written by Justin C. Leto
Justin Leto appears weekly on Nationally Syndicated radio talk show, America Now with Andy Dean. Each Wednesday, Justin and Andy discuss the legal stories of the week and debate the political aspects of the legal stories.
This past week, Andy and I spent the majority of the time discussing the abduction of two girls in Cleveland, Ohio as well as the verdict in the Jodi Arias case. Andy and I both agreed that the coverage of the Jodi Arias verdict bordered on ridiculous. There is something to be said in favor of having an open courtroom where the media is free to cover and broadcast trials to the general public. One of the great things about our justice system is that it is supposed to be transparent. People who are accused of crimes or are sued civilly should have the right to defend themselves and have an open forum for their defense. The problems arise when the media and the viewers transform our open and transparent justice system into a soap opera media circus.
The tabloid media descended upon the Jodi Arias trial just as it did with the Casey Anthony trial and proceeded to completely pervert the purpose for our open system of justice. This is not what American justice should look like to the outside world. We are far better than tabloid media that obsesses over phone sex tapes, nude pictures and foul language, all in an attempt to generate ad revenue dollars. Our justice system strives to provide fair and equal treatment to all defendants while also sympathizing with victims of such horrific crimes as the murder committed by Jodi Arias or the murder of Caylee Anthony. But when the media gets too deeply entrenched into these matters, they lose objective focus and stray off into the fanatical storylines that will make them the most money. And that is a shame to our system of justice. The saddest part of the entire ordeal is that most of these media folks are former prosecutors and practicing lawyers that have lost their way and forgotten what the justice system is built on. Things like “innocent until proven guilty” and “trial by a jury of your peers” have seemingly gone out the window.
Although the jurors are instructed not to watch television or listen to news accounts of the case when they leave the courthouse, it is nearly impossible to avoid the soap opera storylines generated about these high profile cases. And then, when the jury decides in a way that does not please the media (i.e., Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson), the media chastizes the jurors for their decisions, and by doing so, they insult and denigrate the entire judicial system.
It is time that these soap opera style trials get left off the television docket. Or, if the trials are going to be publicized on TV, the networks need to consider reforming the coverage to present these cases in an unbiased manner. The media owes it to teh viewers and to the American legal system to do a better job at presenting these cases. If we continue to treat serious trials the way we treat reality television, our system will suffer in a way that cannot be repaired.