The Issue of Pretrial Publicity Essay

1932 Words8 Pages
The issue of pretrial publicity is a maze of overlapping attentions and interwoven interests. Lawyers decry pretrial publicity while simultaneously raising their own career stock and hourly fee by accumulating more if it. The media both perpetrate and comment on the frenzy -- newspapers and television stations generate the publicity in the first place and then actively comment on the likely effect that the coverage will have on the trial. When a high profile case is brought to trial, many media outlets report not only on the details of the trial, but also details about the persons involved, in particular the defendant. Much of the information reported regarding the case is released before the trial starts. Furthermore, media outlets may…show more content…
Pretrial publicity has been address by the U.S. Supreme Court since the 1960s. In the revolutionary case of Irwin v. Dowd, the defendant, Leslie Irvin, was convicted of committing six murders in a rural area of Indiana. The crimes generated extensive media coverage, in both television and print. Irvin argued that the pretrial publicity prevented him from receiving a fair trial by an impartial jury. The Court agreed, noting that eight of the twelve jurors who heard the case had decided that Irvin was guilty before the trial began. Despite these admissions, the trial judge had accepted as conclusive the jurors' statements that they would be able to render an impartial verdict. The Court held that the substantial publicity surrounding the case made the trial judge's determination of juror impartiality erroneous (Bruschke & Loges, 2004). This court case set out a basic rule that when pretrial publicity has been substantial, a trial court should not necessarily accept a juror's assertion of impartiality. In these cases a presumption is raised that the jurors are biased. Because of the bias of the jury members, the defendant is not given a trial of an impartial jury, a Sixth Amendment right. Media coverage should still be allowed to report information regarding the trial, but only after it has begun. In this way, jury members will not be exposed to pretrial publicity that biases their opinion of the defendant.
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