I hope it can’t happen here.

Let's just tug some heartstrings and play with the public's emotions.

Here, the news media is prohibited from reporting on active criminal cases, as is the case in Canada. Of course, that is not the case in the United States where criminal trials become reality TV crime stories. The latest being the case of Casey Anthony. The way this tragic case has become a “show” like any other is a sad reflection on modern America.

For example, One journalist was interviewing people in the line waiting to get into court. One woman in line said ‘I can’t wait to see it. This is the ultimate reality show.’ Then the woman giggled. She didn’t even perceive this as a real case with real people.

The phenomenon starts as a local story. Then the networks send satellite trucks and start spending money to build up the value of the story. The trial becomes like a TV show: the more details people get, the more they want. Viewers get sucked in like a soap opera. The web also played a huge part. A webcam streamed the court action to view online, message boards stoked up the debate and Facebook groups rally followers to their cause. There were even paid iPhone apps to stay in touch with developments.

Of course, one sensational case ends and the public is left waiting for the next one. The daily news on cable television needs this stuff as fodder for its continuous “news” coverage. This only leaves the public looking forward to the next trial of the century in a few months time. The problem is that the sensationalism left out the reality of the case.

Ultimately, Ms Anthony was convicted of four counts of lying to investigators and only received time served in jail as her sentence. A doctor called to give evidence was unable to give an exact cause of death, and prosecutors were unable to provide evidence linking Ms. Anthony to the body. Nevertheless, the public were allowed to judge this case based upon the information which circulated in the public domain. One could question the accuracy of that information on which the public has made its judgement of guilt.

The Fifth Amendment of the US Bill of Rights guarantees due process of law. While the US Constitution does not specifically mention the presumption of innocence, that is said to follow from the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments. Yet, Casey Anthony has had her presumption of innocence removed by those who say they hold the Constitution as a sacred document. Ms. Anthony was found not guilty by a court of law using legal procedure, rather than the public’s emotion.

Personally, I believe that a person’s presumption of innocence outweighs the public’s “right to know”. especially, if that right to know means that a person is convicted by the media based upon inaccurate information. Criminal trials are not reality TV to be made into media events, but are supposed to be where justice was done.

There was no proof of how Caylee Anthony died or showing that Casey had anything to do with that death. No matter how odious her lifestyle may be to the public, that is not a reason to convict her.

I find it sad that one little girl’s cute face can distract the US public from the thousands who will suffer from Republican budget cuts relating to health care, education, and other socail welfare programmes. It is even more amazing when those who say they are pro-life (yet support the death penalty), are not willing to support a social welfare agenda, yet can express sympathy for a crime victim because that child has media attention.

Perhaps the US poor need better media relations. Of course, the media is controlled by the rich in the US which is why stories like this will capture the public hearts and minds while the poor children are destitute. Destitution doesn’t make for good TV.

See also:
Should TV cameras be allowed inside UK law courts?
What’s Wrong With the News: Sensationalism
Casey Anthony trial
Casey Anthony: The case that gripped the US
Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering daughter
Presumption of innocence

So, what does Britain do for useless news? Carolyn Bourne and Heidi Withers: Why families should never go nuclear

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