The trials of Amanda Knox and Dr. Conrad Murray glue us to the media recently – especially television. Televised trials are currently prohibited in Ireland and The UK, but are not in The USA and recently Italy. A strict boundary does not exist for ‘Trials on Television’ in the US or Italy. Although recently the UK proposed that trials should be allowed to be shown on TV.
But is this a good decision? We all ‘know’ about the Amanda Knox, Dr. Conrad Murray, OJ Simpson and Joanne Woodward trials. I use the term ‘know’ loosely, as what we know is the ‘truth’ the media provides us with. I am not going to determine the innocence or guilt of defendants in this article, but I question if ‘Trial on TV’ is a good idea.
Most judicial systems in Criminal Law are based on being judged by a person of equal legal status, peer. It is the peers, also called the jurors who ultimately decide the fate of defendants.
The Defence, Prosecution and Judges go through a rigorous lengthy schooling system for qualifications in Law. Jurors, however, are not practiced in Law; have years of qualifications or work in the legal system daily like the aforementioned. This is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for jurors. (I was selected twice for jury duty, but that is another story altogether). I understand this is the reason that forms the basis of being ‘judged by peers’ as ideally, and hopefully, it is the defendants first time on trial.
Importantly, the ‘TV Republic’ are not party to all the facts the jurors have. Only the jury hears all of the evidence. The production company/station forms its own version of the truth even if ‘live.’ Producers provide their own ‘experts’ to testify their version of the truth, to which the ‘TV Republic’ make their informed decision of the guilt or innocence of the defendant, not to mention most stations are obligated to show ads interrupting ‘live’ feeds therefore distorting the truth.
The jurors psychologically must be under a lot of pressure to reach an informed decision – cases for the Prosecution and Defence alone can be mind-numbing. With the Media and especially cameras introduced into the courtroom, the psychological pressure of making the ‘right’ decision must be unbearable. One, it cannot be underestimated the importance of the informed decision as jurors know their decision forms the life of the defendant. Secondly, the one opportunity that the jurors make will be critiqued by the Media regardless of the outcome of the trial. Therefore, television must have a psychological impact on the juror’s decision.
It appears it is not only the defendants on trial, but possibly also the jurors.