Social Media and Television in the Justice System

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Social Media

Can there be Justice in the Age of Social Media?

#Casey Anthony #JudgePerry #caseyanthonyverdict on Twitter; CNN talking about outrage.. Fox News inciting it’s feelings to the American public with their views of this trial and how the Social Networks are outraged. I am shocked yes; I am stunned BUT NOT outraged. I get it. One person I used to follow on Twitter a respected (not by me anymore) Gov’t employee has been up in arms about this all leading to the verdict; and after she has snapped. I won’t mention her name or profession but here is her Tweet minus the Hash’s and mentions: “I think it’s time for (Hashes and mentions) let the court of public opinion prevail in this open, transparent world”.” WOW now that’s a statement I can bite into. Hell it inspired me to pound this thing out.

Let’s just abandon the Constitution; grab our torches and run over there and throw a rope over a tree? Hell buying rope is a waste of money for just one use let’s dig a hole; bury her up to her neck and stone her? Nancy Grace might even dig the hole; round-up our rock pile and throw that 1st stone. Absurd right? Yes it is. But there it is on TV in social circles via the web. 12 Jurors heard the evidence presented; they saw the Defense and Prosecution present cases. They argued testimony that painted a very public picture of a man vilified for nothing proven by Law Enforcement; child rape of his Daughter and her now dead child for which this trial is about.

Motive? What wasn’t proven was motive; what motivated Casey Anthony to kill? Reasonable doubt indeed WAS proven here. What also was proven is that for good or bad the criminal justice system and our beloved Constitution WORKED. Whether we agree or not is inconsequential; this is a victory for reasonable doubt. This was a death penalty case let’s remember. Yes a little girl is dead killed by someone terrible and we all want JUSTICE we want that hanging day. But do we rush to justice based on what we read or what we see on places like FB and Twitter on TV by Nancy Grace? Do we plunge headlong into lawlessness because Fox News’s Bill Hemmer thinks it’s wrong she went free? Who cares what he thinks? He has such a hard on for this story and wants to be “that guy” to break something he’s trying to put words in a witnesses mouth. I can’t find ONE UNBIASED report in the news at all save some level-headed print folks.

Report the news and shut up that’s my journalistic advice to them and I’m no journalist or writer and I am sure not a lawyer.

Celebrity and Convictions in Social Media and Television. 

Since the Lindbergh Kidnapping media has made sensation out of celebrity. From Lindbergh to Son of Sam and OJ Simpson. Here is a taste of that drama:

The kidnapping of Charles A. and Anne M. Lindbergh’s twenty-month-old son horrified the United States, and even the world. In 1927, at age twenty-five, Lindbergh achieved international fame with the first solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by air, and in the bleak years of the late 1920s, the young aviator became a symbol of courage and success. The disappearance of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., on March 1, 1932, and the discovery of his corpse ten weeks later, led to a riotous trial, significant changes in federal law, and a tightening of courtroom rules regarding cameras.

Lindbergh’s historic flight from New York to Paris in The Spirit of St. Louis brought him both adulation and wealth. By the end of 1930, he was estimated to be worth over $1.5 million. His was an enviable life, with more than enough justifications for the nickname Lucky Lindy: world fame; the Congressional Medal of Honor; foreign nations sponsoring his long-distance flights; positions with several airlines; a publishing career; and, in 1929, marriage to the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, the writer Anne Spencer Morrow. The couple made their home in New Jersey, where their first child, Charles, Jr., was born in 1930.

In the context of 1930s crime, the kidnapping of Charles, Jr., was not unique. But because he was the Lindbergh’s’ son, his disappearance provoked weeks of well-publicized agonizing. Lindbergh led the search effort and even negotiated with organized crime figures. All hopes ended when the child’s body was found near the family estate.

Nearly two years passed before Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a carpenter, was arrested as the prime suspect in the murder. Hauptmann’s trial, held between 1934 and 1935, was a sensation. Nearly seven hundred reporters and photographers flocked to the New Jersey town that was the site of the trial. Inside the courtroom, where flashbulbs popped and a concealed newsreel camera whirred, order was seldom possible. Equally beset were the Lindbergh’s themselves, and Charles Lindbergh, despite his fame, developed a hatred for the media. After Hauptmann was convicted and, in 1936, executed, the couple left the United States to live in England.

The American Bar Association (ABA) viewed the trial as a media circus and called for reform. In 1937 the ABA included a prohibition on courtroom photography in its Canons of Professional and Judicial Ethics. All but two states adopted the ban, and the U.S. Congress amended the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to ban cameras and broadcasting from federal courts. The ban on photography in courtrooms prompted by the trial would last nearly four decades.

Another important result of the kidnapping was the passage of the 1932 Federal Kidnapping Act (U.S.C.A. §§ 1201-1202 [1988 & Supp. 1992]), popularly called the Lindbergh Law. This statute made it a federal offense to kidnap someone with the intent to seek a ransom or reward. The law has since been modified several times not only to increase penalties but to make the investigative work of federal agents easier.

Clearly there needs to be another ban on cameras and media access to the courts pre-verdict.  Silentium est aurum (Silence is Golden) there have been some successful convictions and some failures; OJ Simpson is a good example. Riveted public and media in a kind of  Reality Show drama Geraldo style played out the murders of 2 people and reasonable doubt won then as well. As a juror it’s your duty to stick to the evidence not the conjecture in a case. Why do you think there is that adversarial relationship Prosecution and Defense?

My real question is: Can celebrities or pseudo-celebrities EVER be convicted? Will people be so whipped into a frenzy that they will abandon what this Nation stands for just to see a person die for it guilty or innocent?


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