Yesterday I attended a hearing in a high profile case. It’s one of those cases where there is public outrage at what happened – one of those cases where the public gets a lynch-mob mentality and the prosecutor and law enforcement press hard for the toughest conviction(s) which they believe they can get (regardless of whether they are justified). There was a news camera in the courtroom. This was not my first case to be followed by local news cameras.
Every single time I have a high profile criminal case, I am awed by the lack of neutrality by the press. They completely ignore the constitution. They ignore the facts. They convict people in the media. They infect the potential jury pool with ignorance, and with the law enforcement mentality that everyone they charge is guilty, and that the public is being served by the prosecution.
How is someone, especially in a case like this, supposed to get a fair trial? Good luck on getting a change of venue. It hasn’t happened for me yet, and I have had some good cases for it.
It’s amazing that as a large mass, the public craves news of prosecutions and convictions. Juries who acquit defendants are publicly and privately condemned. Prosecutors who do not meet their expectations for severe punishment and mass incarceration are voted out of office (or at least campaigned against). Yet, when you separate out 12 individuals and intimately discuss a case with them, and justice in general, reason once again reasserts itself into the situation. Young and old. Republican and Democrat. Liberal and Conservative. The jury system is a protection against the lynch mob. The lynch mob is blinded to the constitution and to the truth. It operates on blind passion and ignorance.
Local news media feeds that monster everyday. Just watch local news. They talk about this conviction, and that conviction, and that this man will go to prison for X amount of years, and so on and so forth. You never read or hear about acquittals, unless of course it is set in the context of some slimy lawyer getting a guilty person off on a technicality.
– John H. Bryan