Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Killing may not be murder

On Friday, I caught a few moments of ESPN's "SportsCenter" and was struck by a comment by the announcer, whom I did not recognize. He said that the South African sprinter known as the Blade Runner was guilty of murder.

Well, he didn't use the word guilty. But he called the slaying, killing, shooting death of model Reeva Steenkamp a "murder."


Murder is a legal term, and it is often misused by journalists, especially when talking on radio, audio or video reports. Typically, or really, most of the time, the impact is minimal or non-existent.

For instance, today in Farmington, there's the story of the court employee who was killed over the weekend, her dismembered body found and her boyfriend awaiting charges. It's pretty clear a crime was committed, considering the act to hide the body. But, it may still be an accidental death (a manslaughter or even a non-criminal accident) and the only crime is the destruction of the body.

Ultimately, it is a jury or possibly a judge who will rule that a slaying is a murder, or a judge accepting a plea from a defendant.

But with the Oscar Pistorius case, she was shot. He admitted it, it seems, claiming it was an accident. And he has been charged with murder.

To call her death a murder is to take the next step and convict him.

Even with all the sources in the world, it is not a news outlet who gets to convict the sprinter. It is the judge or jury. Otherwise, it's not murder. It's a slaying, a killing, a shooting, a homicide, a tragedy. Lots of other ways exist to describe the taking of a life, but murder is not an option. 

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