Fallon media responds to community on fatal crash

Both Editor Rachel Dahl from The Fallon Post and Editor Emeritus Steve Ranson from the Lahontan Valley News have been working together on the accident that killed a young Fallon boy, Jaiden Barajas, on Friday. Our community has also been rocked by the death of Miya Bentsen, who was also killed as a result of a crash, and Cesar Alvarado-Jauregui, whose body was discovered Friday morning.

Our comments, though, are in reference to Jaiden’s death. We are proud with the community and their support for attending a candlelight vigil and for their generous donations on GoFundMe for Jaiden. There is also a GoFundMe page for Miya.

Until the investigation is completed, too many people are jumping to conclusions. We are including information we have already posted plus additional information to explain how this investigation will unfold.

Before a name can be released, the suspect must be booked. This is part of the due process provided by the Nevada Revised Statutes and U.S. Constitution. Once the investigation is complete and charges made, his name is released.

Legally, media outlets are supposed to refrain from releasing a name prematurely or giving identifying information such as profession. Let’s say if a suspect is found innocent, and he/she has been tried by the press or Facebook as guilty, then the media out could be singled out for libel. Court cases have also occurred where a libelous comment posted by a Facebook user may also result in libel.

Let us also issue a plea for our readers. Please do not release that information in your postings. Our Facebook sites are open and can be viewed by anyone to include law enforcement and defense attorneys if the case goes to trial. We ask you to refrain from posting details so a jury pool does not become tainted. There have been incidences in other Nevada counties where the trial had to be tried in another jurisdiction because of this.

The investigation should not be played out on Facebook.

Results are submitted to the District Attorney’s office. NHP is conducting the investigation because of a conflict of interest with the CCSO. The investigation includes witness reports, toxicology and traffic. The turnaround on toxicology reports may take as short as one to two weeks, but the normal time is closer to three to four weeks. This is normal for all cases, not just the ones in Churchill County.

The Washoe Crime Lab processes all the evidence and issues a report, so you can see one lab handles many jurisdictions in Northern Nevada and is not just restricted to traffic fatalities.

In cases such as this and others that result in a blood test and additional investigation, usually the suspect is not booked or held on bail because no charges have been filed. This procedure has also occurred when a motorist was texting and hit a person, a “self-defense” shooting or stabbing, etc. Each case, though, is different.

Over the years, both the courts — federal and state — and the legislature have put in a number of steps and procedures to follow. First and foremost, is due process. A suspect is considered innocent until proven guilt, which would occur after charges have been filed, and whether the suspect opted to plead guilty or have a jury trial to proclaim his innocence.

If any of you remember the fatal crash in the crosswalk by city hall earlier this year, the investigation took two months to complete, and the name of the driver was not released until the report was made public. The Washoe Crime Lab processed the information, and then charges were filed by the DA’s office once his office received the results.

We reached out and talked to a law enforcement officer in another county who specializes in DUI enforcement. He also confirmed the steps and quickly cited the Nevada Revised Statutes officers must follow. Furthermore, he said the goal is to present an iron-clad case so a defense attorney (if the suspect pleads not guilty) tries to fight the charges. The goal for any prosecutor is to get a conviction.

By statute and until authorities receive results of the blood test, they don’t have conclusive proof if the driver is above the legal limit. Being at or over .08 carries a more serious charge of as a DUI than being under which may not constitute a DUI. Penalties for DUIs are stiffer.

In conclusion, law enforcement will not release information until an investigation is finished or a major development occurs. We understand law enforcement has met with the family. Like us, you will have to wait until the report becomes available. The investigation will not play out on Facebook.


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