Trial by Media

Topics: Jury, Jury selection, Facebook Pages: 7 (2349 words) Published: March 31, 2013
One of the basic rights a defendant has is "the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury” as well as the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” (Zora, 2010). This is made possible by a complicated jury selection process that serves to find the best candidates for making an un-biased decision regarding someone’s life. In my essay I will look into how social media, and media in general, negatively impact court cases and decisions, and how the courts choose or attempt to deal with this issue. I will also consider the effect that media has on the lives of the parties outside the court room, and post trial. To highlight the effect that new forms of media have I will look into the differences between publicity in today’s trials and trials in the past.

Media plays a huge role in people’s lives, whether you are a teacher, a construction worker, a criminal, or for this papers case; a judge or juror. The role media plays is very diverse, ranging from advertisement of products to presentation of news and current events all the way to “entertainment”, I put that in quotations to emphasize that I’m borrowing the word from the dictionary of the media, whether I agree with everything the term is used for is subject to another paper.

Judges, lawyers and jurors are not there just to facilitate something that’s already planned or just to read out information, they each go through a separate process that deems them fit to do their job, and each is picked after meeting a set of standards. One of these standards, in the case of judges and jurors is that they cannot be bias towards any group of people, or be partial towards any party, they must be open minded, and while judges go through an extremely lengthy process and take years to get to their position, involving years of studying and years of practicing law, exposing them to a huge number of cases and forcing them to have as open a mind as possible. A juror is a random person who is likely not trained for anything that has to do with law, who is then given instructions and has a case presented to him. In the past jurors were close friends and acquaintances of the parties involved, made to promise giving their truthful word, and chosen because they would be the ones who know the defendants best, therefore can share their views on the person. This later changed to appointing a jury that had no kinship or personal interest in the case, after the problem of partiality began to show, whether the juror had any previous knowledge of the case though, made no difference. Today knowing either of the parties previously or hearing anything about the case outside of the court is seen as an obstacle. Reading that, one can understand the cause for concern, but to look deeper into what constitutes as outside interference in the jury, one will see the extreme steps courts have taken as preventative measures with legitimate reason of course.

We see time and time again that even some of the most clear cut cases end up as mistrials, or the case gets thrown out, and in disturbing scenarios the defendant gets wrongly accused. When your life is in the hands of a jury that is made of people who watch the same shows as everyone else and the same news, and all that's being talked about is you’re trial inhumanness and you’re certain guilt, and while a juror may or may not agree, you can be sure that he/she will feel the pressure that all the publicity has. How can he or she be the one who lets a murderer walk? This goes the other way, if the juror truly believes the guilt of a defendant but the media is portraying the defendant as wrongly accused, the juror will have no choice but to somewhat doubt his opinion. These are not hypothetical scenarios, rather a reoccurring phenomenon that courts are struggling to deal with. As a result, judges have to make decisions on whether a trial has been fair taking into consideration what is going on outside of the courtroom with the...
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