Media Scrutiny Changes Dynamics In Celebrity Cases


Hordes of journalists will be roaming the courthouse in Santa Maria, Ca., today, desperate for information on the Michael Jackson case, the Christian Science Monitor says. Many worry that such intense coverage is transforming the criminal justice process. For lawyers and judges working under the public’s gaze, it means a temptation to posture as much as to prosecute and defend. For jurors, it means the nearly impossible task of putting aside months, if not years, of publicity. “Media scrutiny has taken a major toll on the interest of justice,” says Martin Pollner, a New York attorney who has represented high-profile clients such as Steven Seagal, Naomi Campbell, Diana Ross, and Denise Rich. “It has changed the entire dynamic of the process.”

Pollner points to the 1995 Simpson case as the beginning of the modern obsession with celebrity trials. The case brought courtroom drama into American homes as never before. “Americans have always viewed the courtroom as public theater,” says Dirk Gibson, a communications and journalism professor at the University of New Mexico. “The danger is that unrestricted pretrial publicity can literally tip the balance.” Roberta Brackman, a Minneapolis lawyer formerly with NBC News, believes that, “Covering a trial from inside and outside has far more benefits to society and to our judicial system than any possible disadvantages.”


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