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At Issue: Media & Law Enforcement's Balancing Act - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Media & Law Enforcement's Balancing Act

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CONWAY, N.H. -

After vanishing on October 9, 2013 and returning on July 20, 2014, Abigail Hernandez is now home, and her alleged kidnapper, 34-year-old Nathaniel Kibby, is facing charges. Investigators credit Hernandez's safe return in part to the actions of everyone who made sure her case stayed in the limelight, including the media.

"On a personal note I'd like to say thank you, you are all here, her picture was up everywhere, and you know -- although there is a crime thats been committed, that crime is not a homicide and that child is home," says New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Jane Young. "So thank you all for never giving up your attention to this matter."

But  we still know relatively few details about what happened to Hernandez. Investigators say that's because they're trying to protect an ongoing investigation that they say still has loose ends.

"It's a love-hate relationship. Oftentimes the media is needed to aid in the investigation. But then once the investigation gets rolling, they don't want to see the media anymore," says St. Michael's College Media Studies Chair Traci Griffith. "So it's a balancing act, it really is. It's about getting information and getting information out there that's necessary and withholding certain information that might taint the possibility for a fair trial."

Griffith told us in the Hernandez case, investigators could be worried that the information people want to know may hurt a trial for Kibby later on.

"It's a conflict between the First Amendment, the freedom of the press, and the Sixth Amendment, the right of the accused to a fair trial," she says. "The law enforcement side of things, they're trying to do their job in terms of gathering the information and putting an investigation together and getting the right person. And sometimes what we do can interfere with that."

But Griffith also points out that there are mechanisms within the legal system to make sure that someone accused in a high-profile case gets a fair trial, like questioning potential jurors or moving the trial.

 

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