An emailer asked a question I hear fairly frequently about reporting on criminal suspects:
By Derek Donovan
The Kansas City Star
I am often puzzled by The Stars use of the words "alleged" and "suspected" in connection with crimes that have been committed. My OED defines allege as claim that someone has done something wrong, typically without proof. In many cases, the perpetrator is caught in the act of committing the crime. There is no doubt that this person committed the crime. Why then does The Star refer to this person as the alleged or suspected perpetrator?
I agree that these references sometimes seem a bit ludicrous, as in a case earlier this year where a man was apprehended while holding a purse he had apparently just stolen a block away. He was called the suspect there.
But the basic principle here is the one the U.S. justice system is based on: You are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. From a legal standpoint, its pretty clear. Even someone just caught in a criminal act hasnt been convicted, so he remains a suspect or an alleged criminal (though I think that term is a bit too weighted most of the time).