Tuesday, July 09, 2013

"Trial of the century"

(I've been really busy with summer classes. Trying to teach AND do research is craziness)

Anyway. The other night, when Morsi fell in Egypt, I wanted to see what was going on without firing up my archaic home computer. So I flipped on the tv.

Every news station (And I MEAN every - I even checked MSNBC) was showing highlights of the Zimmerman trial. (CNN apparently even has theme music for it)

This frustrates me on a couple of levels - first of all, what's going on in Egypt now is likely going to have a greater effect on our lives in the long run than some trial of a guy who killed a kid who may or may not have been attacking him. What happened in Florida was unfortunate and ugly and regardless of whether Martin was a "bad kid" or whether he attacked Zimmerman, he's still dead and his family is still mourning him. And Zimmerman's life has been disrupted; he's been painted as a vigilante and worse in the media.

The other thing that I really dislike is the thought that this is the new reality, that every big spectacular trial gets its own tv show. Surely this kind of thing is going to interfere with how justice is done? All we as citizens really need to know is (a) the case is going to trial and (b) the verdict (and sentence, if there is one) after the trial is over.

I don't know if it's that there are sufficiently large numbers of people lacking drama in their lives, that they feel they need the real-life soap opera of following a trial as it happens (I know people who watched almost every minute of the Casey Anthony trial). Or if people have somehow become convinced that watching a trial is doing some kind of civic duty akin to actually serving on a jury.

I don't know. But I worry about the ability for justice to be served in really high-profile trials, where there has been so much media speculation before the fact, and then the whole thing is on tv - so on some level, the attorneys and the court officers and the witnesses and perhaps even the jury know that millions of people are watching them - in some, that may raise an impulse to grandstand, a sense that "this is my ticket to fame (or at least to become a 'consultant' for Fox News)"

I tend to think putting a camera in front of most people changes their behavior, and not necessarily in a good way.

1 comment:

Dave E. said...

"...that every big spectacular trial gets its own tv show."

It won't be long before states realize the revenue jackpot they are missing out on, copyright these trials, and then forget the TV show...every spectacular trial will get its own channel.