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Rick Riffe Case | A Letter To The Editor Of The Chronicle

A letter we submitted to The Chronicle newspaper Centralia, WA about a commentary that appeared in their paper headlined: “Accused Killer Wouldn’t Survive an Acquittal.”  We promptly submitted this letter just after the commentary appeared on July 19th, but as of this date, it has not run. The Crowley Law Firm is representing Mr. Rick Riffe.

Dear Editor:

My name is John Crowley.  I recently agreed to represent Mr. Rick Riffe as his attorney. Mr. Riffe is charged in the 1985 murders of Wilhelmina “Minnie” and Edward “Ed” Maurin.  On Thursday, July 19, 2012 11:55 AM you posted a commentary by Bill Moeller (marked “For The Chronicle”) titled “Accused Killer Wouldn’t Survive an Acquittal.” Moeller states,

 “I would be tempted to be my own judge and jury if Riffe were to walk out of the courtroom a free man. How many cop shows have we seen on television where a person is found not guilty by a confused jury, only to be gunned down by a grieving survivor on the courthouse steps.”

While Mr. Moeller’s post was indeed in the “commentary” section of The Chronicle, it cannot be ignored that Mr. Moeller is also a well known and very long term contributor to The Chronicle.  By publishing the type of garbage written by Mr. Moeller about Mr. Riffe – prior to the introduction of any facts or consideration by a jury – The Chronicle has lent its own credibility to Mr. Moeller’s “comment”.  Reading between the lines of Mr. Moeller’s “comment”, Mr. Riffe is guilty of course and the only way a jury could find otherwise is if it were somehow “confused”.  The Chronicle has announced its finding of guilt to its readership through Mr. Moeller – and the future jury pool that will actually hear the evidence in this case that he is guilty of the offense charged.  This unfounded conclusion by Mr. Moeller and The Chronicle is extremely damaging to both fairness and justice. 

Second, and as an attorney I was shocked by the incendiary nature of the headline and the comment. It was as if the commenter was perfectly willing to suspend the law and get some good old frontier justice – all supported by The Chronicle and announced to the citizens of Lewis County.

The law regarding arrest and prosecution and the right of the defendant to hear and present evidence goes right out the window with this kind of thinking. Good, bad or indifferent, and as a society, the justice system is where we have decided to find the truth and justice. It should be allowed to proceed and do its work.

The criminal justice system has a process and in the case of a 26 year old crime that process has to be meticulous in how it proceeds. In a case which has not been brought forward for that lengthy period of time evidence has to be looked at carefully.  One would think a local paper like The Chronicle would be most interested in seeing that Mr. Riffe receives a fair trial. As part of the community where the trial will likely take place the local press has an obligation to the community to report fairly and should not be in the business of just fanning the flames.