Idea Of The Day

The Perils of Cross-Dressing in Texas

In Texas, pretending to be someone you’re not can lead to trouble with the law. Policemen working undercover routinely assume other identities—drug addicts and dealers, taxi drivers, financiers, etc. Recently, a Texas cop posed as a journalist in an operation that led to the arrest of an alleged murderer. A critic of such tactics said that if policeman routinely pretend to be journalists, then this “may feed the paranoia that criminals and criminal suspects have about people in the media and might, some day, get someone hurt.”

In the meantime, judicial authorities in Texas have incarcerated the now-famous Vanessa Leggett because she is, in their view, pretending to be someone she’s not. Leggett is in jail for contempt of court for refusing to reveal the names of sources who have provided information for a book she’s writing (a book about a murder). Since she is not a published journalist or author, the court argues, she does not have the same rights and protections as professional hacks and must therefore turn over her sources before she can be released. Tim Fleck of the Houston Press says Leggett is merely a private investigator with ideas above her station and that fame and self-promotion is her goal. What’s wrong with that? Should businessmen be prevented from becoming governors? If policeman in Texas can masquerade as journalists to secure convictions, why can’t a pushy investigator choose to become an author and write a book?

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