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Some letters can’t be published - The Galveston County Daily News : Editorials

November 26, 2014

Some letters can’t be published

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Posted: Sunday, June 1, 2014 12:00 am

Some readers have started a letter-writing campaign about man who was beaten in his backyard in Galveston.

We can’t print many of the letters because doing so would violate the law.

Some people have suggested the newspaper is covering up a major story.

We thought you might like an explanation.

On May 25, the newspaper printed a story about Bobby Wasylik, 68, who said he was beaten so severely on March 14 he suffered six strokes and a fractured shoulder.

A grand jury heard the case of the man accused of assaulting Wasylik and declined to indict him.

There are some questions about the case — and The Daily News is trying to get answers.

But let’s start by acknowledging that most of the people who have been following this story are more interested in expressing outrage than in investigating the fine points of the law.

Wasylik’s friends — and many other people — believe justice was not done.

They want to see letters in the paper that express their opinion.

Why can’t we print most of them?

The reason is that most of the letters presume the person who was accused is guilty.

In fact, a grand jury looked at the evidence and decided there was not enough to take that accusation to trial.

The fact that someone’s friends and supporters are outraged does not change the law about what is an acceptable expression of opinion, protected by the First Amendment, and what’s potentially defamatory and actionable in court.

We can publish letters that point to a possible miscarriage of justice.

We can’t publish letters that presume guilt when this country’s judicial system demands a presumption of innocence.

That said, we believe this case deserves a fuller explanation and intend to provide more information when the district attorney’s investigation is completed.

At least some of those writing letters insist that there are witnesses who have not been interviewed by law enforcement.

If new information does come to light, prosecutors could decide to take the case back to a grand jury.

The police reports indicate Wasylik was beaten in his own backyard.

Had the beating occurred almost anywhere else, the self-defense claim would be more credible.

But since it did happen in Wasylik’s backyard, some reasonable questions remain to be answered.

We’ll ask those questions and will report what we find.