More journalistic malpractice, this time from the Associated Press and reporter James Nord.
One of the most bizarre moments in Friday’s trial is also one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard happening in a criminal trial in the United State: the state of South Dakota brought in a witness to attack Annette Bosworth’s reputation based entirely on third-hand hearsay and gossip.
If you’ve been following media reporting on the Bosworth trial, you’d have no way of knowing that, however—this breach of justice wasn’t reported anywhere.
While I’ve learned to expect as much from South Dakota media, it’s strange to see it from national media, as well. Here’s how the Associated Press reported it, in a story that was picked up nationally. Here it is in a Seattle paper:
Ethan Crisp, a former campaign staffer who has been in a financial dispute with Bosworth, testified that Bosworth has the reputation of being “not truthful and deceitful.”
That was the last testimony the jury heard, by the way.
It’s true as far as it goes.
However, it completely leaves out the basis on which Crisp testified: gossip.
Ethan Crisp worked for the Bosworth campaign for about four months, all prior to the petition signature controversy.
Crisp didn’t testify from about Bosworth from his personal knowledge of her but from things he heard from three female friends of his who heard it from unnamed other people.
In other words, Crisp was allowed to testify about Bosworth’s reputation based entirely on gossip. Gossip is defined as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”
Not a single, specific example of Bosworth being not truthful or deceitful was given by Crisp. Nor did he have any other testimony to back up his claim.
Based on what three random people in Sioux Fallas supposedly told Crisp that other people supposedly told them, Crisp was allowed to testify to Bosworth’s “current general reputation for truth and veracity in the Sioux Falls community in which she lives.”
Why the Associated Press reporter James Nord leave this huge, significant detail out of his story?
I’ve included the complete testimony of Crisp at the top of the post so you can listen for yourself.
There’s no possible way that the AP’s Nord missed the lack of any substance that Crisp’s testimoney was based on. Bosworth’s lawyer Dana Hanna made several objections and argued that there was no foundation for the testimony.
Here’s my transcript of the discussion that comes about 4 minutes into the audio:
Hanna: Sir, are you saying that you’ve spoken to three people about Dr. Bosworth and you’ve about to given an opinion based on what those three people have told you?
Crisp: That’s correct.
Hanna: And these three people; one is a…works at Starbucks, the other is a 911 dispatcher and one somebody you said goes to nursing school?
Hanna: They’re not involved in politics, are they?
Hanna: And they’re not…they don’t have any direct contact with Dr. Bosworth, do they?
Crisp: Not to my knowledge, not right now.
Hanna: And…you haven’t given us information about what your source of information…did they read about her on Facebook and blogs, is that it?
Crisp: Um, no. They are very much involved in their community in their respective positions? They speak with community members on a daily basis. And so it’s based off of that. Not once was it based off of any article written or anything…
Hanna: So it’s based on hearsay that they hear from other people, you say you speak with lots of people about Dr. Bosworth?
Crisp: Yes, well they…at the same time I would point out that they also live in the community.
Hanna: So they live in Sioux Falls? How many people live in Sioux Falls?
Crisp: You answer that.
Hanna: I don’t know the answer, that’s why I asked you. A lot of people, right?
Hanna: Largest city in the state of South Dakota. And you’ve talked to three people who talked to somebody about Dr. Bosworth?
Attorney General Office: Your honor, I think we’ve moved to argument now.
Hanna: I’ll withdraw the question, your honor. There is no sufficient foundation for this testimony.
Judge: It goes not to the foundation but to the weight of the testimony. He can answer.
Attorney General Office : So I’ll ask the question again. Mr. Crisp, are you aware of Dr. Boswoth’s current general reputation for truth and veracity in the Sioux Falls community in which she lives?
Crisp: Yes, I…
Hanna: I object.
Attorney General Office: And…
Judge: The answer will stand. Objection overruled.
Attorney General Office: And what is that reputation?
Crisp: The reputation is that she’s not truthful and deceitful.
Attorney General Office: Thank you, that’s all I have.
This is simply hit job journalism by Nord: he simply leaves his readers with the impression that Bosworth is dishonest.