Fair Trial: Media in the Courtroom

Topics: United States Constitution, Jury, First Amendment to the United States Constitution Pages: 5 (1896 words) Published: January 16, 2011
Anyone that has watched television, has probably watched a civil or criminal court case. Court TV, Judge Judy, The Peoples Court, or even the news. Odds are, these shows have altered your perception about what happens in court. The media being present in this type of environment can influence how a person acts. Some people might get nervous and be apt to change their testimony, or might even play it up for the camera. With the peer pressure of being on television, do you think allowing media in the courtroom could affect witnesses’ testimonials and juror’s verdicts?

There has been an ongoing debate whether the media should be allowed in the courtroom. Media has been present in courtrooms since 63 B.C. (Court Reporting, n.d.). Throughout the ages, media has been involved in courtroom proceedings in one way or another. During the founding of our country, media presence was encouraged for the meeting of the Continental Congress sessions. Over time, media in the courtroom has been on the frontlines of controversy. There has been numerous court hearings relating to the media and if the media should be allowed in courtrooms during trials. One of the biggest arguments is the concern that the presence of media can affect the testimonials of witnesses’ or influence the jury’s verdict. There has been numerous court hearings relating to the media and if they should be allowed in courtrooms during trial.

Under the Constitution of the United States, the First Amendment guarantees one to the right for Freedom of Speech, Press, Assembly, and Religion. This amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (U.S. Constitution Online, n.d., ). This amendment entitles the media the freedom to report to the public anything that might be of public value. When relating to court cases, there has been controversy surrounding the media. Some judges have ruled that the media not be allowed in the courtroom during the trial, and have staged media areas where monitors were set up so they may keep progress on the trial. As a result of the judges ruling against the media being allowed in the courtroom, there has been court cases depicting that the civil rights of the media was violated according to first amendment of the United States Constitution.

Courts have ruled against the media being allowed in the courtroom, basing the decision on the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Sixth Amendment guarantees one to the right of a speedy trial. This amendment states “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense” (U. S. Constitution Online, n.d.). Essentially, courts have stated the accused can not get a fair trial due to the presence of the media. Through different types of media, the way a witness gives testimony, or the way a juror renders their verdict could be affected (Green, E., p.439). Some of the different types of media include newspapers, magazines, television, and crime shows. These are the claims that judges feel the accused can not get an impartial trial.

The presence of video cameras during a trail can be intimidating. Several studies have shown that a person being video taped, is subjected to nervousness, and being uncomfortable. This often is the result in the witness giving conflicting testimony or inconsistent testimony (Surette, R., p....

References: Alexander, S. L. (2004). Media and American Courts. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC CLIO Inc.
Bruno, A.(n.d.) Jessica Lunsford: Death of a 9- year-old. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from
Greene, E. (October1990). Media Effects on Jurors. Law & Human Behavior, 5(14), p. 439-450
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Jones, T (n.d.) O. J. Simpson. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from
Madison, J. and Delegates of the Philadelphia Convention (1787). United States Constitution.
Retrieved August 1, 2009, from www.usconstitution.net/const.html
Schuetz, J and Lilley, L. (1999) The OJ Simspon Trials. Southern Illinois University Press
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