Thursday, April 10, 2008

My View

Auburn Journal's opinion not held by all

By Michael Althouse

Last week, an editorial appeared the Auburn Journal. It was titled,
"Our View."

The column criticizes local public safety agencies, specifically police and fire departments, for placing bumper stickers that display a picture of Hannah Rose Juceam and the message, “Don’t shake your baby,” on official vehicles.

Who is Hannah Rose Juceam? That is a very good question. But before we connect the dots, let us analyze the message and how appropriate it is for police cars and fire trucks to carry it.

As you might have guessed from the message on the bumper stickers, Hannah Rose Juceam was a victim of shaken baby syndrome. She was just 15 months old. Little Hannah was shaken so violently that she died as a result of her injuries. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, there are no good statistics on how many children are injured or killed due to shaken baby syndrome. It is, however, recognized as the most common cause of infant mortality and long-term disability due to child abuse.

A 2003 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported, “approximately 1,300 U.S. children experience severe or fatal head trauma from child abuse every year” and “that approximately 30 per 100,000 children under age 1 suffered inflicted brain injuries.”

The bumper stickers, and a billboard on Interstate 80 in Rocklin with the same message, are an attempt by the family to raise awareness.

In all fairness, the Auburn Journal editorial does give credit to the grieving family.

“The family's mission is clear and should be lauded. The Juceams don't want to see another child needlessly killed by being shaken to death. No one can argue with that.”

But it then takes aim at how that message is delivered. Because little Hannah’s nanny has been indicted for killing the infant, the Journal feels that the billboard and emergency vehicles displaying the baby’s image with the message will somehow prejudice the jury pool in Placer County.

Ready to connect those dots?

Hannah Rose’s nanny was Veronica Salcedo. Yes, we are talking about the Salcedo shaken baby case.

If Salcedo’s name and image were placed on those bumper stickers, the Journal might have a point, although with the number of potential jurors in Placer County, still a weak one. But it would justifiably bring into question the motives of the agencies involved.

This message is a simple one. It does not point any fingers or place any blame. It is simply illustrating one family’s tragedy; a tragedy the family is desperately trying to prevent from happening again.

It is more than appropriate for police officers and fire fighters to carry the word. It’s right up there with “Speed kills” and “Don’t drink and drive.”

Unless, of course, the Journal feels those bumper stickers and billboards would prevent accused speeders and drunk drivers from getting a fair trial as well.


carmilevy said...

Great piece! From where I sit, it's the mandate of every police department to serve and protect. This simple message allows them to do that just a little better - and to do so for a demographic group that's patently unable to do so for itself.

Folks who think such messages on vehicles would sway potential jurors, perhaps may very well have been shaken long ago.

Strong argument. Textbook editorial writing.

kenju said...

I agree with Carmi, Mike.

Dak-Ind said...

perfect! the writing is clear and decisive... plus most folks will agree with you, too.

michele sends her regards!

Snaggle Tooth said...

By definition, a Public Service Message, (PSM), informs the general public at large, n is meant to educate, not to interfere with specific cases, each with a unique set of facts.

Good points, righteous cause!

~Easy said...

Spot on. I hope that the PD and FD are thumbing their collective noses at the editorial.

Bobkat said...

While I agree with everything you have written one thing bothers me immensely. Who on earth thinks it is right to shake an infant? I am astounded that such stickers are needed at all.

Apologies for not stopping by sooner. Things have been hectic. You, know how it is!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Interesting! I do have to say I understand the point that this could sway jurors. More importantly, it COULD result in a mistrial. That would suck. It's not that it SHOULD affect jurors, but we have to take slimy defense attorneys into account. :P

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this one Mike.

The message is, "Be carefull not to violently shake your baby."

It sounds like the question for the jury will be "Did this Nanny violently shake this baby?"

The message does not affect the outcome to the question asked of the jury.