But no, Hermann writes this up as if it comes from the most reliable of authorities, people who have no motivation whatsoever to distort the truth, and he offers only the barest hint of skepticism:
A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.(Or, perhaps, so it will be harder for less credulous reporters to find out more about this prisoner and follow his increasingly less painful trajectory through the legal system now that he's done the cops this huge favor?)
The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety....
It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.That's it. That's as much skepticism as Hermann can muster.
Jayne Miller, a reporter for Baltimore's WBAL, is not having it.
WBAL's Jayne Miller told MSNBC that the Post’s story was “inconsistent with what we reported.”Despite her skepticism, Miller won't speak ill of Hermann. She told Chris Hayes:
“We have reported for some time that by the time that prisoner is loaded into that van, Freddie Gray was unresponsive. Secondly we have no medical evidence that Freddie Gray suffered any injury that would indicate that he had injured himself,” Miller told MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Wednesday night.
Gray was only in the van with the second prisoner for the final five minutes of the ride, Miller told Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday evening. There is “no evidence [Gray was] banging [his] head against van,” Miller tweeted....
Miller also pointed out that on April 23, Commissioner Batts said that the second prisoner had said Gray was “mostly quiet.”
This is no problem with my buddy Peter Hermann at The Washington Post, who wrote this story. There is a search warrant that contains that information that's written by a Baltimore City police officer.Yes, I'm not doubting that Hermann is reporting on a document that actually exists. But you can report it as one claim that needs to be carefully weighed or you can report it as The Official Word From On High, and Hermann chose the latter.
The document leak had the intended effect:
I've rarely seen such excitement on right wing twitter. They're electrified.— digby (@digby56) April 30, 2015
Fox, of course, is going wall to wall with this -- it's the lead story at three different Fox sites right now:
So there you go. If there's a trial for any of the cops in this case, now all you have to do is get one or two conservative white males on the jury -- they already "know" the cops are not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, because Fox says so. Acquittal guaranteed.
I find myself thinking of something Eric Boehlert wrote about the Post in 2004:
When [Robert Parry] went to Newsweek [as a reporter] in 1987, “it soon became clear they didn’t want to pursue the Iran-Contra story much at all. They didn’t want another Watergate -- that’s the way it was put. The magazine was owned by the Washington Post, and although people look back on Watergate as a crowning achievement, it was a very unpleasant experience to live through, and [publisher] Katharine Graham didn’t want to go through it again. So the feeling at Newsweek was, Let’s just take what the White House is telling us, the ‘mistakes were made’ explanation.”The two situations aren't really analogous -- a White House can make life a lot more difficult for a news organization than a police department can, especially a police department that's not even in the news organization's home city. But the impulse to cover up for the authorities seems the same. Yes, important people -- our sources! -- failed to do the right thing, but, really, isn't it better for all concerned if we refrain from riling up the public by telling them the truth?
UPDATE: From Mother Jones:
And there's another reason to be skeptical. Information that comes out of jails is notoriously unreliable, for the simple reason that anyone in jail has a real incentive to get out; cooperating with the people who determine when they get out is an obvious way to score points. This report from the Pew Charitable Trust walks through the conflicts in detail. According to the Innocence Project, 15 percent of wrongful convictions that are eventually overturned by DNA testing originally rested on information from a jailhouse informant.