Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 

Holding the Knoxville News Sentinel Accountable

A couple of days ago, Jack McElroy wrote a column in which, disguised as a series of corrections, he sought to insulate the KNS from deficiencies in their coverage of Henry Granju's death. As I read through the column, I found several statements that were either misleading, or completely inaccurate. I exchanged a series of emails with Jaime Satterfield, the reporter who wrote the article in question, and with Tom Chester, the News Editor for the KNS. The tone of the emails, along with statements made by Satterfield, contradict portions of McElroy's column. I'm including the full email conversation, as well as the relevant portions of McElroy's column.

From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 13:54:38 2011
Subject: The Henry Granju Case files

Hi Jaime,

I just left you a voice mail and wanted to follow up with an email because I know how busy you are. I met you when I was blogging the KNS's coverage of the Sunshine/Knox County Commissioner flap.

I'm going to write a blog post, or possibly a free-lance article if I can find somebody interested in publishing it, detailing what happened to Henry, how local law enforcement reacted, and how the media covered it. Right now, I'm working through the Henry Granju case file, trying to reconcile the information there with information Ms. Granju has shared publicly over the last year, and in the course of doing so, I've found several discrepancies in the case files, and in your reporting. For example, in your Sunday article, you reported that Dustin Rush is 30 years old. The case file contains two different birth-dates for Rush, one in 1980, and the other in 1988. His actual age is 22.

Also, you state in your article that there was no indication of bruising on Henry's chest in the medical records, yet the emergency room admissions report clearly notes ecchymosis, the medical term for bruising, on his chest, as well as bleeding from his ears, two black eyes, and Battle's sign. These injuries were not apparent on the 26th, when he got into Houser's van, which begs the question: Where did they come from?

I also noted that the phone records from Yolanda Harper and Randall Houser's land lines were incomplete. Despite dozens of calls listed for the 25th and the 27th, there are no calls recorded to or from that number on the 26th, the day Henry was given methadone by Yolanda, and then taken to their home.

Were you aware those records were left out of the case file?

I've found other records missing as well.

My wife Lissa remembers you from when you covered the murder of her brother, Scott Norman, and she speaks highly of you. I'd like to talk to you, to show you some of the discrepancies in the record that I've found, and get your take on them, as well as the investigation itself. The case file appears to raise more questions than it answers. If you could, please give me a call at 865 xxx xxxx.

Thanks,

Rich Hailey


I identified myself, my purpose for the email, laid out my questions, and asked for a response. Two important notes. My email was sent to the KNS on Aug 3, just a few days after Satterfield's story enveloped the Sunday paper. In it, I identified the error concerning bruising, specifically mentioning the medical terminology used. This was well before the Granju family ever met with McElroy. Yet here is how McElroy characterizes the error and how it was found:

Afterward, I received a letter from the Granju family strongly objecting to many aspects of the story, which they described as "full of half truths, inaccuracies via omission, out of context quotes and information presented as original reporting, and flat out untruths."

I met with staff members involved, and in reviewing the file, one specific error quickly was identified. The story had said that Henry's medical records did not "detail bruising on his chest or broken bones." In fact, there was a record of a bruise on his chest, which had been overlooked because of the medical terminology used.


This is a flat out lie. The KNS knew the story was inaccurate in this respect on August 3, well before the Granju family sent their letter. They didn't bother to correct it until forced to do so.

Here is Satterfield's response to my email:
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey9
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 5:47 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Good luck in your pursuit of this story. If I had Rush's age wrong I'll correct it but I stand by the rest of the story. Katie reported clear signs of kicks to the chest. The records did not bear that out. The ME attributed bruising around the eyes and blood in his right ear (see follow up email from UT to Katie on this issue) to the overdose. My story did not say that Henry had no injuries. It said that his friends saw little or no injury. The question my story sought to answer is this: is there a prosecutable case? The answer, at this juncture, is no. I won't debate the merits of Katie's arguments but I have experienced discrepancies in some things she told me and then later said or blogged.


First, as of today, the age of Dustin Rush is still listed as 30 years old in the story. So much for follow up by Satterfield. Second, notice that Satterfield did not address the missing phone records, and once again repeated the error that there were no records of bruising noted in the medical records. Next, notice her attempt to impugn Katie's credibility. Finally, and now we're back to McElroy's spin, Satterfield says that the purpose of her story was to determine if there was a prosecutable case. Here's how McElroy cast it:
The story was written in a narrative style intended to vividly portray the problem of prescription drug abuse and the presentation was meant to convey to the reader that the information was from the investigative file and not independently gathered by the newspaper. The responsibility for that approach was mine, and to any who were offended or confused, I apologize.

So, which was it? A story to portray the problems of prescription drug abuse, or a story to determine whether there was a prosecutable case?

Apparently McElroy and Satterfield don't talk much.

Here is my response to Satterfield:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 16:17:54 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Thanks for your quick response. Just to be clear, I'm noting the following:

1. You did not notice that there were two different birth-dates for Rush in the file.
2. The absence of any calls in the Harper/Houser phone records on April 26th does not seem unusual to you and warrants no comment.
3. Your article claims that the medical files do not mention any bruises to Henry's chest, yet the medical file clearly notes that bruising on his chest did exist at the time of his admission to the emergency room.
4. Henry was brought into the emergency room with significant injuries; injuries that his friends did not see prior to his entering Houser's van. You have no interest in determining the cause of those injuries.
5. Your only interest in writing/publishing the story on Sunday was to determine if the file presented enough evidence for prosecution, not to determine whether the file was accurate, or whether the investigation was, as the KCSO portrayed it, thorough and exhaustive.
6. You have no interest in pursuing discrepancies in the case file, or potential shortcomings in the investigation.

If I'm wrong in any of the above points, please let me know.

One more quick question: Who else reviewed the file along with you? Was it just you or was there a division of labor?

Thanks again for your response.


The points I raised were directly from her email, which ignored most of the issues I raised based on the released files, specifically addressing only one issue, that of the age of Dustin Rush. Point 1 is important because it is a measure of the thoroughness of the KNS review and the follow up question springs from that as well as the failure to recognize ecchymosis as a medical term for bruising.

I was still professional, but I intended to challenge her to speak directly to the issues I was raising. Her response:
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:36 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

You are wrong on several points but you are free to blog whatever you choose. I am simply not going to debate with you.

Challenge rejected! The most useful part of this email was her permission to blog whatever I wanted, which is why I am comfortable posting these emails in their entirety. My response:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 18:48:52 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, I'm not looking for a debate and I'm sorry if it comes across that way. I'm just looking for information from the perspective of the KNS. You are a reporter with two decades of experience and I was looking for your input on aspects of the case file that I find questionable. I'm sure you've seen dozens of case files, and I was looking for your guidance as to what was normal and what wasn't. I wrote the summary of your responses because I do not want to mischaracterize you or the KNS, not because I wanted to provoke a debate.

Again, if I am incorrect on any of the six points I outlined, by all means let me know and I will correct them.

I want whatever I write to be accurate.

Thanks again,
Rich

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Can I re-establish a dialog?
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey
Sent: Thursday, August 4, 2011 8:30 AM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

The ME has opined that injuries initially believed by UT to be beating injuries were instead attributed to the overdose and the file shows UT now concurs.
Henry's cellphone records show calls from Harper's cell to Henry's cell on April 26 so there is nothing missing. If you look at the summary preceding the records you will see that KCSO made note of a particularly long call between Harper and Henry on the 26th.
The Granju family told reporter Don Jacobs Henry had a broken jaw and broken ribs (see our archives) but the ME found no evidence of that nor did UT.
My purpose in the story was to show what the file shows and what it doesn't show about what happened to Henry. To say I didn't care or seek to determine what happened is patently false.
Harper called the DA's office this week and said a man came to her trailer claiming to be working with me on this story. No one has been working with me on this story. The DA is investigating so if that was you, I would suggest you contact Kevin Allen. If it was not you I apologize for raising the issue.
All I was trying to say yesterday is that what I hoped to do in the story is lay out what evidence exists so readers can judge not only what may or may not have happened but also the veracity of both KCSO's probe and Katie's claims.
Let me share one example that has troubled me about the manipulation going on here. On the day the file was to be released at noon, I was notified at 11 am it would not be ready for several hours due to the time it was taking to copy onto discs. I immediately notified Katie. She said she was going to arrive at noon anyway. So the notion that KCSO made her wait 5 hours is not entirely accurate. She knew there would be a lengthy wait before she arrived. She also later told me (I'm not sure why) that during her wait she never asked for the file but instead repeatedly asked to see Martha Dooley. She was given a copy of the file before any were distributed to the public.
I'm not suggesting KCSO's treatment of her throughout this contentious probe was appropriate. But both sides have engaged in spin so I have sought to remain squarely in the middle as a reporter should. I hope this clarifies.

This email shows a gross misunderstanding of the information in the case file. Let's take each one in order.
1. The ME has opined that injuries initially believed by UT to be beating injuries were instead attributed to the overdose and the file shows UT now concurs.While the UT doctors concurred that the cause of death was an overdose and not trauma from the beating, in no way did any of the doctors at UT agree that there was no trauma. That there were no fractures as they suspected and recorded in the medical files? Sure. But no trauma? Nope. Here is a quote from the ADA summary of the case:
"On Sept 17,2010, I spoke again with Dr. Hecht, who had conferred with Dr Ryder, HLG's neurologist, and after reviewing the ME's report, he believed the ME was correct that the non accidental trauma did not contribute to HLG's death."

First, Dr's Hecht and Ryder agreed with the ME that the cause of death was hypoxia due to an overdose. Nobody argues that. But nowhere in this statement does either doctor agree that there was never any trauma from the attack. In fact, the statement explicitly recognizes the presence of trauma from the attack as the "non accidental trauma." The overdose was an accident, as ruled by the ME. The trauma unrelated to the overdose was related to the attack. Additionally, the medical files as released by the KCSO are incomplete. Katie has scores of documents showing the doctors describing the trauma as Henry was admitted and being treated.Henry's discharge papers from UT note"He did have pericardial effusion (buildup of fluid in the membrane surrounding the heart) from his assault. He did have raccoon eyes. He did have multiple traumas..." Also from the case file is his initial emergency room exam, which notes both head trauma and Battle's Sign. I could go on but it is clear that the evidence that Henry sustained a major assault came not from spin from Katie and her family, but from the assessment of the medical professionals treating Henry.
2. Henry's cellphone records show calls from Harper's cell to Henry's cell on April 26 so there is nothing missing. If you look at the summary preceding the records you will see that KCSO made note of a particularly long call between Harper and Henry on the 26th.The missing data comes from Harper/Houser's land line, a phone that saw extensive use both before and after Henry's stay. Why were the calls to and from that phone missing? Why can't Satterfield even acknowledge that there is a significant gap in the records as presented by the KCSO? Why does she think that the presence of cell phone records somehow magically accounts for the missing 36 hours of land line records?
3. The Granju family told reporter Don Jacobs Henry had a broken jaw and broken ribs (see our archives) but the ME found no evidence of that nor did UT.When Katie Granju reported that Henry had a fractured skull and a broken jaw, that came directly from the treating doctors. The fact that the ME found no evidence of fractures 6 weeks later in no way invalidates what Katie was told at the time.
Again, from the case file as released by the KCSO: "Radiology Report 05/06/10 Results: Indication: Trauma. Right skull base fracture. Evaluate for cortical or watershed injury." And once again from May 5th: "Although CT scan of the bones of the basal skull could help with making a diagnosis of fracture I think it is clear enough clinically that it is not needed..." In short, while the ME found 6 weeks later that Henry did not have a fractured skull, he presented the doctors treating him at the time of his admission and throughout his stay at UT with all the signs they needed to clinically needed to diagnose him with one. Satterfield's statement that UT found no sign of skull fractures is not consistent with the medical records in the case file, which clearly show that doctors at two hospitals recorded symptoms of a skull fracture. More to the point, whether there was a skull fracture or not, the observations of the physicians who treated Henry in the ER and the ICU make it clear that he was hit hard enough in the head to exhibit all symptoms of a fractures skull, and hard enough in the chest to damage the pericardium.
At this point I began to believe that Satterfield never read the report, instead relying mostly on the executive summary from the ADA.
4. My purpose in the story was to show what the file shows and what it doesn't show about what happened to Henry. To say I didn't care or seek to determine what happened is patently false.As demonstrated above, if her mission was to present what was in the report accurately, she failed miserably. If, on the other hand, her mission was to validate the KCSO and the DA, she did a masterful job. Additionally, she might want to take this up with Mr. McElroy, who, as quoted above, specifically commissioned a story that looked only at the evidence gathered by the KCSO, and not by the paper itself. I'm curious, what steps did Satterfield take to determine what actually happened? According to McElroy, she wasn't authorized to take any.
5. Harper called the DA's office this week and said a man came to her trailer claiming to be working with me on this story. No one has been working with me on this story. The DA is investigating so if that was you, I would suggest you contact Kevin Allen. If it was not you I apologize for raising the issue. I'm not sure what this was about, except maybe an attempt to intimidate me. It failed.
6.All I was trying to say yesterday is that what I hoped to do in the story is lay out what evidence exists so readers can judge not only what may or may not have happened but also the veracity of both KCSO's probe and Katie's claims. Again, this is not consistent with the article she wrote. There was no critical thinking, no analysis of the records, just a stenographic recitation of selected bits and pieces from the case file, presented in a way to reinforce certain conclusions while ignoring evidence that supported alternate views.
7. Let me share one example that has troubled me about the manipulation going on here. On the day the file was to be released at noon, I was notified at 11 am it would not be ready for several hours due to the time it was taking to copy onto discs. I immediately notified Katie. She said she was going to arrive at noon anyway. So the notion that KCSO made her wait 5 hours is not entirely accurate. She knew there would be a lengthy wait before she arrived. She also later told me (I'm not sure why) that during her wait she never asked for the file but instead repeatedly asked to see Martha Dooley. She was given a copy of the file before any were distributed to the public. What is troubling about this? Katie posted frequently that she had never once met with anyone from the Sheriff's Department during the entire ordeal. The KCSO had already released case files, including the preliminary autopsy to the press without notifying the family; surely she was justified in taking measure to make sure it didn't happen again. And while she waited, she tried to meet with someone, anyone, from the Sheriff's Office.

Ok, so it should be obvious that I have a serious disagreement with Satterfield over both her story and how she's justifying it. Also, since I was at the Sheriff's office when Katie picked up the records, I wanted to correct any misinformation that might have been floating around the newsroom. So I responded:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Thu Aug 04 08:51:27 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, once again, thanks for your response and the clarification. While I disagree with you on whether there are missing records or not, I believe I understand where you are coming from, both as an individual and as a reporter for the KNS.

As for the person who interviewed Yolanda Harper, that was not me. I'm still digging through the case file and won't be ready to do any interviews for a while yet. When I do start interviewing people connected with the case, I will do it exactly like I did with you, identifying myself and my purpose right up front. Even then, it's doubtful that I will approach Harper or Houser, as I consider Houser to be a fairly dangerous man. But thanks for the heads up.

Finally, I do want to clarify the events at the Sheriff's office when Katie went to pick up the records, not to start a debate, but to give you additional information that may remove the perception of spin, at least in this case. I can tell you what happened because I was there the whole time.

First, Katie told us that she had been informed by a reporter that the records were going to be released at noon the next day, and she asked for people to be there with her. Lissa and I took time off work to be there, and arrived about 11:50. Katie got there at about the same time and told us, and the reporters that were there, that she had been told by the same reporter that the release of the file had been delayed, and that we would have to wait for awhile. She then went to the Records window and asked to see Martha Dooley. She didn't ask for the case file, or even mention it. She was told to take a seat, that Ms. Dooley would be paged and would come out to meet with her.

An hour went by.

Katie went back to the records window to get an update on when Ms. Dooley would be coming out to meet her. At this point, she was told that Ms. Dooley wasn't in her office that day, that her husband was in the hospital and she was there with him. Katie asked why she hadn't been told that in the first place, and the woman at the window had no answer. Katie then asked to speak with Ms Dooley's assistant, and was told she could do so, and to go to the Sheriff's office.

Katie went to the Sheriff's Office and asked to see Ashley Haynes. She was asked if she had an appointment and when she answered that she did not, was told she would have to wait. The receptionist immediately phoned somebody and told them that Katie was there, along with reporters.

We waited calmly for a couple of hours. There was a brief, ugly encounter with a Sheriff's office employee, but nothing of note happened until Martha Dooley came into the office and had an extended conversation with Katie. There is video of that conversation linked at the justice for henry site. If you watch the video, remember that this is the first time Katie has met face to face with anybody from the KCSO.

We moved back to the records waiting room at 4:30, and by 5:30, Katie had her disk and we left.

I do want to single out one KCSO employee who went out of their way to make Katie and the rest of us comfortable. As the Sheriff's office was closing, Capt. Dan Henderson came through to secure the office. He spoke very graciously to Kaie, and the rest of us who were waiting, expressed his sympathy to Katie, apologized for the long wait, offered to get soft drinks, and in general, treated us like human beings instead of obstructions. He provided a human face that the office lacked up until that point.

Some important things to note, at least in my opinion:
At no time did Katie ask for the records; that was an assumption on the part of the KCSO.
At no time did Katie receive notification from the KCSO that the records were going to be released.
The only reason Katie received the records before the media was that she was tipped off by friend in the media and was there to get them. Had she not been there, the case files would have been released to the media first. Given that this happened with the preliminary autopsy, she was understandably concerned that it might happen again.
Katie said several times to anybody who would listen that she was waiting to speak to somebody from the Sheriff's Office; she never mentioned the case file. (In fact, the only time Martha Dooley was speechless was when she realized that Brad Hall had never spoken to Katie or Chris face to face, and that nobody from the KCSO had done so until that day.)

Sorry for the long post, and once again, thanks for clarifying your position. I will do my best to convey it accurately in anything I write.

One last question, and this is more of a general attitude thing, and not specific to the case. You wrote that since both sides were spinning, you were aiming to stay in the middle, as a reporter should. My aim in this is to get to the truth, whether it is in the middle, or with one side or the other. I'm not trying to construct a narrative at this point; just trying to get to the facts that can be verified. Katie has reported things that have turned out to be wrong, for example the timing on Savannah Aderholt's 911 call, but there are also problems with the KCSO files. I am vetting Katie's reports just as thoroughly as I am the KCSO case file. Once I have facts that I can rely on, then I'll look for a narrative that fits the facts.

Is this the correct approach?

Once again, thanks for your time, and I hope I haven't taken up too much of yours.

Take care,
Rich


Once again, straight forward, polite, and I hope, professional. Here is Satterfield's response:
FROM:Satterfield, Jamie
TO: rhailey
Thursday, August 4, 2011 1:27 PM
If I were close enough to one side in a story to accompany her to the sheriff's office I could not ethically report on the case as a reporter. Maybe the rules for bloggers aren't as stringent.

And we're back to that again. I'm asking questions without easy answers, so now I'm unprofessional and lacking standards.

My response:
You may our may not have noticed, but I did not report on Katie's trip to the sheriff's office. Instead I provided an eye witness account to a reporter who wasn't there and who had voiced misgivings about how the incident was portrayed by one of the participants.

My standards are just fine.


And that ended my exchange with Jaime Satterfield.

But not my exchange with the KNS. When Satterfield got huffy the first time, telling me I could "blog whatever I wanted", I sent a copy of the emails to date to Tom Chester, the News Editor:
From: Rich Hailey
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 10:26 PM
To: Chester, Tom
Subject: Fw: The Henry Granju Case files

Mr. Chester,

First, this is not a complaint about Jaime Satterfield; she is a good reporter and does good work.

Second, this is not an attack on the credibility/capabilities of the KNS. When I blogged the Knox County Commission Sunshine trial, and when Jack McElroy allowed me to blog from the newsroom about how a paper gets put together, I saw nothing but fairness and professionalism from everybody there.

I just have some big questions about the contents of the case file, and before I start writing about what I'm finding, I want to get the KNS perspective so I can present it accurately.

As I pointed out in my initial email, I've found some errors in the case file, and at least one very significant omission.

When I looked at the phone records for the Harper/Houser land line, I saw that there were no calls to or from that number from just before midnight on the 25th until after 10 am on the 27th. There were dozens of calls recorded on the 25th, and also on the 27th, but none for the critical 36 hours. There are two possibilities. Either for 36 hours, that phone never rang, or the records are incomplete. Given the traffic on that phone shown by the records for every other day, I find the former supposition doubtful, to say the least.

Am I crazy? When the KNS reviewed the file, did you notice this gap in the record? Did you ask the KCSO about it? If so, what was their response? Does anybody have an unexpurgated copy of the phone records for that number?

As I wrote to Jaime, my goal is to make sure that anything I write is accurate and complete. Any information you can give me from the KNS perspective will help me to meet that goal.

Thanks for your time,

Rich



----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Rich Hailey
To: "Satterfield, Jamie"
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 9:48 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, I'm not looking for a debate and I'm sorry if it comes across that way...(the rest of the chain is deleted for space)


Again, polite, reasonable, and what I think are valid questions about the case file. Here is Mr. Chester's response:
Rich,

Thanks, I received your note.


He's a taciturn man, isn't he?

So, what is the takeaway from this? Basically, that just about everything the KNS has written about Henry Granju has been in service of an agenda, not informing the public. They have spent almost zero time in fact checking, and as McElroy said himself, have done no independent investigations of their own. Instead, they've just accepted what the KCSO has told them, without critical analysis, and without verification. Whenever Katie has presented information that does not conform with the KCSO version of events, they imply that she is 'spinning' the truth, and 'manipulating' the media while all along, as anybody who takes the time to read the case files can tell you, it is the KCSO which is doing the manipulation.

There are people I like at the KNS, and there are people I respect as well. But as a whole, I no longer trust what I read there. I was at a football game the other day and I heard a couple of people talking about the Sentinel.

"Did you see the story in the Sentinel this morning?"
"Nope. The last time I bought a News Sentinel it was to use to house train my dog, but the paper was so full of crap already, there was nothing left for the dog to use."

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GAWD! I wish I could organize my thoughts and write as well as you do! Very informative and entertaining post. I cannot wait to read the article (or book, perhaps?!) we're writing about Henry Granju's story/case.
Posted by Jenni C.  on  09/23  at  10:04 AM

Nice extensive work. After all these years following blogs and having one myself for a while, I still don't understand why professional writers are so quick to assume that anyone that points out an error or oversight is out to get them. Its as if pointing out a mistake is calling into question their ability as a writer/researcher. They would get much more respect from their readers if they were able to admit an error and change the story accordingly; when they don't, and refuse to do so time after time, they convey the impression that they throw themselves into the mass of those reporters who have a preconceived outcome, then write the story to make it fit.
Posted by TJ Buttrick  on  09/25  at  12:28 PM

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