I let loose a good, round oath this morning as I read the newspaper, which contained an article with a reference to “one of the accused thieves.”
We’ve been here before. Let me quote myself from two summers ago:
The Associated Press has said in its stylebook since before the Dutch bought Manhattan that accused killer, accused murderer and similar constructions are forbidden.
The reason is simple. When you write "accused killer," you are identifying the person as a killer who happens to have been accused of the crime. In articles about sexual abuse of children by clergy, "accused priest" did not mean someone who had been accused of being a priest, but someone who was a priest who had been charged with a crime.
The rationale behind the reason is also simple. Newspapers should take seriously the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings. It is not our business to convict people of crimes before judges and juries have acted.
The article today explained that the proceeding had ended in a mistrial, so there is not even the excuse of a conviction of guilt to justify the usage. And there should have been at least three points on the copy desk for someone to notice this and rectify it.
Let me quote myself again from two summers ago: