Here is a question for GetReligion readers and other consumers of mainstream news. Does the name "James Pouillon" ring any bells for you? There's a chance that it will, since this was the man who was gunned down last September as he sat, in his wheelchair, protesting against abortion in front of Owosso High School in Michigan. GetReligion readers will remember this strange, Associated Press Style-bending headline from that time: "Anti-Abortionist Shot to Death In Front of School."
As I asked back then, "What, pray tell, is an anti-abortionist? Someone who is opposed to abortionists?" The normal style these days is "anti-abortion" and "pro-abortion rights."
Suffice it to say that cultural conservatives wanted to know why Pouillon's death received a fair amount of coverage, but nothing resembling the waves of ink that greet any acts of violence that take part on the other side of the issue. Meanwhile, some voices on the cultural left described Pouillon in the wildest possible terms -- sample, here -- and noted, accurately, that he was the kind of man who inspired strong emotions among a wide variety of people.
However, this was an important story for many readers. However, it appears that editors at the New York Times did not think that the resolution of this case was worth much attention. Here is the newspaper's report on the verdict. This is the whole story, minus the generic AP credit line:
Michigan: Trucker Guilty in Killings
A jury in Shiawassee County convicted a trucker of first-degree murder Thursday in the shootings of an abortion protester and a businessman, rejecting claims that the gunman could not be held criminally responsible because he was mentally ill at the time. The trucker, Harlan Drake, 34, faces life in prison in the killings of James Pouillon, 63, and Mike Fuoss, 61, in Owosso in September.
Now that is one gripping headline that pulls you into the heart of the story.
For a more complete account of the trial, check out this Associated Press report. As always, there are complex elements to the crime. How ever, there is no question that Drake shot Pouillon because his in-your-face protests against abortion had offended the trucker's mother. Thus, we read:
Assistant Prosecutor Sara Edwards said Drake's mother, Kim Staples, expressed "growing displeasure" with Pouillon the day before the shooting because children could see his sign.
"The defendant decided if Mr. Pouillon was in front of that high school on September 11th, he was going to kill him," Edwards told the jury. "He told detectives if Mr. Pouillon was there he was going to make sure he wasn't going to be there again."
As for Fuoss, Staples was his former employee, and Drake believed he had not treated his mother well, the prosecutor said.
In other words, this was not a random killing by an angry trucker.
Not that you would know that from scanning the briefs in the nation's newspaper of record.