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Hot topics - Vic Toews, animal abuse, Paul Bernardo and too much information?

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I've got a new Jury Poll up on my website - www.mikeoncrime.com - which asks visitors whether they think Manitoba senior MP Vic Toews would make a good judge.Forget for a moment that Toews in on the record bashing so-called patronage appointments, and now may be in line to receive one himself.Forget for a moment that Toews' personal life is now the subject of ongoing court proceedings (his wife of 25 years has filed for divorce) as well as all sorts of tawdry discussion which might have some questioning how a man who buttered his bread preaching "family values" could be anything but a hypocrite.Bottom line - would Toews be a good fit behind the bench? So far the vote is running pretty close. I'll leave the question up for a couple more days, so make sure to cast your vote.*****So two Alberta teens have pleaded guilty to breaking into a home over the Christmas break, vandalizing it and then killing the family's cat by sticking it in a microwave oven for 10 minutes.Brutal. Senseless. Horrific. All those words - and more - come to mind.Here's another word you're going to be hearing soon in connection with this case - pathetic.As in, the sentences these two savages will receive next month will be pathetic.How could they not be?We know that sentences involving animal cruelty are already light enough - with beloved pets treated as nothing more than property under Canadian law.And we know that the Youth Criminal Justice Act doesn't exactly leave offenders shaking in their sneakers. So, combine these two factors and you have a recipe for a good ol' slap on the wrist.Anyone out there disagree?And what to make of these two teens and their prospects for a bright future?I once read that the majority of serial killers started off at a young age abusing animals. That's not to say these kids will grow up to be mass murderers. But you can't help but worry where they go from here after sadistically torturing and killing something so innocent.*****A judge has agreed to allow media outlets get copies of a 2007 interview with convicted killer and rapist Paul Bernardo.The 31-minute tape - which the judge called more "boring" than "chilling" - involves questioning of Bernardo about the unsolved killing of student Elizabeth Bain.We're likely to be inundated with video clips, still photos and soundbites in the coming days and weeks.How do you feel about that?Is this another slap in the face to the families of Bernardo's victims that he is continuing to grab headlines so long after the fact?Or is there a legitimate value to putting this out there for public consumption?More importantly, will you watch it? Are you curious to see what Bernardo now looks like, how jail appears to be treating him, what he says and how he says it? Or will you just turn away, change the channel?*****Finally, on the topic of whether the media is "going too far", I wonder what you think of the latest bombshell revelation surrounding the horrific kidnapping and murder of Quebec political aide Nancy Michaud?As you may have heard, the suspect, Francis Proulx, has been hit with additional charges of necrophilia and sexual assault.That takes an already terrible tragedy and adds yet another gruesome layer to it.From what I've seen so far, the media have carefully stickhandled around this by simply reporting the new charges and not going much further. No doubt this is out of respect for the impact this must be having on Michaud's friends and family member.But the issue is bound to come up again - likely in more graphic detail - if and when the case goes to trial and/or sentencing.I suspect there will be plenty of intense debates in newsrooms around the country - including mine - about how much information to publish about the specifics of the case.This isn't the first case to generate these kinds of discussions, and sadly, it won't be the last.But I'm always curious what the masses think about our role in these types of situations. How much is too much? Or does the public's right to know trump any other concerns?Feel free to discuss any, or all, of the above topics amongst yourselves.

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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