2021 WINNERS OF THE PARKER THOMSON AWARDS FOR OUTSTANDING LEGAL JOURNALISM IN FLORIDA
Winners of the 2021 Parker Thomson Awards for Outstanding Legal Journalism in Florida.
Winners are represented in two categories, print and television. Award recipients receive $500 for first place; second-place honorees receive $250. All honorees and their media outlets receive plaques.
The winners will be highlighted in a video during the 2021 Florida Press Association Awards Presentation in July. The awards are presented by The Florida Bar’s Media & Communications Law Committee in recognition of outstanding journalism highlighting the system of law and justice as it affects Floridians. Judges for The Parker Thomson Awards are composed of out-of-state journalists, media lawyers and media educators.
First Prize: Isaac Eger, Sarasota Magazine, “Who Owns Florida Beaches”
After being kicked off a Sarasota County beach for trespassing by two private uniformed security guards during a sunset stroll early in 2020, the author decided to find out if this was legal. What he discovered was complicated and alarming: The public’s access to Florida’s beaches is shrinking and few people know that this is happening. “A well written, well investigated and important piece of journalism,” one contest judge said.
Second Prize: John A. Torres, Florida Today, “Crosley Green, his verdict overturned, is one Black life that never seemed to matter”
John A. Torres has covered the Crosley Green murder case since 2010 when the convicted murderer was re-sentenced to life in prison after initially being sentenced to death 20 years earlier. He followed the case through one appeal after another and began discovering and reporting on numerous problems with the conviction ranging from potential Brady violations to junk science, coerced witnesses and no physical evidence tying Green to the murder. “This story, including Torres’ 11-episode podcast about the case takes the reader on a journey through the legal system in a most compelling way,” one contest judge said.
First Prize: Sara Girard, WINK News, “What Happens to Kids Who Make School Threats”
Sara Girard’s reporting on students threatening to commit school shootings and what happens to them is the focus of this story. The Lee County sheriff’s office and state attorney’s office made several public promises to curb the threats through intense legal action, starting with arrests and real-life criminal charges. In less than two years, hundreds of kids made hundreds of threats in just one southwest Florida county. Girard’s investigation revealed inherent roadblocks to holding public officials accountable to their promises. “Her persistence and tenacity helped make this story a winner, along with stellar investigative reporting,” a contest judge said.
The Parker Thomson awards honor news stories, series, features, editorials, blogs, documentaries, columns, special sections — anything that is produced by a news organization and deals with law and lawyers, courts, law enforcement, the delivery of legal services, the effectiveness of the justice system, the work of the organized Bar or related matters. The media competition is in its 66th year. This year’s awards honored works published or produced in 2020. Thomson was a Florida attorney who, from 1968 to 1983, represented numerous prominent clients in First Amendment cases. He argued three cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Miami Herald Publishing Company v. Tornillo in 1974. He won that case, helping to overturn a state law that required newspapers to allocate equal space to political candidates on the editorial pages. Thomson died in 2017 at the age of 85.