BALLSTON SPA – The Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office is once again putting the focus on domestic violence this month. [Read more…]
By SAM CAPUANO
There have been some interesting happenings on West High Street during the past week or so at Saratoga County Family Court regarding the privacy rights of a child. It all stems from the tragic shooting death on December 23 of Maple Avenue Middle School student Nicholas Naumkin.
To quickly summarize those horrible events, 12-year-old Nicholas was at the house of a friend, when they found a handgun belonging to Edward O’Rourke, the father of Naumkin’s friend. A bullet from the gun ended Nicholas’ life that night. O’Rourke has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, as the gun was allegedly not properly secured.
Where there is much discussion, however, is with O’Rourke’s son, who is also 12 years old. The age is what makes everything a bit muddied. It’s no secret law enforcement officials believe the son fired the fatal shot. Charges against the son could be anywhere from manslaughter (as the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office wanted) to criminal negligence.
If this 12-year-old boy was an adult, again, there wouldn’t be much argument. But, he’s not, and so there is.
Some do not want the media present during the Family Court proceedings. Not surprisingly, the media (including the local dailies, and some broadcast media) wish to be there.
Judge Courtenay Hall struck a compromise of sorts last week. The media will be allowed in, with some strict guidelines. Not the least of which, the 12-year-old boy’s name cannot be mentioned. Other restrictions are on tap as well, such as the banning of recording equipment.
In the aftermath of the December shooting, several media outlets reported the name of the alleged shooter. The name was mentioned in this very column. When I did so, I was breaking no laws. Nor do I believe, was I doing anything morally or ethically wrong, or exploiting the situation.
The reason for those wanting a total ban on reporters, according to the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office, is to protect the rights of the accused shooter. Again, if he was an adult, there would not likely be a debate. Let me state, I have a great degree of sympathy for this boy. As I wrote in December, his life will never be the same. He is a classmate of my son’s, who tells me he is back in school, which can hopefully provide some sense of normalcy to his life.
But, to what rights is he entitled? Especially if he is convicted. I am still going back and forth on that one. And, despite Judge Hall’s ruling, let’s not kid ourselves- anyone who follows the news knows the name of the boy. Just last week as they were previewing the ruling, the area’s largest newspaper reported his name. Then the next day they were not allowed to. If the events leading up to this were not so horrific, the ruling would actually be a little comical.
But, there is nothing comical about restricting what can be reported. Immediately after the shooting, there were all kinds of reports of the story, and I read them all, especially since Nicholas was also my son’s classmate, and I wanted to follow along very closely. I did not read or hear one word of exploitation on the part of the media. They reported it for what it was: a horrible, tragic accident.
Even at the memorial for Nicholas in Congress Park, no stones were cast against the two who are now charged. Those who got up to speak on that cold December night were there to remember Nicholas (and his grandfather, who was killed shortly after while walking on the Northway.) No one I spoke to in the audience even mentioned O’Rourke or the accused shooter.
It makes me wonder why the Saratoga County Attorney’s Office even felt the need to force Judge Hall’s hand last week. What actions out there gave any indication the accused shooter’s rights were not protected? It could have been worse, as it could have been a total news ban. If the County had gotten its way, a dangerous precedent would have been set.
We will continue to report on this for sure-as much as we’re allowed to, anyways.