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Autor: anton 14 October 2010
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Celebrities and The Criminal Trial System
Corey Dru Linyard
Western International University
COM/112 Utilizing Information in College Writing
Celebrities and the Trial System
Celebrities. We all want to live like they do; we all want to experience what they do; to be accepted in a way that is purely envious. More importantly, we want all the extras that celebrities receive in life. One of those extras seems to be the beating the justice system. Beating is a strong word; I prefer to use the word whitewashing. Why is it that when a celebrity goes on trial, the public seems to be transfixed on the outcome? Does the public even know why or how the accused celebrity manages to be not guilty after not guilty after not guilty? Lets be honest, it is jury of our peers that decides our fate in the legal system. Just because you are a celebrity does not mean that you have a hall pass to a not guilty plea. Now take a step back from all I have said; the extras that I had mentioned are the advantage that celebrities have over the average citizen. Money, the media, and even the jurors and the prosecution play roles that aid the defendant. The fact is that when celebrities are on trial for serious crimes, the advantages that they have are prevalent, and our usually overshadowed by the media coverage that comes with it.
â€œIf you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.â€ (Parker, Dorothy 1893-1976). For all God fearing people in this country that work themselves to the bone every day; I believe this quote is something they live by. Letâ€™s forget about God and look at the real issue of money and society, more importantly celebrities and monetary advantages in the court system. There is a strong point to that statement. The rich and famous have the ability to obtain the best lawyers in the world, hire the best private investigators, and use the media to their advantage. (No Author, 2005). Law firms are actually hiring public relation firms to help them. (Maier, T 2004). I havenâ€™t even mentioned the other fact that celebrities can post bail on any crime short of murder. Robert Blake, the actor accused of murdering his wife, was able to post bail, hire private investigators to go after witnesses, and hire not one lawyer; but fire him and hire another. Kenneth Gaines, the Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina says, â€œIâ€™m sure he had his own experts testing guns, ballistics, and all that sort of stuff.â€ (Allen,C 2005, p. 6). I donâ€™t know about you, but I could not afford any of those things and have no clue how I would even begin to defend myself. Not guilty is the verdict that came back for Mr. Blake. He almost seemed upset after the verdict; in my opinion he should be thanking the stars. The monetary advantages Mr. Blake had carried him to that plea, and he should be a little bit more grateful in my opinion.
The prosecutions in cases that involve celebrities often become celebrities themselves. Marcia Clark, the famous â€˜hairedâ€™ lawyer from the OJ Simpson case, was correspondent on Entertainment Tonight. The other prosecutor, Christopher
Durden had stints on TV and in commercials. The ironic part in that is the fact that the prosecution just does an awful job when developing and trying a celebrity trial. Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor says, â€œA prosecutor shouldnâ€™t go to trial with a case where he thinks there is only a 50% chance of conviction, because if he thinks the odds [are that low], they must think there is some chance for reasonable doubt.â€ (Ackman, D 2005, p.7). I will use The DA in the Michael Jackson case as a perfect example. Tom Sneddon has a quick back-story with Michael Jackson. Mr. Sneddon was the lead prosecutor in the 1993 molestation charges that ended with a deal between the accuser and Michael Jackson. I know if I were Mr. Sneddon, I would be furious that I did not get my chance to go to trial. Flash forward to the recent Jackson charges. â€œWe donâ€™t select victims of crimes, and we donâ€™t select the family. We try to make a conscientious decision and go forward.â€ (Sneddon, T 2005, p. 10) Letâ€™s look at some stats in the ENTIRE state of California:
This chart shows all the felony arrests in the same year that the prosecution was gearing up for the Michael Jackson case. The acquittals are hardly noticeable; well that is where Michael Jackson and Robert Blake landed after their trials. Back to Mr. Sneddon, what evidence, what witnesses, what did Mr. Sneddon see that told him to go to trial? Not only did he choose the case, but also he was able to choose the charges and Mr. Sneddon chose to allege a vast conspiracy within the case that backfired on him. (Ackman, D, 2003). Time and time again, when a celebrity trial ends in a not guilty or an acquittal, it is the prosecutor who is left looking like a fool. True, you can rebound from a failed case, but just look at Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran (now deceased), and Gloria Allred; they seem to be doing pretty well in life and will always be there to outwit the prosecution. (Gibeaut, J 2005, p. 2).
The media coverage in celebrity trials is overwhelming and sometimes blinding. Every single day there is something on TV, in the newspaper, and on the internet referring to the trial. A lot of times that is the dapper looking defense attorney professing his clients innocence day after day. Some of the info that is reported by news outlets is rhetoric and some is authentic. The Supreme Court frequently rules in the favor of the First Amendment when it comes to the media and criminal court proceedings. (Clark, C, 1995). Now read this exchange between Judge Melville and the Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss from the Michael Jackson case:
â€œAs I recall, the court provided us with a directive that â€˜sensitive items be sealed, which required, I guess, a subjective call on my behalf,â€ replied Auchincloss, apologizing for not recognizing the â€˜sensitiveâ€™ side of the questioned document. â€œIf itâ€™s simpler for the court for us to ask for a sealing order on every single document we file, that might make it easier.â€ Judge Melville noted the persistent media lawyer seated behind Auchincloss. â€œThatâ€™s exactly why Mr. Boutros (the media lawyer) is sitting behind you with his penâ€¦.in hand, which is his weapon.â€ Melville told the prosecutor, evidently anticipating more media challenges. â€œThatâ€™s not what we want. What we want is what Iâ€™ve ordered. Thereâ€™s a protective orderâ€¦.From my viewpoint, it clearly states what things are protected, what things you canâ€™t reveal under that order, and I just am asking you to look at that again and look at your documents.â€(Gibeaut, J, 2005, p.6).
Those are some pretty strong words from the Judge in regards to a public opinion case. I am sure Jacksonâ€™s attorney took full advantage of that berating in court by fully informing the press. That verbal exchange, while probably had some edge to it; could have been played out as a major roadblock in the media. Some will argue the opposing view, saying the celebrity status can hurt you in the sense you are made a target. It is almost human nature to give someone that you are comfortable with the benefit of the doubt. (Allen, C 2003). However, the reputation of a celebrity can be damaging in court cases. I mean Mike Tyson and Dennis Rodman donâ€™t exactly make you think of flowers and fields. â€œ The whole case gets tried in the media. To me, thatâ€™s the problem,â€ Gaines said. â€œThat can definitely hurt, especially in a situation where youâ€™ve got a jury thatâ€™s not sequestered.â€ (Gaines, K 2005, p.2). Other arguments are celebrity cases that came back guilty like the Martha Stewart and Lil Kim cases. They both broke the law, but were found guilty in the court of law and now actually have to serve time in prison. As stated above, the prosecution just flat dropped the ball with the Michael Jackson case. He seemed like a slam-dunk, yet the case bricked.
The whole jury process is interesting in celebrity cases. Attorney Dana Cole believes the biggest difference between celebrity cases and low profile cases is the standard of proof that juries seem require before convictiong a superstar. â€œ I think juries tend to favor the high profile defendant.â€(Cole, D 2005 p.3) One response from a elderly female member was, â€œShe did taker her eyes off of us.â€ She was very intimidating
After reading this essay, doesnâ€™t being a celebrity sound like fun? They seem to be practically immune to the justice system. Short of being caught on tape, it seems inevitable that a celebrity will go to trial and win. Trials are expensive and the average Joe just canâ€™t do it. Of course money helps and of course the media exposure is beneficial. The prosecutions ineptitude is somewhat of a shock after researching. The fact that prosecutors actually choose the cases they want to go to trial is amazing. That is a very strong piece of information that makes you think; I hope this essay did the same thing.
Ackman, D. (2005, June 14). Really odd facts about Michael Jackson. Forbes Magazine, Retrieved Jul 26, 2005, from http://www.forbes.com/business/2005/06/14/jackson-celebrity-trial-cx_da_0614topnews.html?partner=rss.
Allen, C. (2005, June 18). Is justice served in celebrity trials? Local experts disagree. Greenville Online News. Retrieved June 27, 2005, from http://greenvilleonline.com/news/2005/06/18/2005061866284.htm
Clark, C. (1994, Sept 23). Courts and the Media. Retrieved June 21, 2005 from the WIU Online Library in the CQ Researcher.
Gibeaut, J. (2005, Jan). The Rich and Famous Get Star Treatment, Creating the Appearance of a Two-Tiered Court System. Retrieved June 10, 2005 from EBSCO HOST and the WIU Online Library.
Maier, T. (2004, Jan 20). The High Price of Celebrity 'Justice'. The Insight, Retrieved June 10, 2005, from http://www.insightmag.com/media/paper441/news/2004/01/20/National/The-High.Price.Of.Celebrity.justice-578775.shtml.
The Economist [no author]. (2005, June 18). Not Bad, but not quite good; Celebrity Trials. Retrieved June 29, 2005 from the InfoTrac One File in the WIU Online Library.
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