Little had been wrongly accused, and even though the case was dismissed, the damage was already done. Since then, he says, he has had issues finding both housing and employment.
The stigma continues for Little. All he just has to do is search for his name on the Internet, where his mug shot and numerous stories about his arrest show up, including one on WRAL.com.
“I feel ashamed about it, because I don’t want to be known like that,” he said. “It’s up there, and there’s no taking it back.”
Knowing what he knows now, Little says that if he had to do it again, he would have ignored the dead body in the street.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do (by calling police),” Little said. “I did, and I suffered from it.”
Here’s where everything was done correctly, even though it seems wrong:
Lewis Little called the police when he saw a dead body in the street. That is the correct thing to do.
The police arrested him because he fit the description of a burglary suspect. That is the correct thing to do.
The jail released him when the prosecutor dropped the charges and apologized. That is the correct thing to do.
The media reported Lewis Little’s arrest and mugshot, therefore harming his reputation because there’s no need for them to follow up on the story. Regardless of Mr. Little’s innocence, the media leaves the story of his arrest up on their sites, and that’s the false reputation that’s created by the media. This is wrong.
We can debate the reasons why he was arrested, or why bail was set so high, or why finding out Mr. Little’s innocence took so long, but the tangible and lasting effects of his arrest come from one source: the media. Without their initial reports, without their lack of follow-up and closure, this incident would probably just be a blip in Lewis Little’s life, not a life-changing event.
And yet, I don’t know how else this could be done in a free and open society.