September 22, 2013

Experts: Mom's strategy in Ayla case could backfire

Trista Reynolds says she will release details about her daughter's case. But legal experts say that using publicity can often do more harm than good.


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Trista Reynolds
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Trista Reynolds

The Associated Press

"Public and media pressure ... poses the greatest risk for distorting normal decision making in the criminal justice system," MacFarlane wrote in an academic paper on wrongful convictions.

In an email last week, MacFarlane said the release of information to the public is unlikely to advance justice.

"The bottom line is that the planned press conference, at least for that purpose, is a very bad idea," he said. "Victim lobbying efforts, though well-intentioned, can backfire badly."

In his paper, MacFarlane said law enforcement officials are most often swayed in publicized cases involving "violence toward a woman or child, or cases in which a child dies under tragic circumstances," and that public outcry can lead to tunnel vision in which investigators build a case against an individual rather than weighing all evidence objectively.

Stokes said there is frustration about the case all up and down the chain of command, but the pressure of emotion isn't swaying judgment.

"We're as frustrated as anybody else is," Stokes said. "We're in the business of solving cases. There's nothing more frustrating to us than not being able to solve the case and bring some closure for everyone involved."

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:


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