Monday, June 25, 2007

143 seconds

Bobby Cutts was only in front of the glass for all of two minutes and 23 seconds. That's it. It was some of the most emotional silence I've ever seen with Patricia Porter, Jessica's mother, standing to stare at Cutts while he went through the process. I also never felt so bad for the family of a suspect as I did for Cuttts' relatives; they'd run the media gauntlet only to be shielded in court by print photographers who blocked their view.

A few observations of the media "crush" in downtown Canton today:

The Canton PD setup was an A+. Plenty of officers were on hand at every corner. From the secure parking setup for all of the satellite trucks to the spacing of media in the courtyard to the placement of senior officers (lieutenants and captains) in the courtrooms, you could tell there was an intentional plan. Each of the officers was alert to the crowd but never overreacted. Considering this was a day that the national media was using CPD as a punching bag because of a 'rogue' officer crossing the line, I thought their professionalism was top notch. Outside in the courtyard as the massive throng of media and on-lookers moved forward, I had a few Iraq flashbacks of anxiety. A few times, I looked up at the tops of the buildings, just to make sure no one would look at us as a target-rich environment. What I noticed was that the CPD officers were doing the same thing. They were really on the ball.

Inside the courthouse folks were well organized too. They moved all of the media who wished to attend the hearing into courtroom number one as a "holding" area or more like "on deck" in a baseball game. Then, they moved us single file through a side door into courtroom number two and told us to sit in the middle. Shortly before the hearing started, about five members of Jessie's family came in to reserved seats on the right side. Then about 10 members of Cutts' family came in to reserved seats on the left side. Again, well planned out with plenty of security. Unfortunately, Jessie's mother and sister couldn't see the glass where Cutts would appear, so Phil Trexler (ABJ) and I gave up our seats and moved back. Once in the back, I could see that the media photographers didn't have a good angle of Patricia or Jessie's sister, Whitney. When Cutts came in, all the cameras turned to take pictures of him, but none of the photographers could see Patricia stand up and stare. I took out my camera phone and took a quick snap shot that WKYC is now using on the website.

While Cutts' family didn't come outside to face the media mass, relatives did tell us that they will tell their side of the story when the right time comes. Most of them look so tired and so hurt by everything that's happened. I can't imagine the pain they must feel as well.

Jessie's mother and sister were quite strong talking outside. When Patricia Porter talked about having to help search crews go through a garbage dump while looking for evidence of her missing daughter, I thought I would break down. That family is quite strong and quite hurt.

My phone continued to ring today with offers to appear on the Glenn Beck Show and Nancy Grace. Neither appearance really worked with my schedule but fortunately, I didn't have to call them back to decline. Channel 3 did that for me to allow me space to keep reporting.

Thanks to those of you who've been emailing me over the last 5 days. I've been out of the office so much, I haven't had a great deal of time to read them, but I will get to them .. and I'll respond as soon as I can. Gotta get on the set for the 10 p.m. news. Eric

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