Local News

Some Question Media Circus Following High-Profile Arrests

Posted September 28, 2004 6:28 a.m. EDT

— Whether it is

Ann Miller

, Agriculture Commissioner

Meg Scott Phipps

or Congressman

Frank Ballance

, law enforcement often parade high-profile suspects to publicly validate their investigative work, but is there a line between accountability and humiliation?

Attorney Joe Cheshire initially thought Raleigh police were grandstanding after Ann Miller walked into the Wake County Jail, only to have detectives march her right back out through the battery of cameras to a waiting patrol car.

"Whether there was miscommunication between RPD, we would be happy to take her to the Raleigh Police Department," Cheshire said.

An RPD representative insists it is standard proceedure for murder suspects to be processed at headquarters before they head to jail.

Cheshire was also upset when his client Frank Ballance, in poor health, was handcuffed in front of the federal courthouse on a fraud charge. The FBI contends after a rash of corporate scandals and some unplanned outbursts, white-collar handcuffs became national policy.

Former State Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps met the same fate being handcuffed outside the federal courthouse, but two other aides in her campaign finance scandal -- Bobby McLamb and Mike Blanton -- walked into court freely after cooperating with authorities.

"To try and say that this is normal procedure when we all know that it doesn't happen to anybody but high-profile clients is a little bit disingenuous," Cheshire said.

The media also plays a role in the debate. News organizations need pictures to tell news stories and many want to have pictures of surrendering suspects.

"I think, to some degree, both sides play into that and both sides get certain benefits from it," Cheshire said.

Police point out that all the suspects in question were allowed to surrender. They were not hunted down and arrested.