Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Look at a field of grass.
Question: In which direction are the blades leaning?
Answer: Depends on which way the winds are blowing, at that given moment.

An allegation of wrongdoing is picked up by the media. The focus intensifies and becomes partisan, the usual disclaimers, notwithstanding. Citizenry interest is molded into concurrence. The news coverage is thorough but inevitably comes down on one side. The population adheres. The other side of the story, and there always is one, is not afforded equal treatment.

The initial result is the institution of criminal proceedings. Many people want to be on the jury. During the impanelment, most deny ever being exposed to media pronouncement. They'll be able to decide the case solely on the evidence adduced at trial. They seek confirmation of their prematurely formed position. They have become the blades of grass. If the jury is not sequestered, the influence of media winds is not diminished. Despite being instructed to the contrary, newspapers will be read. The case will be discussed with family and close friends. A cynical observation, but that's the way it tends to be.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to due process of law. Due Process means fairness. The above scenario is not fair. It takes place in the court of public opinion. The remedy? Keep an independent open mind. Formulate an opinion only when all the facts are ascertained. And that is not subject to any short cut.

For, if a jury's verdict flies in the face of media opinion, that will never be the predicate for a new trial.

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