Public Editor

When to name juvenile suspects

An emailer brought up a great question about

an Associated Press story that ran on earlier this week

. It concerned a Connecticut teenager who was stabbed to death at her school on the day of her prom.

At the time of this story, the case was still in the juvenile court system, and the suspect’s name had not been released by authorities. But the Associated Press identified him as Chris Plaskon, based on people who had seen him taken into custody.

Today, he has been charged as an adult, and the AP’s ID was correct.

“Should The Star report names of juvenile suspects, even if obtained from public sources (Facebook, etc.), before they are charged as an adult -- for states that do not release names of juveniles?” asked my emailer. It’s a fair question.

In Kansas, laws would dictate that the name of a 16-year-old accused of this crime would be released. In Missouri, it would not.

You of course can’t answer a “what if” with certainty, but if journalists were absolutely sure that the identification of the suspect were accurate, I don’t think it would be necessarily problematic for The Star to name a 16-year-old even if the state didn’t release the identity. After all, murder is the most serious crime one can be accused of, and a 16-year-old is vastly different from a 9-year-old, for example.