As displayed by this week’s letters to the editor section, emotions are running high regarding last week’s story on the Miranda Wilkerson custody case, and that’s understandable considering the involvement of Donald Coleman, a registered sex offender now responsible for the 4-year-old girl’s well-being.
Let me take this opportunity, however, to respond to some of the criticisms and questions posed in the letters published this week.
Our goal was certainly not to portray Rita Manning, Miranda’s paternal grandmother, as “the good guy” or “the bad guy,” or to defend or assail Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier’s decision to award custody to Mr. Coleman.
Rather, with extensive coverage of the case by First Coast News for nearly a week before last week’s edition was published, we hoped to offer readers information that might help to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Why did the judge rule the way she did?
In most cases, a judge will explain his or her decisions in writing and those records are open to review by the media and everyone else. In this case, however, the court files were not open to public inspection, the judge had not spoken publicly about the case and reporters were barred from entering the courtroom during a hearing that followed the custody decision. Thus, we had to rely on other court records and comments from those present at the protest July 18, all of which were reflected in last week’s edition.