‘Star Tribune’ Error Shakes Up Murder Trial

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By: E&P Staff

It was only online for 90 minutes, and never in print, but it was wrong enough to cause an hour-long delay Thursday morning in the trial of a man accused of killing a police officer. “It” was a serious error in a story on the Web site of the Minneaspolis Star Tribune, which went up about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and came down at 5 p.m.

Defense attorneys moved for a mistrial, which the judge denied.

The report, for which the paper issued a correction today, incorrectly stated that Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin went to the dead police officer’s widow, before jurors entered the courtroom, briefly talked to her and patted her on the shoulder.

Actually, it was the prosecutor, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, who did that.

From the bench, the judge said she was “quite shocked” by the report, and feared that readers would get a false impression that a judge would do such a thing.

“I’ve been a judge for 19 years, and I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams doing anything like that during a trial,” Gearin said, according to a story in the Star Tribune. “This is another example of why we don’t try cases in the newspaper, or on the Internet, or on the radio.”

Gearin asked the Star Tribune to publish retractions online and in print.

A story about the incident in the St. Paul Pioneer Press said the Star Tribune reporter, Paul Gustafson, had explained that “during a break in the trial Wednesday he dictated information to another Star Tribune employee for posting online. During that process, he said, his description of Gaertner approaching the widow mistakenly got reported as Gearin taking that action.”

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