Traverse City Record-Eagle


March 30, 2014

Editorial: Keeping public in dark doesn't serve justice

Using Grand Traverse Prosecutor Bob Cooney’s logic, no one’s record for a prior arrest could ever be made public on the off chance that on some future day he could be charged with another crime and knowledge of the prior arrest could jeopardize his chance for a fair trial.

It’s a preposterous bit of illogic that in this case — the March 21 shooting death of Roger Rex Howard in Long Lake Township — keeps the public in the dark about a suspect in a fatal shooting. If applied to other cases, his reasoning opens the door for law enforcement officials to simply decide what information they will and won’t share with the public.

That’s not acceptable.

It’s good to see the prosecutor showing such concern for a suspect’s rights. By law, a person is innocent until proven guilty. It’s up to the prosecutor’s office to convince a jury or a judge, if it comes to it, that the accused did what the police say he or she did.

But there is no prohibition from letting the public know if it’s the accused’s first run-in with police or if he has a long criminal history. Police and prosecutors routinely release information on repeat drunken drivers or someone with prior domestic assault convictions.

So it was deeply troubling when Cooney redacted — whited out — a portion of a police report concerning Nicole Rachell Mitchell’s arrest for retail fraud and assault and battery after a Dec. 13 incident at the Younkers department store.

According to the available parts of a police report from that incident an employee saw Mitchell, who Cooney considers a suspect in Howard’s March 21 shooting death, place items in her purse. She paid for a pair of pants, the report stated, but items in her purse remained concealed.

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