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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

The Decision to Give Victims a Voice

David Yarnold and Susan Goldberg

In August of 2000, Armand Tiano, a 26-year veteran of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department was charged with child molestation involving two female teen-age relatives. Additional charges were filed and at one point, he was facing the possibility of life in prison. Tiano was found guilty, but prior to sentencing, a judge reduced one of the convictions to a misdemeanor, which reduced his sentence to a year in county jail. Prosecutors tried to reverse the downgraded verdict. In November 2001, he faced a new charge and trial for failing to register as a sex offender.

Throughout this coverage, the Mercury News did not name the two girls. It's our policy not to name victims of sexual assault. But the girls wanted to tell their story. On March 31, 2002, the girls and their mother told their story (the girls were 16- and 17-years-old, respectively, at the time). We identified them as Tiano's stepdaughters, but did not name them. To deal with the pain, the youngest girl wrote a poem, "You Heartless Wonder," which we published.

Key Questions:

  • Was it ethical of the newspaper to let the girl's tell their story while remaining anonymous?
  • How else could this have been handled?
  • If the girls wanted to be named, should the paper have named them?
Apr 1, 2002