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Get arrested and you could wind up in 'The Slammer'

"The Slammer" is a weekly newspaper that randomly selects mug shots in Wake County and publishes them. But is it ethical?

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RALEIGH, N.C. — If you are arrested in Wake County, you might just end up in "The Slammer."

It's a weekly newspaper in Wake and Mecklenburg counties that randomly selects mug shots to publish, along with articles about unsolved crimes, missing persons and profiles of most-wanted criminals.

"Someone may see someone in there that – they were the victim of a crime and may see someone in that publication that actually perpetrated it," Sam Pennica, director of the City-County Bureau of Identification, the agency that processes mug shots and fingerprints when people are arrested by a law enforcement agency in Wake County.

CCBI processes about 35,000 mug shots each year.

The newspaper did not return calls from WRAL News Tuesday seeking comment but on its Web site, admits it is also part entertainment. Mug shots, for example, are singled out for things like hair style, age and personal injury.

"It is a public record," Pennica said of the mug shots. "Everyone has the right to it."

Photos are randomly chosen with a reminder that all people featured are innocent until proven guilty.

But local defense attorney Karl Knudsen says that might not be the impression it's leaving with readers.

"To be in the general media, it should be noteworthy – not just because you're charged with something," Knudsen said. "There are many people who are going to equate the fact that if your picture is in there, you've done something wrong."

Duke University legal ethics professor Dr. Kathy Bradley also questions how the public records are being used.

"It's one of those things, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should," she said. "There's no context for what's the other side of this story. What else do we know? There's no balance here, and I think that distinguishes it from a high-profile case."

Some people might not mind, however. Pennica says a few people have asked if their mug shot will end up in "The Slammer."



Kelcey Carlson, Reporter
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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