I've provided enough evidence that the media does influence what goes on. What I was doing with my previous source when I linked to the guy
that talked about the book I wasn't linking to that source to talk about what the opinion piece on it was but I was quoting something that the author
of that book said.
In this case, I would urge readers to follow the link and see what is actually said in the review piece. The source is a review article about a book
written by William Loges of Oregon State University on the impact of publicity on trial outcomes.
As summarized in the review article, the book actually makes almost the opposite argument from what my opponent is claiming: the article describes how
the new study finds that pre-trial media coverage has little or no effect on verdict, that this is in contrast to earlier studies that had suggested
there was an effect, and that those earlier studies were flawed in that they examined mostly mock trials in which students represented jury members
rather than actual criminal trials.
The only impact they found was that lawyers may fight harder in higher-publicity trials, and judges may impose longer sentences on defendants found
guilty. But even this, as I said in an earlier post, the authors admit can be attributed to the fact that if a trial received a lot of publicity it is
likely that the crime involved was in some way worse than usual – making a longer than usual sentence perfectly fitting.
My opponent has ignored throughout the entire debate me whenever I spoke about Rog Blagojevich-- dismissing it as not being a criminal
trial... but it's an impeachment hearing.
Again, I have not ignored my opponent on the matter of Mr. Blagojevich; I have pointed out several times exactly why that case is irrelevant to the
My opponent doesn't think too kindly of Mr. Bryant, yes, I am aware of this. But what he has done is that he hasn't argued on the points
that I have made regarding character assassination. My opponent seems to think that the media doesn't do character assassinations or that when they
do character assassinations that they have no influence at all in the courtroom.
I think I have been quite clear that I think that the media is guilty of what my opponent is calling “character assassination,” and I have not
argued that they have no effect in the courtroom. I have argued that they have no effect on the judges – and my opponent has done nothing to counter
this position. As far as whether the media has an impact on the jurors, it is my belief that to argue it doesn’t would be absurd.
Even if the coverage of the specific case by the media does not affect the jurors, they will have read or seen media coverage of other trials, they
will have been affected by media coverage of people involved in the trial, or media stereotyping of groups that the people involved belong to. In
short, the media affects all of our judgment. Here on ATS it is likely that the effect media coverage has may be negative – that seeing the
mainstream media portray an issue in one light will actually make us likely to look for the other side of the issue. But that is also an effect.
My opponent also thinks that all trials are unfair. I disagree with this. If all trials were unfair then what would the purpose be of the
justice system? The justice system is fair in that it gives everyone an equal chance. It doesn't exactly administer righteous justice. What it does
is that it gives both parties, the accused, and the prosecutor, a fair shot. Neither side is supposed to have the advantage.
I do not think that all trials are unfair; I think that all juries are unfair. I think that all juries are composed of people whose opinions are
informed by an entire lifetime of experiences outside the courtroom, and that they bring all these experiences into the jury box with them. This is
the right and proper thing to happen, because it guarantees that the law will be applied by a panel of citizens who live in the real world, not by an
emotionless robot incapable of taking nuance into account.
A jury must be unbiased
– no juror should have a personal stake in the case, and no juror should have an opinion about either side of the
case that would prevent them from judging guilt or innocence based on the facts of the case. To ensure this there is a body of case law demonstrating
what constitutes bias in a juror, and the practice of voir dire in which both sides have an opportunity to strike from the jury any potential juror
who does have such a conflict of interest.
As for the assertion that in a jury trial neither side is supposed to have the advantage – this is clearly false. A guilty verdict requires a
unanimous jury – if even one juror does not concur, the result is either a verdict of not guilty or a mistrial. This bias, combined with the hope
that jurors will be sympathetic to the defense case, is why so many defendants prefer a jury trial to a bench trial.
The topic given for this debate was “The Media Has Made It Virtually Impossible For A Celebrity To Receive A Fair Trial.” Oddly, the only three
actual celebrities my opponent has asked us to look at are men who have not had criminal trials at all. One may yet face criminal prosecution but so
far has only faced legislative penalty; one has submitted guilty pleas as part of plea bargains with both federal and state courts; one had his case
dismissed because the main witness did not want to testify.
A source my opponent submitted, supposedly to support his case, in fact makes clear that a well-designed study of jury verdicts found that there was
no statistically significant difference in rates of conviction in highly publicized versus unpublicized cases.
The only acknowledgement my opponent has made of the ability of a defendant to opt for a bench trial came in his closing when he said that if a
defendant must waive his right to a jury trial to get a fair hearing, the trial is not fair. I will address this point in a moment, but first I would
point out that this in fact acknowledges
that opting for a bench trial would result in a fair hearing.
In short, my opponent has done a reasonable job of presenting a case that the media is biased and that it affects public opinion about celebrities. He
has done nothing to show that this effect is carried into the courtroom.
And finally, he has done nothing to rebut my examples of ways that a jury is inherently unfair, or how that benefits our judicial system.
In calling a jury unfair, I mean to say that the jurors will always interpret the law and the case with relation to their own personal experience.
This is in contrast to a judge, who will endeavor to ignore any outside circumstances and determine in a strict way how the law applies in a given
Because a jury is unfair regardless of whether the case involves a celebrity or not, it is superfluous to blame the media for causing the unfairness
of a jury in a celebrity case. The media has not made it virtually impossible for a celebrity to face a fair jury; it is always impossible to find a
fair jury. Humans are subjective creatures.
And it remains possible for a celebrity to have a fair trial in the sense of a trial that follows the due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution
and the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Fourteenth Amendments. This is overseen by the judge – and my opponent has submitted no evidence that a
judge’s rulings in a case are affected by media coverage.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that I have discovered in my research for this debate is jury nullification – the right of the jury to refuse to
apply a law that they think is unjust. This right is guaranteed in case law and practically speaking is guaranteed by the Constitutional requirements
that a jury verdict be unanimous, that jury deliberations be confidential, and that a defendant who has been found not guilty by a jury cannot be
retried on the same charges.
This is exactly the sort of power that I submit makes it so important to have a jury that can represent the will of the people rather than a perfectly
fair jury that can apply the letter of the law. This is the kind of reservation of rights to the individual that this country was founded on, and the
sort of suspicion of authority that has kept this country great.
However, this right has faced challenges; most importantly, courts have ruled that a jury does not have to be apprised of this right. Indeed the trend
for the past hundred years or so has been to emphasize that the jury should only decide on facts, should not judge the law. This twisting of the
Constitutional right to trial by jury strongly favors the status quo and the maintenance of power both legislative and judicial in the hands of those
who already hold it.
For this reason alone, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to argue this point. And I hope that I have persuaded readers that “fairness” is
not the ideal characteristic of a jury. That while a jury must remain unbiased, it must also remain human and aware of the larger picture.
Thanks to Frankidealist35 for being my opponent in this debate, thanks to MemoryShock for setting it up and moderating, and thanks to our readers and