Solution Proposal Ariel Tix

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

One of the rights guaranteed to American citizens is the right to a fair trial, where the accused is allowed "due process of law… and a trial by an impartial jury" (National Center for Constitutional Studies) Along with the constitution's other rights guaranteed to the accused, there has long been a standard of "innocent until proven guilty" this standard is deterred by coverage of criminal cases by media. “The United States Supreme Court has referred to the right to a fair trial as “the most fundamental of all freedoms.” (Phillipson, Gavin) but this fundamental freedom is put at risk with the current handling of the first amendment, freedom of the press. Media groups are in the business to make money and will go as far as possible to get and make a story. People want to read scandal, its intriguing, and it fascinates us. The media also uses tactics to sell their stories, and to get the biggest audience possible, these are a few of the causes of the deterioration of the "innocent until proven guilty" standard. The media uses their power of portrayal to their own advantage, to sell stories, to gather public support, and to accomplish their own agenda. This power while given to the press by the first amendment, should not come before the liberty of the individual.

There are safe guards to protect the accused that are found in amendments five and six, these include the right to a trial of peers, due process and right to council. And there are restrictions put on the press that include prior restraint and gag orders although they are not used often or effectively. Even with these laws in place it does not always keep the accused seen as "innocent until proven guilty" News coverage of court cases is everywhere and even with the safe guards the press is able to leak information, and portray the information how they want and set a public opinion on these events. In 2013 there was a massive protest in Canada, and this too was covered by the media, there was a study on how the media covered the protest. The study conducted sought to see how the media portrayed the different groups in the protest. In one of the quotes it is easy to see how media outlets can skew the public's opinion and offer a portrayal of events that cause an intended reaction. "While police may be frustrated with how they are portrayed in the media (Huey and Broll 2012), they rely on that media depiction for public support and consent (Lee and McGovern 2013)." (Jennifer L. Schulenberg* and Allison Chenier) in this case police understand their credibility and support for their actions is dependent upon how the media portrays them. That should not be the case, but the media is able to depict different groups in whatever way they want. This news is put out for the public and controls how the public views these groups. This could be dangerous to someone accused of a crime.

In one case that got national attention the media spun the evidence to gather public support for their side of the story. In the infamous "Casey Anthony Case" the media took all information given to them and used it to create a persona of the accused, and it worked, the media was in control of how the nation saw Casey Anthony, she had no chance to been seen as "innocent until proven guilty.” This next quote is taken from a book review of a book written by Casey Anthony’s lawyer, Jose Baez. "Among the Constitutional protections afforded to the criminally accused, "innocent until proven guilty" is often the most difficult for people to accept. This benefit of the doubt, especially in high profile cases with highly suspicious facts like Casey Anthony's, is quickly muddled by the media's portrayal of the accused." (Anne-Marie Mitchell, J.D.) This is a very telling quote, first, “innocent until proven guilty” is already hard enough for people to believe, and it is made that much harder with skewed news stories that have the potential to taint the jury pool. Second media has the ability to portray the accused as guilty with little evidence, or only what they want the public to know about.

The case was covered on every major news network in America and the story was big in the news for months, sometimes daily there would be "new evidence" concerning the case. In many cases there would be attacks on how Casey lived, it was reported that she partied and showed little concern for her child. It was also released to the public that Casey had searches for chloroform on her computer, once again, a small amount of select evidence was used to “show” that Casey was guilty before her trail had even started. Soon enough the media decided to show that Casey was a murderer, and much the public supported that hypothesis. While the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty it is still easy to see how the jury may have been tainted by the pretrial coverage of her case, not many would have been able to see her as "innocent until proven guilty."
Earlier research was also conducted on how the media can influence the outcomes of criminal cases. In 1994 a paper was published that sought to identify how pretrial coverage of cases impacted the outcomes of criminal trials. The findings were varied, in some cases jurors were introduced to media coverage of cases with either favorable or unfavorable comments and they were asked to make decisions, based on the stories, of guilt or innocence. What the tests couldn't say for sure was if the jurors made their decisions based on the pretrial coverage, or if the jurors were able to forget about the coverage and solely base their decision by court admissible evidence or some combination of the above. "The American Bar Association in 1968 identified a number of categories of pretrial publicity which could compromise a defendant's right to a fair trial, including prior criminal record, statements about the defendant's character, reports of a confession, statements from potential witnesses, and several others." (Otto, Amy L., Steven D. Penrod, and Hedy R. Dexter) With the release of these categories to the media, it has the potential to influence jurors, and while this pretrial coverage may not impact the final outcome of the trial, it still interferes with being presumed "innocent until guilty."

American citizens are guaranteed the rights to a fair trial, the right for due process and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. How is this to be accomplished in a society where information is put everywhere, whether true or not? This problem is especially hard to consider solving when the first amendment is taken into account. The first amendment is all about freedoms, one of which is the freedom of the press, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…" (United States Constitution) While the first amendment guarantees the right for individuals and the press that they are free to express themselves, there are some limitation to this expression. The press and individual alike are not to "express" something that may loss of liberty or life to another being. This is another vague phrase that allows for difficult interpretation.

One idea is to amend the rule of 3.6 also known as the attorney no comment rule. This rule is in place to protect the accused's rights to a fair trial. "Attorney no-comment rules are designed to regulate trial publicity in order to protect a defendant's right to a fair trial. They prohibit lawyers from commenting about pending criminal cases if they have reason to believe their statements will have a "substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing" an adjudicative proceeding." (Weisberg, Lynn) This rule right now is a little too vague, and also does not target the problem completely. The goal is to curb pretrial interference with criminal cases, and the one of the sources of the problem is the media. Even if the rule was amended and made clearer, it still doesn't completely solve the problem. Attorneys would have better guidelines of what to not say, but media would still find some aspect to cover, and would still portray the accused and their situation how they wanted.
Another solution is to establish an entirely new court system to deal with high profile cases. "…Laurie Nicole Robinson proposes a solution that she believes would help "balance the scales of justice for high-profile defendants."126 This solution involves the establishment of special high-profile courts to hear only high-profile cases." (Morris, Jaime N) This idea being put into place is improbable, it is unlikely that there will be a new court established. Although the idea behind it is good, and Laurie lays out some guidelines to run the high profile courts. The Supreme Court System in place now is sufficient and has made many crucial decisions and interpretations of the constitution to protect the liberties of United States citizens. There isn't a need for a new system, only to concentrate on the power the current one has.

The best solution would be for the Supreme Court to use its powers of limiting the press, by means they have already established, in cases where there is the potential to cause harm to anyone, specifically the accused. "It has always been open to the Supreme Court to determine, as it used to, that when the fairness of a trial is actually threatened by media coverage, then the First Amendment should temporarily defer to the Sixth: recall the Court’s ringing declaration in Estes v. Texas that “the life or liberty of any individual in this land should not be put in jeopardy because of the actions of any news media.” (Phillipson, Gavin) no one should be put in jeopardy because of the news, and the supreme court as well as lower courts have the ability to use prior restraint and gag orders to contain the sensationalism of criminal cases, and to help curb the assumption of guilt of the accused. Prior restraint involves stopping speech before it happens, this in many cases is thought to be unconstitutional, unless it is place to stop harm. This could be a great tool for protecting the rights of the accused, although it limits the powers of the press, it doesn't have to completely infringe on them. The argument is that pretrial converge should be closely monitored, that is where the problem of assumption of guilt begins. But after the trial has begun and the jury is decided then the press can cover whatever aspect they decide to.

One of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all United States citizens is the right to a fair trial, a conflicting but just as importation freedom is freedom of expression and speech. These two are crucial to the founding of America, and both should be protected, but when one infringes on the other, special consideration should be taken. In consideration of the rights to those accused of crimes, they should be assumed "innocent until proven guilty" this is already a hard concept to think about, and just as hard to prove, it should not be taken lightly and all possible ways to make it more fair, so as not to cause harm or loss of liberty should also be taken. The solution proposed relies on precedent from previous cases that used similar ways to maintain fairness, to protect the rights of the accused. The media has habit of putting out sensational stories for profit, they are after all a business, this is not to say that their intent is to cause harm, but in many cases it appears they have an agenda, they use their tactics to sell and to gather and make public opinion. To curb the assumption of guilt the courts should be able to limit, the press from potentially harming the accused. This limiting power should also not be taken lightly, and should be used for pretrial coverage of cases where the liberty of the individual is in danger. No one's right to freely express, whether it is an individual or the media, should come before the right to life and liberty of another.

Works Cited
Peer Review

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