The truth now about the big stories then

Richard Jewell: The Wrong Man

The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta were rocked by a bomb that killed one and injured more than 100. In the rush to find the perpetrator, one man became a target. There was only one problem. He was innocent.

It was a law enforcement nightmare — a pipe bomb explosion at an outdoor concert at Centennial Olympic Park during a celebration of the Olympics.

After initially focusing on terrorism, investigators soon turned their attention to the security guard who had first discovered the bomb and alerted authorities. His name was Richard Jewell.  The evidence against him was scant and preliminary, but when his name was leaked to reporters as a potential suspect, the story spun out of control.

For the next two months, press coverage generated hundreds of headlines about the case, more than a few implying that Jewell was the likely bomber. By the time he was cleared of any involvement in the crime, Jewell had been hounded for weeks by the press, lied to by the FBI and had his life forever altered.

Along the way, Richard Jewell’s nightmare became a cautionary tale for both law enforcement and the press.

 

Related Stories:

New York Times: A Boming Suspect, and the Rush to Judgement

Mr. Media Training: Falsely Accused: The Sad Life of Richard Jewell

Conversations with Thinkers: Retro Report’s Olsen and Michels on Richard Jewell

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