Crime and Justice Issues On The Public’s Radar

by Diane Dimond on January 20, 2014


Crime Stories on Top of List

Last year’s tally is now in and the news story that garnered the most searches on the internet was … (can I get a drum roll, please?) …. A crime story!

Before I get to the winner, may I just say that life as a crime and justice columnist is sometimes a lonely one. I don’t think there’s another writer in America who – week in and week out – concentrates only on issues surrounding our justice system.

I’m fascinated by the topic but, sometimes, I wonder how many of you readers are. Sure, I get mail from many of you, and I truly appreciate it, but now I have some real statistics to back up the idea that Americans are, indeed, interested in following crime and justice stories.

More Tweets Than Any Other Paper

There’s a company called Searchmetrics which keeps track of trends and clicks and views of just about everything on the worldwide web. It also identifies which U.S. newspapers are the most popular on Twitter (The winner last year: the Washington Post which had its articles tweeted out more than 275,000 times) and which individual stories have been shared most often.

So, the Twitter traffic winner of 2013 was a USA Today article about Evan Spencer Ebel, a 28 year old parolee from Denver who was a prime suspect in the shooting death of Tom Clements, the director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. One evening in March, 2013, Clements, 58, answered the door at his home and was shot dead. The FBI was called in and the fact that a top prison official could be killed on his own doorstep captivated readers. In addition, Ebel was wanted in connection with the shooting death of Nathan Leon, a Colorado pizza delivery driver.

Evan Spencer Ebel

The winning article vividly described how law enforcement in Texas ended the nationwide manhunt for Ebel after a spectacular, cross-county, high-speed chase. After crashing into an 18-wheeler hauling a load of rocks and shooting at several sheriffs’ deputies Ebel was shot in the head. Police discovered his gun was the same caliber used to kill Clements and Leon. In the Cadillac, deputies found a Domino’s pizza box.

Hundreds of thousands thought that story was interesting enough to share it with others. It was tweeted out a total of 408,816 times!

The second most tweeted article last year was from the Washington Post and had to do with the investigative findings into the case of Adam Lanza, the disturbed young man who killed his mother and then 26 others inside an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. That article was shared 361,259 times.

Lanza Story Captivated Us

The third most tweeted story had to do with the presidential election in Kenya but in the fourth and fifth slots – more crime and justice stories. Number four was an article on the U.S. Supreme Court and potential action on provisions of the voting law (308,926 tweets.) And number five was a story and a pictorial spread about a massive rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day the justices heard the first of two cases involving gay marriage.

I know a tweet count is far from hard scientific data but consider it a sort of internet focus group on how citizens react to today’s overabundance of news. As the Searchmetrics list clearly shows the top stories on the Twitterverse weren’t about celebrity break-ups or addictions, they weren’t about sports or movies or business news. That so many hundreds of thousands of Americans would bother to tweet-share so many crime and justice articles helps erase the idea that the public is apathetic about the topic.

I hope it also signals to media executives a renewed interest in news outside the political sphere. Certainly, it is important to be informed about what our elected officials are doing (or not doing) but if you watch any of the three major cable news channels – CNN, Fox and MSNBC — you know what I mean.  Each of those networks has major staff based in Washington, DC and each continues to stubbornly cling to a line-up of news heavy with national politics. No matter that we, the news-consuming audience are transfixed by stories that have little or nothing to do with bickering politicians.

A Police Roadblock Like This One Stopped Ebel

My point in looking back at the most popular news stories of 2013 is twofold. First, is a very personal reason – the knowledge that I am not alone in caring about crime and justice issues. From nationwide manhunts and shootouts illuminated by the fire of an exploding Cadillac to legal cases that define who we are legally allowed to love and marry — these are topics that define who we are as a people.

The second reason is to thank all those who take the time to stay informed about what is going on in the world around you. It is so important. In these seemingly contradictory, us-versus-them days, when we define ourselves by which candidate we voted for it is really nice – dare I say, heartening — to know so many Americans still want to be well-versed on news that’s not so readily available by flipping on the television.

Thanks for caring. And thanks for reading this column every week. As a wise man – a mentor of mine – once told me, “You can never go wrong having too much information in your head.”


Interesting update on the motivations for Evan Ebel’s murderous spree here.  Retaliation for his solitary confinement?

Diane Dimond January 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Facebook Friend Jack Furlong writes:

“DD, Not surprised about the Lanza story, but Ebel (rhymes with Evil?) was a bit of a surprise, because of course, those of us in the northeast are always surprised at the resonance of stories from the midwest and west. And we can all assure you, folks like crime stories. Never understood why Court TV abandoned all that name recognition to launch re-runs to sell more ads. Revenue? Sure. Serving public appetite? Not so much.”

Diane Dimond January 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Retired Warden & Facebook Friend Ralph V. Logan writes:

“Some can relate to the crime and justice stories. Being in Corrections the Ebel story touched home, it’s amazing that this situation doesn’t happen more.”

Diane Dimond January 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Linked In Friend Robert Olson writes:

“All my wife and I watch are shows based on crime and justice even though I am a retired state police detective. Just in case you haven’t heard, Marty Tankleff was just awarded close to $4 million from New York State for wrongful imprisonment. He still has an active suit in federal court against Suffolk County, NY for wrongful conviction. What really burns me is the the real murderers of his parents are known but will never, ever be investigated, let alone prosecuted.”

Diane Dimond January 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Dear Readers:

I wrote about the compelling wrongful-conviction case of Martin Tankleff in a past column. You can find it in my archive here:

Diane Dimond January 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm

LinkedIn Friend Robert Olson writes:

“All my wife and I watch are shows based on crime and justice even though I am a retired state police detective. Just in case you haven’t heard, Marty Tankleff was just awarded close to $4 million from New York State for wrongful imprisonment. He still has an active suit in federal court against Suffolk County, NY for wrongful conviction. What really burns me is the the real murderers of his parents are known but will never, ever be investigated, let alone prosecuted.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Huffington Post Reader John B. writes:

Q Why don’t corporate executives go to jail?
Short answer…..they own congress.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Huffington Post Reader & criminologist DocBonn writes:

“Unlike street criminals, elite and white-collar criminals have a corporate shield to protect them and PR firms to fight their battles. Perhaps the greatest outrage of all is that when corporations are fined it is the public shareholders who pay the price through lost revenue and stock value. The corporate criminals go unscathed.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Huffington Post Reader Wayne Caswell writes:

“Fining JPMorgan hurts shareholders but does nothing about bad behavior of its execs & employees. Criminal charges should be applied to individuals, as many as are/were involved.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Huffington Post Reader Nicole H. writes:

” Or at least make the fine crippling so shareholders think twice before they elect their board who hires their CEO. I people held these corporations accountable the corporations would hold their CEO and employees accountable.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Please see reader Wayne Caswell’s post above. Fining a corporation really only hurts shareholders – shareholders who did nothing wrong. I stand by the idea that prison time is what will curb this behavior. ~ DD

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Huffington Post Reader wanderer12 writes:

” This is how elites sow the seeds of their own destruction. It all works if it is not too obvious. The problem the are going to have more and more in the US is that is all too obvious. ALEC has been outed. The Kochs have been outed. Summers was outed to the level he dropped any bid for the Fed. The criminal activities of Banks, Big Pharma etc have been outed. Some yutz got off for vehicular homicide by literally arguing he is rich. When people see the law does not apply to the rich and we add a lot of things you start to build the base for what will hopefully only be a political backlash. The worse person you ever want to deal with is the one who feels they have nothing to lose. On the maps it used to say “There be dragons”. On this map it should read there be unrest and rebellion.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Huffington Post Reader Adil E. writes:

“The LIBOR scandal s an open & shut case of Madoff style criminal intent that clearly implicates the banking institutions and lots of the top staff. If you understand a little of Economics you know how big a scandal that should have been…except no punishment and no jail time.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Huffington Post Reader Carl Caroli writes:

” Criminal charges need to brought against any CEO and board of their man made disasters, otherwise, expect more of the same.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Huffington Post Reader Kawanna R. writes:

” Look at Sarbanes/Oxley. it’s an accounting scam set up to protect the executives at the top by throwing some lower level schmuck under the bus who was just following verbal/unprovable orders in case something goes wrong. Then there is the ever convenient SEC and every other department initials who spit out reams of regulations, and rules, and ruling interpretations for non-existent and or non-funded auditors/examiners and regulators. gee looks like it was planned that way so the diamond squid is allowed to skip, doesn’t it?

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Huffington Post Reader kokobell616 writes:

“I am shocked.

Shocked I say!

Jury Summons and Qualification Questionnaire
“Name and address withheld”
Dear prospective Juror: Your name has been drawn by random selection for jury service from Secretary of State records. The full cooperation of every citizen is necessary if our system of justice is to function fairly and efficiently. You are to return or electronically submit this Qualification Questionnaire within five days of receipt. You may complete and electronically submit your Qualification Questionnaire at Refusing to answer or making untruthful answers to questions could result in a fine, imprisonment, or both for contempt of court.
Jury Clerk
GRAND RAPIDS MI 49502-3569

It seems American Jurisprudence has levels of justice.

Crimes that affect millions require no jury.

OK I’m not “shocked”

I am however deeply concerned that America justice lacks vision and balance.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I join with you, Jay. I truly wish more Americans would rise up and express their anger after each and every one of these financial scandals that hurt so many people! By staying (mostly) silent the MAJORITY is signalling to those in charge that they approve of allowing these destructive corporate executives to skate. Its unconscionable that so many have been held not accountable in so many cases! Keep spreading the word so the Dept of Justice gets the message. ~ DD

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Huffington Post Reader Wal Stir writes:

“If you waited in the getaway car while your cohort robbed the bank, you would go to jail as an accomplice, right?”

This is a bad analogy. Being in the getaway car would make you an active partner of the bank robber who would have explicitly told you in advance that you were going to be taking a role in a bank robbery. JP Morgan was fined for failing to observe and report suspicious activities by Madoff – not for being an active partner of Madoff in those activities. Lots of people and institutions were suspicious of Madoff because the returns Madoff was reporting (while relatively low) were too consistent – those people just refused to have any dealings with Madoff without reporting him. A better analogy would be failing to observe signs that the tenant in the basement apartment that you rented to them is dealing drugs or engaging in prostitution and then failing to report those suspicions to the police.”

Diane Dimond January 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

You’re right. Yours is a better analogy. Thanks! ~ DD

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