Media in the Courtroom High Profile Court Essay

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Media in the Courtroom

High profile court cases, especially murder trials and celebrity cases are more likely to attract the national media than ordinary cases that usually of no interest beyond the local level. These are also the kinds of cases when the issue of TV cameras in the courtroom is most significant, and when judges have to give serious thought to handing down gag orders that block all public discussion of the case for the duration of the trial. In this era of Internet, Facebook, 24-hour cable news and YouTube, any events or statements in the court can easily become 'viral' and be seen instantly by millions of people around the world. For most of the 20th Century, recording devices and movie and TV cameras were not allowed in the courts, but only reports from the print media and drawings by sketch artists. This technology existed for many decades before it was ever permitted inside the courtroom. Judges and attorneys were rightfully concerned that it would sensationalize trials, interfere with due process, and turn the court into a three-ring circus, and this has often been the case in televised trials like the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials, and most recently the Casey Anthony case.

A famous Los Angeles attorney who defended celebrities like Robert Blake and Michael Jackson was generally skeptical about the value of TV cameras in the courtroom. Thomas A. Mesereau thought that they created a "circuslike atmosphere," had an improper influence on witnesses, and turned serious cases into "cheap theatrics" (Mesereau 2011). Cameras turn a courtroom into a
...Nor do the media have a good track record predicting the outcome of jury trials, since they overwhelmingly believed that O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony and Michael Jackson would be convicted, but they were acquitted.

Unlike the courts, the purpose of the media is not to provide equal justice under the law, but to make money and increase their ratings by providing entertainment. Attorneys have to be prepared for media attacks and negative spin against their clients by preparing a more positive image. In fact, they have to advertise and sell them just like they were any product. Michael Jackson was accused of child molestation, which if possible is an even worse charge than murder as far as public opinion is concerned. His lawyers were desperate to find some way to turn this image into one of a man who had had a difficult childhood and was concerned with charitable activities for children. O.J. Simpson's attorneys used TV cameras in the courtroom to put the police on trial and portray them as racist, but in all these cases "a proper media strategy will take into account the social environment surrounding the case" (Mesereau 2011).

The Casey Anthony case in Florida was one of the more recent murder trials that attracted national media attention and was broadcast on TV every day until she was acquitted of murdering her daughter. Like the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson cases, this one was a media…

Sources Used in Documents:


Ferguson, R. 2011. "Cameras in the Courtroom." The American Spectator.

Mesereau, T.A. 2011. "Effectively Handling High-Profile and Celebrity Cases." Los Angeles Lawyer, Survival Guide for New Attorneys in California, Fall 2011 Issue

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