If the Justice Department still views its brief as providing justice for all, it must surely be time to put up or shut up in the case of Richard Jewell. Mr Jewell is currently languishing in his Atlanta apartment, trying to repair the damage done to it - and to his reputation - by agents who searched it six weeks ago in full view of every media organisation in the country. On that day - following an Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclusive naming Mr Jewell as chief suspect in the Olympics bombing case - America turned into a jury willing to pass a unanimous vote declaring him guilty as charged. The only problem is, Mr Jewell has not been charged, following a week of intensive probing, when FBI agents and the media sifted through every aspect of the security guard's existence. A month later, the Justice Department declared the case still under investigation, and Mr Jewell still had not been charged. And at the time of writing, nothing has changed. Not only has the FBI turned up no evidence of Mr Jewell's guilt, it is becoming ominously clear that they probably never will. The FBI does not have a clue who planted the pipe bomb that killed one person and brought on another's fatal heart attack. But Richard Jewell is still the chief suspect. One day, Mr Jewell is hailed as a hero by the media for finding the duffel bag in Centennial Park containing the pipe bomb. A couple of days later, an investigator suspects that he suffers from 'hero complex' - the rare condition when a person with low-esteem commits a crime, then uncovers it in the hope of receiving adulation. But before evidence-gathering can get under way, someone leaks the news to the Journal, leading to follow-ups from such reputable names as CNN and the Washington Post - the latter revealing that Mr Jewell had confided in a colleague that if anything happened during the Olympics, 'I want to be part of it'. For Mr Jewell, the experience must have felt akin to that of Franz Kafka's Josef K, awoken one morning to be told he is guilty of some undisclosed crime, and who struggles against a sinister, awesome bureaucracy in a vain attempt to discover why he has been accused. In the intervening weeks, Mr Jewell passed a polygraph lie-detector test, in which the FBI's own former polygraph expert declared him innocent, and evidence emerged that it was impossible for Mr Jewell to be the anonymous man who called the police warning about the bomb, only a couple of minutes after he pointed out the suspicious bag early on that fateful Saturday morning. Finally, frustrated with the authorities' refusal to take Mr Jewell off the suspects list, his mother held a teary press conference two weeks ago, where she appealed to President Clinton: 'You have the power to end this nightmare. If the FBI does not intend to charge my son, please tell us, please tell the world.' Both the White House and Attorney-General Janet Reno said they felt her pain, but could not help her out in the middle of an investigation. Even in the unlikely event of Mr Jewell ending up in the dock, his treatment raises some serious questions about the willingness of the US media to play accomplice in law-enforcement's game of spin-doctoring politically sensitive cases. In cases involving domestic terrorism or other brutal violence, pressure on the authorities to catch the culprit often reaches beyond local politicians all the way to the White House. Investigators - and it has to be said, defence lawyers - nowadays manipulate a pliable media as if it were the 13th juror. With prospective jury members out there reading their morning papers, a well-placed judicious leak about new evidence or new witnesses can provide an important subliminal boost. From O.J. Simpson to the World Trade Centre bombing case, political pressure has led to media trials which take on more resonance than what goes on in the courtroom. In a case similar to Mr Jewell's, a Middle Eastern unlucky enough to be in the wrong airport at the wrong time had his name flashed across the world as a suspect in the wake of the Oklahoma City bomb. All too willing to toe the FBI's line that the act was connected to Islamic fundamentalism, the media condemned an innocent family man who stands next to no chance of clearing his name in court due to the unfriendly nature of American libel laws. The only factor which kept his ordeal short was the subsequent arrest of Timothy McVeigh - another man whom, if prosecutors had their way, could be left to die in jail without the irritating need to prove his guilt in a trial. Few media outlets have publicly recognised their rush to judgment in the Jewell case by running subsequent pieces about the insensitive way he has been left in judicial purgatory. But one thing in his favour is the fact that according to an opinion poll, three-quarters of the public believe he has been harshly treated in the press, and 80 per cent think it wrong to name a suspect before he is charged. Even if absolved, one thing Mr Jewell would be foolish to hold his breath for is an apology or monetary compensation for the upheaval. It is rare for the federal government to apologise to suspects who are later cleared, and it prefers to fight in court for its right to act as it pleases; one US$20 million (HK$154.60 million) damages claim, involving an Alabama man wrongly named in a murder investigation, is still bogged down in federal court seven years after his ordeal.