Refresh My Memory: When Can We Stop Saying ‘Alleged?’

The man under arrest in Kalamazoo is a “suspect.” He “allegedly” killed six people.

The basic procedure is that we use such qualifiers, or others such as “who police say …,” until someone is convicted or has entered a guilty plea.

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik are not “suspects” or “alleged” killers. They are the couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.

They were not convicted and did not confess to authorities. Why drop the qualifiers?

Because they’re dead?

That’s a factor, but not necessarily the determining one.

As we’ve said before,  ”at some point … it just makes common sense to stop inserting” words such as “suspected” and “allegedly.”

But as we’ve also said before, here are some of the “questions to ask before any shift in language:”

– Has the person [or persons] been positively and publicly identified as the killer[s] by proper authorities?

– Have authorities ruled out the possibility of someone else being involved?

– Were there many witnesses? (In other words, did dozens or more see this unfold?)

– Is there considerable video evidence? …

– Has the inevitable confusion that comes when such events happen been resolved? Often, for example, witnesses and authorities initially get things wrong — including the name of the person responsible.

(“Memmos;” Feb. 23, 2016)

February 23, 2016

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