Last week marked the fifth anniversary of Jessica Lunsford’s murder. Nine-year old Lunsford was kidnapped, raped, and buried alive by her neighbor, a convicted sex offender.
You would think the anniversary of Lunsford’s horrific murder would give rise to thoughts about our failure to protect her and other victims of violent recidivists. You would think reporters would cover stories about early release of sexual predators, lax sentencing of sexual predators, and failure to punish sexual predators. You would think that, but you would be wrong. In Florida’s “prestige” media, the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald, Lunsford’s death is treated as a cautionary tale — not cautioning against the fatal practice of going easy on child rapists, mind you, but scorning those who are trying to prevent similar crimes from happening again.
The problem, according to John Frank of the SPTimes, is not that John Couey was free to kill Jessica five years ago: the problem is that public, thoughtless brutes that we are, reacted to the murder of Jessica by lowering our opinion of sex offenders:
The brutal killing of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, which happened five years ago today, fueled the creation of a boogeyman in Florida politics: the sex offender.
Never mind that the “boogeyman” in this case and countless others was not an imaginary threat but a real one, thus not technically a boogeyman at all. This is the breathless first sentence of a breathless denunciation of any and all efforts to keep track of sex offenders, from stricter sentencing, to registration laws, to living restrictions, to simply not feeling warm and fuzzy enough towards that convicted child molester who wants to lead your son’s scout troop.
I say “denunciation” instead of “reporting” because reporting signifies a veneer of objectivity. At least the Times refrained from attacking Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, this time. That must have been hard for them, for attacking Mark Lunsford over everything from his educational background to the type of car he drives has become a sort of newsroom sport among Times staffers.
Lunsford has been unforgivably smeared, and now the anniversary his daughter’s death is being used to slyly advocate for rapists and killers under the guise of “reporting.” If only the St. Petersburg Times had an institute for journalistic ethics or something: maybe they could visit it and learn to reign in such ugly behavior. Instead, because Mark Lunsford is a crime victim advocate, rather than an advocate for criminals like the man who murdered his daughter, he’s fair game to the so-called reporters who hound his every move.