Trial on Jury?

The trials of Amanda Knox and Dr. Conrad Murray glue us to the media recently – especially television. Televised trials are currently prohibited

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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.

Baudrillard and Hyperreal Ireland

Jean Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation (1985) questions the ‘real’ and versions of the ‘real’ citing the media as exaggerating the real and so coins the term hyperreality to reflect this distortion. Furthermore, Baudrillard states that these simulations become more important and replace the ‘real.’ Reality, Baudrillard notes, is re-presented and is a simulation of something that never really existed.

Applying Baudrillard’s theory, I would question whether Ireland’s ‘Boom’/Celtic Tiger ever existed.

For instance, developers request funds for a new estate and the bank obliges. I suggest what happens is the bank gives the developer a promissory intention of funds. The developer reaches into the bank’s pocket without banks exacting due diligence checks thus developing these simulacra.

The bank gives the ‘funds’ the developer does not have the developer then builds the project expecting a full sale of the development. A few sell, so the developer asks for more money for a new development and the bank again obliges. The bank and the developer create a fantasy. As developments increase, 100% mortgages have been granted to the public and so the public the public have become part of this new reality. These new representations replace the old and the new become more important than the ‘real.’ Reality has been replaced by simulacra. The money/funds are in effect a version of hyperreality. The division between the ‘real’ and simulation has collapsed. A verisimilitude co-exists between Baudrillard’s Disneyworld and the developments in Ireland.

The cycle goes on. Super-saturation occurs. The glass is not full but leaking more ‘money’ than it can take. The bubble bursts resulting in ghost estates, bankrupting developers, banks, homeowners and eventually the country itself. They were playing with money – a simulation – that never existed. The notion of the hyperreal questions if the money existed in the first place.

As a last note, I’ll finish with two quotes I amended slightly from one of my favourite movies The Usual Suspects (1995).

‘The greatest trick the devils ever pulled was pretending that the funds existed.’

‘Like that… it’s gone.’

Hyperreal.