Albion Monitor /News

Disputed portion of Press Democrat "Empire News" section on Friday, October 3

Mendocino County Sheriff James Tuso says "the Press Democrat showed extreme insensitivity" by printing the photograph of Phyllis Davis adjacent to a photo of Lincoln, "...the person who caused the death of her husband"

Angry Sheriff Charges Press Democrat With Bias

by Jeff Elliott

on "Bear" Lincoln Case

report on this story

UKIAH, CA -- Hopes that tempers would cool this week faded when Mendocino County Sheriff James Tuso sent an emotional letter to local media, charging that recent Santa Rosa Press Democrat coverage was biased -- in favor of "Bear" Lincoln.

Tuso's complaint centered on an October 3 layout (pictured above) which the Sheriff complained was, "another chapter in this tragic miscarriage of justice...a sickening display of insensitivity on the part of the Press Democrat."

The Sheriff objected to Lincoln's photograph appearing next to that of the widow of slain Deputy "Bob" Davis. Tuso wrote, "...Phyllis [Davis] broke her silence and agreed to an interview....not knowing that the Press Democrat would place an ex-felon, the person who caused the death of her husband, next to her smirking."

Ironically, many Lincoln supporters also disliked the newspaper's presentation for different reasons, feeling that the picture of Davis -- gazing earnestly into the lens and standing in front of a shrine to her deceased husband -- was unfairly contrasted with a image of Lincoln, applauding and squinting in a shifty-eyed manner.

Tuso continued by saying that "spin doctors turned this tragic event into their own personal and political agenda's" [sic] in a broad attack on unnamed critics.

The Press Democrat has not printed Sheriff Tuso's letter, consistent with its apparent editorial decision to ignore all criticism of its reporting of the Lincoln trial. As of October 10, the newspaper has not presented a single letter concerning the trial or its aftermath. The Albion Monitor has presented two editorials critical of Press Democrat coverage, including its blackout of public response.

Tuso's comments were denounced by experts contacted. "The man needs to have more respect for the jury system -- maybe he shouldn't be a sheriff," says John Wesley Hall, author of the standard reference book on criminal law ethics. "Obviously, the guy's not acting in a responsible manner."

Hall adds that law enforcement officers often disagree with verdicts, but that is their duty to accept a jury's decision. "The guy should get a life and get on with it."

Below is a copy of the press release exactly as it was e-mailed to public radio station KZYX. Some minor formatting has been added to reproduce the original layout.

JAMES TUSO, Sheriff-Coroner         OCTOBER 5, 1997


It appears that although law enforcement officers put their lives on the line daily to protect their communities, there are those persons who still think of our profession as less than honorable and desirable.

Law enforcement is expected to accept criticism, and we do so on a daily basis. However, some people feel that we in law enforcement do not have a right to voice concerns over sensitive issues or public safety matters. For if the concerns we voice are not acceptable, or do not meet their standards, they condemn us. They yell unfair. They scream that the First Amendment has been violated. They do so without consideration for the feelings of those they mark for condemnation. They react as if theirs is the only way of seeing the issue.

After many, many months of not being able to discuss the death of Deputy Sheriff "Bob" Davis, I am now compelled to respond to the October 3, 1997 news story in the Press Democrat relating to the interview with Phyllis Davis. What I thought was going to be a venue by which Phyllis could express her personal feelings about the death of her husband and the subsequent events leading up to the jury verdict, just became another chapter in this tragic miscarriage of justice....... a sickening display of insensitivity on the part of the Press Democrat. A total lack of compassion for a loving and caring person who has endured what no person should.

After more than two years, Phyllis broke her silence and agreed to an interview, truly believing that she could finally express her personal feelings and thoughts about the tragic death of her husband, not knowing that the Press Democrat would place an ex-felon, the person who caused the death of her husband, next to her smirking. I feel that the Press Democrat showed extreme insensitivity to Phyllis by printing those photographs side by side. The one time that Phyllis Davis thought she could express her thoughts and opinions, she tragically discovered she was not allowed to have her story printed by itself.

Phyllis and I, along with many other supporters, are now sharing the same anger over the way the Press Democrat chose to report out her feelings and thoughts. Words alone cannot express our contempt at the person(s) responsible for this blatant abuse. One would think that this interview would have been prepared with dignity and respect for Phyllis after what she has been subjected to over the past two years. Obviously, we were mistaken in our belief that her words, personal thoughts and opinions would be respected and dignified in a private and sincere article.

It has been over two years since Deputy Sheriff George Robert "Bob" Davis was killed in the line of duty while serving as a proud and courageous member of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. We have honored and paid tribute to "Bob" for his distinguished service to the men and women of the Sheriff's Office and to the people of Mendocino County. For he was a good and honorable man, serving in a good and honorable profession..... a profession that few have the courage to choose as their own.

Surviving the devastation of "Bob's" death, Phyllis remains a proud individual who greatly loved her husband. She supported him throughout his career as proud and dedicated member of the U.S. Navy SEALS, and continued that support upon his entry into his second career as a member of the law enforcement profession. The "exceptional people" who claim membership in the law enforcement family include more than those who pin on a star or shield. For each person who takes up the cause of upholding and enforcing the laws of this country, there is a wife or other family member who keeps a prayer in his or her heart as that loved one goes out each day, hoping that their loved one will return home safely. Phyllis is one of those "exceptional people" who has suffered deeply throughout this entire gut wrenching ordeal.

Throughout her marriage, Phyllis Davis was very sensitive to the demand's of the law enforcement profession, sharing the same hurt, concerns and compassion that "Bob" shouldered, whose efforts and sacrifices allowed the people of Mendocino County to enjoy the many benefits and privileges of living in this county. Phyllis has been very sensitive to the demands and pressures placed upon her during the course of this nightmarish ordeal. She, like many others, have found it difficult to remain silent while the spin doctors turned this tragic event into their own personal and political agenda's.

In spite of the host of negative influences that the Sheriff's Office faces today, those of us in the law enforcement profession will bravely and proudly carry on the work to which our honored colleague gave his life for. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with Phyllis Davis, Max and Ellen Keeler, Deputy Sheriff Dennis Miller, and the family and friends of Deputy Sheriff "Bob" Davis.

"Bob" was my friend.

County of Mendocino

951 LOW GAP ROAD, UKIAH, CALIFORNIA 95482 - 707-463-4411 or 463-4086
E-Mail: - E-Mail:

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[Editor's correction: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat had printed two letters concerning the Lincoln trial, both in the days shortly before this article appeared. The letters were published in October 5 and 7 editions.]

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Albion Monitor October 10, 1997 (

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