Policy Corner: Why we delayed publishing our interview with a murder suspect

It's rare that people accused of major crimes want to be interviewed by us or any media. Ronald Dunbar, charged with murder in an April 2021 stabbing outside an Elmhurst bar, did.

He and his attorneys said they wanted to get ahead of media reports (that potential jurors might see) and rebut what prosecutors did or might put forward. Our Orrin Schwarz interviewed Dunbar on July 28.

Sure, we'd love to hear a murder defendant's side of the story. The problem is, how do we know Dunbar is telling the truth?

We care about that, especially because Dunbar is accusing the stabbing victim of crimes, as well as another person. It's also a legal matter, as we could be found liable for libel, for defaming the living person. Plus, we wouldn't want him to fool anybody, including us.

So, even though Dunbar laid out in extensive detail what happened up to the stabbing that April night, we didn't publish any of it until we could corroborate it with trustworthy information, as well as information that would protect us from libel charges - which means accounts from police or the courts. We have withheld people's accounts of crime in the past when they couldn't be corroborated.

We worked to obtain police and court records. That involved its own court fight, as it turned out. A DuPage County judge denied our request for those records, but enough information came out in court to back up Dunbar's account and reveal other information about the case.

With that, we finally felt, after more than two months, that we had enough to publish our interview. It appeared on Oct. 1.

Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comNeil Holdway anniversary picture for the Daily Herald.
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