prosecution. They sure do not want to beat that horse anymore, as it is to their detriment. So, please don't pat yourself on the back for that. It obviously is a strong appellate point and should never have been used to portray Mechele during a trial.

Colin Linehan

"The Media"

Let me start by saying that many of us have a take on “The Media”. This is a very nebulous term. It encompasses many genres and institutions. In today’s society, the majority of “media” is focused on entertainment. Why? Easy…It sells! You need advertising revenue to make money. The “media” institutions need to make money. Whether it is a newspaper, a nightly news broadcast, a magazine show, or a myriad of other media venues, they deliver their appropriate manna to feed their particular audience’s appetite. Don’t get me wrong. There are journalists out there. I’ve met a few. Sandy Cummings and Keith Morrison of NBC are genuine, to name two. Let me digress for a second, and I appreciate your patience.
I personally discovered the art of journalism through Vietnam. In college and medical school, I had a fascination with the trauma and polarity that the Vietnam Conflict inflicted on our society. I studied some of this through the correspondents that covered the war with “boots on the ground”. Halberstam, Sheehan, and Herr to name a few. William Prochnau’s “Once Upon a Distant War” is a must read for those who appreciate the art of journalism. The ethos of journalism can not be more exemplified by the writings of these individuals. I would also recommend the portfolio book “Requiem”. This book is a tribute to the fallen photo journalists who covered Vietnam and Indochina for the pubic. They did this so they could witness the reality they were supporting.
I came to love the art and ethics of journalism through these, and many other works. Unfortunately, I was a bit naïve from my self-study. I became easily swayed by an individual claiming to stand by and for journalistic integrity. Our first experience, with CBS, dispersed my basic assumptions and left me the fool. Once. Never twice.
Let me give you an example. Just one for this post: although there are many. I do, indeed, have many but this one is so classic tabloid. During the CBS broadcast of “48 Hours Mystery” concerning my wife, the producers decided to use a picture of my wife in the broadcast. This particular photograph was of her naked. The used it multiple times, as I understand (Disclaimer: I have not seen any of these programs about my wife. Why should I? I sat through the entire trial and know all the details of the case). The problem with this is that this photograph was stolen. Stolen how? Well here is the kicker. It was stolen from the State of Alaska. See… this picture wound up in the State’s property, which is a story I can’t go into here. However, this picture was not introduced as discovery.
What does that mean? Good question. It means that the picture was property of the State and not part of the public record. So how did “48 Hours Mystery” get it? Well here is the deal. They had to either illegally steal (redundant) it from State property, or the State illegally gave it to one of the producers. Illegal? Yes. However, something is only illegal if the State decides it wants to prosecute it. Does any one want to take a bet that the executive branch in Alaska cares about this illegal act? Again, the power of the State is absolute if no one cares what they do, legal or not.
For instance, prosecutor Pat Gullifsen feigned extreme mock indignation, during the trial, when we suggested that Ms. Laura Aspiotis perjured herself. “Perjury is a very serious crime…” stated Mr. Gullifsen. This was regarding the fact that Ms. Aspiotis had a journal entry regarding her viewing of “The Last Seduction” with her husband only. My question was this: if perjury was so serious to Mr. Gullifsen, then why didn’t he proceed with a criminal investigation regarding Mr. Lane Leppink and Mr. Ransom Leppink’s completely contradictory testimony? Again, exempli gratia, it is only a crime when the State wants it to be. It is a stacked deck, in that regard.
But I digress… the following post is the email exchange between Jupiter Entertainment and me. Not really an exchange, but it will shed some light on their attempts to fact check. Also, I won’t have to type everything again :)

Hey Friends

I haven’t been able to post in awhile for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that I really can’t talk about anything of substance while the appeal is still pending. Another reason is that I, at this time, have very little free time and I am already too sleep deprived J However, I always feel obliged to post when another media outlet tries their version of journalism.
You have to understand that this case is very much nuanced. I can go on for a book about the case and its trial. I know it better than most. For one, I was told the entire story when I first met Mechele, and it has never changed from her. Incidentally, that story is consistent with every bit of evidence and discovery presented.
“Why was she found guilty then?” you might ask. Well for one, the jury bought the prosecution’s narrative about who Mechele is. They don’t have a clue. Trust me. And for two, we were prevented by the judge to contest and introduce many things. It is nice to know that the prosecution could introduce a Hollywood movie into a trial, though. Especially one that had nothing to do with the prosecution’s allegations. That was surreal.
Anyway… the following three posts will be separate but linked. I didn’t want to write a book, and I have a tendency to be verbose. I figured splitting up my posts might make it less annoying for you.
Take care and love,


Friday, January 2, 2009

Appeal News

Hello All,

There haven't been many postings here because there hasn't been any news to really report. However, we do have some exciting news that happened shortly before Christmas.

The appeal has officially been filed.

Now the prosecution has a minimum of 30 days to reply. (They may ask for an extension.) After that, the defense has 30 days to reply. After that, it goes before the judge. Then he can take some time to decide. I believe it was 3 months to a year??? However, it could be quicker.

Please keep Mechele and her family in your prayers as this crucial part of the process progresses.