TEXT ON SCREEN: July 27, 1996
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 7-27-96):ANDREA ZINGA: We have had word now of an explosion.
NARRATION: A bombing at Atlantas Summer Olympics
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 7-27-96):JIM GRAY: Total chaos. Mass pandemonium going on down here.
NARRATION: led to a massive law enforcement investigation.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 7-27-96):WOODY JOHNSON: We will consider it an act of terrorism.
NARRATION: And soon set off a frenzy of speculation.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 7-31-96): TOM BROKAW: Who is the real Richard Jewell?
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 7-31-96): MARK POTTER: FBI officials believe he fits a profile of the type of person who might commit such an act. But concede they have no hard evidence against him.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NIGHTLINE, 8-22-96): REPORTER: Can you categorically say that you did not do this? RICHARD JEWELL: I did not do it.
NARRATION: Richard Jewells nightmare was a cautionary tale.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 10-28-96): RICHARD JEWELL: It is hard to believe that it is really over.
NARRATION: But what lessons have law enforcement and the press really learned?
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 12-14-12):JOHN BERMAN: It is now clear that the shooter was not Ryan Lanza it was his brother Adam Lanza.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 7-20-12): BRIAN ROSS: An earlier report that I had was incorrect that he was connected with the Tea Party, in fact thats a different Jim Holmes.
ARCHIVAL (ABC WJLA 7, 9-16-13): GRETA KREUZ: Some media outlets were tweeting out that the shooter was a man named Rollie Chance.
ARCHIVAL (FOX 5 NEWS): WRONGLY ACCUSED MAN: When I leave the house, now, uh, Im looking over my shoulder.ACT I:
ARCHIVAL (NBC OLYMPICS, 7-19-96): REPORTER: Welcome to Atlantas Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of these Centennial Olympic games.
NARRATION: In the early morning of July 27th, 1996, more than 100 people were injured and one killed by a bomb blast at Atlantas Centennial Olympic Park.
KENT ALEXANDER (U.S. ATTORNEY, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA (1994-1997)): After the bombing had occurred, the victims were taken away. I remember very distinctly as the light came up I started meeting some of the people around in the area. And one of the people on the scene was Richard Jewell.
NARRATION: Jewell, a former sheriffs deputy, had discovered the bomb in a backpack and helped clear the area before the explosion. He was hailed a hero.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 7-30-96): RICHARD JEWELL: And I just hope we catch the people that did it.
KENT ALEXANDER: Following the bombing there were a lot of suspects. But it wasnt too far into the investigation where Richard Jewells name started surfacing.
NARRATION: The president of a college where Jewell had worked security called the FBI to say he had concerns about Jewell. A check into Jewells background revealed other witnesses who reported he had a history of employment problems and was obsessed with law enforcement.
DAVID WOODY JOHNSON (ATLANTA FBI, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE (1995-1997)): Our profilers from Quantico were watching the shows and saying, weve had instances in recent past where police officers invented situations so that they could be the heroes. He started to have that, uh, that look about him. Weve got the Olympic Games going on. Were concerned that whoever did it may do it again if we dont get a hold of him.
CHARLES STONE (SUPERVISOR, GEORGIA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (1989-1999)): It was a lot of pressure to resolve the case very quickly.
KENT ALEXANDER: The assumption was that everyone would keep everything confidential because of the importance of the investigation. In hindsight, that was nave because people like to talk.
NARRATION: An unidentified law enforcement source leaked Jewells name to Ron Martz reporting partner Kathy Scrubbs.
RON MARTZ (STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION (1981-2007)): It was important for us as the hometown paper to try to verify as soon as possible and put that information out on the street.
NARRATION: Word quickly reached investigators.
KENT ALEXANDER: It sped up the timetable on the investigation and what the investigators wanted to do to try to get to Richard Jewell before his name was all over creation. Law enforcement really wanted to talk with Richard Jewell either to find out if he did it or to clear him.
DAVID WOODY JOHNSON: We wanted to create an environment if we brought him in for an interview where he would be comfortable.
NARRATION: So when two agents went to talk to Jewell, and he expressed concerns about being interviewed on videotape, they told him it would be used in a training film for first responders. He then agreed to come to Atlantas FBI office.
DAVID WOODY JOHNSON: I dont think they were very far into the interview when I received a phone call from the director. And the director said I want you to stop the interview to warn him of his rights, do it now. And so I instructed the assistant special agent in charge to knock on the door.
NARRATION: Alexander later saw on videotape what happened next.
KENT ALEXANDER: The investigation was going along as if it was a training video for a first responder. At a point the investigators just said, we want to make this as realistic as possible or something to that effect we are even going to read you the Miranda rights. And as they start the camera is on Richard Jewell and his eyes widen a little bit, and its like theres a cartoon character lightbulb going off on top and you realize hes saying, w-wait a minute am I suspect?
ARCHIVAL (ABC NIGHTLINE, 8-22-96): WOMAN: FBI has a suspect read all about it.
NARRATION: The news had already hit the streets when from inside the FBI office, Jewell called a friend who was a lawyer.
G. WATSON BRYANT, JR. (ATTORNEY AND FRIEND OF RICHARD JEWELL): I asked him if hed read the newspaper. He said no, he hadnt. So I read him the headline. And I said, man, they think you did it. I asked if he was under arrest. And they said no he was not. And, um, I said, great, then hes leaving.
RON MARTZ: I remember saying to my editor This mans life will never be the same simply because he suddenly was in the eye of this media storm.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 7-30-96):REPORTER: Are they letting you go to work? Theyre letting you go to work? Youre free to go?RICHARD JEWELL: Yes.SECOND REPORTER: Did they tell you now not to leave town?RICHARD JEWELL: No.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NIGHTLINE, 8-22-96): REPORTER: Can you categorically say that you did not do this? RICHARD JEWELL: I did not do this. REPORTER: Categorically? RICHARD JEWELL: Yes.
NARRATION: Television cameras surrounded Jewells apartment as federal agents searched for evidence.
DAVID WOODY JOHNSON: It created a circus environment and Im sure anger with his attorney. But we had a responsibility to try to figure out whether he was involved.
NARRATION: Some of the coverage, while acknowledging that Jewell was only under investigation, still cast him in the worst possible light.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 7-30-96): CHARLES ZEWE: The hero may be a possible villain.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 7-31-96): BOB DATSON: You get a different picture of Richard Jewell in these North Georgia mountains. He lived alone in this rented home with his Doberman dogs, most days with the blinds drawn.
NARRATION: But behind the scenes a few investigators had doubts.
CHARLES STONE: I had one of my agents and I believe an FBI agent redo and watch the interviews in detail and my agent came out, came to me and the first thing he said was, this guy didnt do it.
DAVID WOODY JOHNSON: His attorney whether I agree with it or not did not want to cooperate at all with us. It hurt our ability to resolve Richard Jewell in a timely manner. It made him a victim and it didnt make us look very good either.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 9-26-96): REPORTER: Still tailed by FBI Agents and unable to get a job, his only source of income is now a telephone hotline.
NARRATION: Two months after Jewell was identified, he was offered a deal. If he answered investigators questions he could be cleared.
KENT ALEXANDER: Once Richard Jewell did come in, it became very apparent over the next few weeks that there was no reason to charge him.
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 10-26-96): RICHARD JEWELL: How yall doing? REPORTER: Richard Jewell finally got what hes been waiting for: a hand-delivered letter from the Justice Department says based on the evidence developed to date Jewell is not considered a target of the federal investigation.
NARRATION: After he was cleared of suspicion, several FBI agents were reprimanded, including the agent who read Jewell his Miranda rights during the rouse. Jewell pursued legal action against several news organizations, citing, among other things, a column that implied a comparison between Jewell and a convicted murderer. And another that called him a fat, failed former sheriffs deputy.
ARCHIVAL (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10-28-96): G. WATSON BRYANT JR.: Heres Richard Jewell, the 114th victim of the Atlanta Olympic bombing. RICHARD JEWELL: This is the first time I have ever asked you to turn your cameras on me. For 88 days I lived a nightmare. For 88 days, my mother lived a nightmare, too. In its rush for the headlines, that the hero was the bomber, the media cared nothing for my feelings as a human being.
NARRATION: NBC, CNN, and the New York Post were among those which settled for undisclosed sums. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fought the case for fifteen years and won.
RON MARTZ: Theres no way that anybody can convince me that we libeled Richard Jewell. The information we printed was that he was the focus of the investigation – he was the focus of the investigation. Am I sorry for what happened to Richard Jewell? Yes, Im sorry for what happened to Richard Jewell. But I dont feel responsible for what happened to him.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Boston, April 15, 2013
ARCHIVAL (CBS WBZ 4, 4-15-13): ANCHOR: This is video that just came into us.
KENT ALEXANDER: I followed the Boston Marathon case very closely and I was really struck by how far law enforcement has come and particularly their use of technology has come.
ARCHIVAL (PBS NEWSHOUR, 4-18-13): RICHARD DESLAURIERS: After a very detailed analysis of photo, video and other evidence, we are releasing photos of these two suspects. The public will play a critical role in identifying and locating these individuals.
KENT ALEXANDER: In the Boston case you wanted to bring the media in at almost every point so that you could get out these leads.
ARCHIVAL (VOA NEWS): REPORTER: Millions across the world saw these photos instantly. Tweeted and re-Tweeted, Facebooked and Facebook-shared.
NARRATION: But social media also made it easier for the public and the press to quickly spread misinformation and false leads whether they originated with law enforcement or not.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 4-20-13): REENA NINAN: Crowd-sourced investigations turned into a witch hunt. This missing student was wrongfully accused of being a suspect.
NARRATION: In the last two years innocent men have been wrongly associated with a number of high profile crimes. Including mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and the Washington Navy Yard. After the Boston bombing the New York Post, while not naming these two men as suspects, ran a photo of them at the marathon under the headline Bag Men.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS): REPORTER: Being wrongly accused of an act of terrorism, is its own kind of nightmare. Ask Richard Jewell, who went through the media pile-on
KENT ALEXANDER: The obvious lesson learned from Richard Jewell is avoid identifying people as a suspect if theres not really good reason to do so. Because it can lead to just what happened in Richard Jewells case the identification of someone who, not only was innocent but was a hero.
NARRATION: As it turned out, the true perpetrator of the Olympic bombing remained active. He would go on to bomb two abortion clinics and a gay night-club in the years following Centennial Olympic Park.
KENT ALEXANDER: The crime scene in Atlanta was a complicated one to say the least. But we ended up getting a picture of a silhouetted figure on the bench where the bomb was placed. We had the bomber. The problem was the quality was so poor that you could make out no facial features. I cant help but think that if we fast-forwarded to today that we would have had Eric Rudolphs face on that there and we would have solved that crime quite quickly.
NARRATION: Nearly a decade after the Olympic bombings, Rudolph pled guilty in an Atlanta courthouse. Richard Jewell was there.
KENT ALEXANDER: He gave me a hug and I noticed some of my former law enforcement colleagues stepping away because there was just, there was still something about it. I think there was a feeling that they didnt want to be associated with Richard Jewell.
NARRATION: Jewell eventually found work as a sheriffs deputy in Georgia. He died in 2007 due to complications brought on by diabetes. He was 44 years old.
G. WAYNE BRYANT, JR: People to this day think that he was arrested. He was never arrested. He had nothing to do with it. Is that the implication that you should get from responsible reporting?