Should the press, cameras and any sort of media be allowed inside the courtroom? According to our The Constitution of the United States our 1st Amendment right is as follows:
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.
I am asking this question, because after being part of a jury trial myself and having been found guilty I have different feelings towards this issue. I will point you to the 6th Amendment as follows:
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.
So obviously we’ve all seen court cases throughout the news, the newspapers, social media, etc. I am just as nosey as the next person that wants to know what’s going on. What I didn’t realize though was how it can affect a court case. There’s not much you can do about it either because of the 1st Amendment right. However, what I can tell you is that be allowing the media, newspapers, reports, etc. to constantly post about cases, write tweets about it throughout the trial, etc. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not you are infringing upon that person’s 6th Amendment right. The right to an impartial jury! Most of the time during trial cases, the jury goes home at the end of the day and then returns the next morning. The judge can instruct them to not read the paper, talk to anyone about the case, to not read social media, etc. Who’s policing them though? Sequestering a jury is rare. Asking for a change in venue is next to impossible. The prosecution will use the media as leverage for their case. They have crime reporters who are begging to get the next top story. Everyone is trying to get another notch on their career belt to move up the ladder of success. It doesn’t matter how they get there. The prosecutor in my case was going to be running for judge and so my case was something that was going to help bring him attention and if it meant that getting it at any cost meant me going to jail for his good name then that was what was going to occur. During my case, there was one reporter that was so hell bent on getting her story that she barged into the attorney/client rooms located outside the court room. After, I was sentenced and remanded to custody one of the bailiff’s asked my husband, sister, brother-in-law and a few others wanted to sit in there to collect themselves. Next thing they knew, the door flew open and this reporter storms in pushing. One of the sheriffs at the courthouse had to remove her and she was lucky to not be charged. When my family then left the courtroom, she was waiting outside and pushed herself up under my husband’s umbrella. Where is the sense in this? This biggest shocker to everyone was that there are clear instructions on the courthouse website stating the following:
Prohibited Items in Judicial Center
- Cell phones
- Knives or any type of cutting instrument (scissors)
- Pepper spray or mace
- Cameras: However, cameras may be allowed for adoption hearings and certain ceremonial events.
- Firearms, ammunition, or black powder
- Any type of recording device
- Radios and cd players
- Electronic games
- Tools of any kind
- Stun guns
- Handcuff keys
- No food or drink (food and drinks for infants and Jurors are allowed).
This particular reporter who sat directly behind the defense table the entire 2 weeks of my trial Tweeted a play by play of the entire hearing. You could go home that evening or at lunch get a recap of what was playing out in the court room. I had friends and family who saw it, so you know that the jury and their families saw it too. She was posting items in the newspaper along with a collogue. Once, my husband called the newspaper to have a story revised because it was totally false. We had proof from a police officer who called the DA’s office to tell them the accusations weren’t true. My husband was told, “People don’t want to know the truth”. So, if you don’t want to know the truth or report it, why read the papers? Doesn’t that then make anything they post questionable? There are people, and I’ve found that many times it’s the older generation that believe everything they read. If it’s in writing, then it must be true. Do you ever happen to notice that some cases get more attention than others? I mean what makes one person’s murder, one person’s robbery, or another person’s dui case any different than the one with less media? If you take a deeper look, there’s normally an agenda behind it. Who’s trying to move up the corporate ladder? So, are they in a sense glorifying your tragedy for their professional gain? It’s sickening when you think of it that way. As a victim, all of this makes you happy because it’s the equivalent of a town hanging. I get it. It’s not a good scenario for anyone. The other problem that I started to have with publishing everything before the final outcome, was “aren’t we supposed to be innocent before being proven guilty?” According to the headlines, they have people guilty, sentenced and put in jail before all the facts come to light. They do this on purpose to get a pulse on how people feel about the case. The DA’s office, the Defense and everyone involved is reading the papers, your comments and for reactions. So, while we do have a first amendment right, at what cost are we willing to allow it to affect the right to a fair trial?
Photo by Ekrulila: https://www.pexels.com/photo/tea-set-and-newspaper-placed-on-round-table-near-comfortable-chair-3837409/
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