Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Queering Justice?

Prosecutors and defense attorneys may tangle in court, but once on the steps outside, they’ll agree on just who are the main Enemies of Truth: it’s the Press, of course. Judges often concur. Gag orders, changes of venue, jury sequestration, all of them issue from the same attitudinal fount.

In covering a trial, the demon Media are variously blamed for every manner of queering of every possible pitch.

Well... does the Media cause actual harm to juridical procedure, or not? We might be tempted to set aside the question, if only because, frankly, it’s not as if the Press is going to stop covering the legal process anytime soon. We can argue it another day, surely.

No, let’s look at it today. Do they, or don't they? Or is it more relevant how the lawyers for the principals handle the media attention? That is, local attention which is relatively acute in this case.

If Harlow Cuadra and Joe Kerekes were a whole lot richer, they’d have a high-priced trial consulting firm working for the Defense. In this instance, they won’t have that, but that doesn’t mean that the accused pair’s lawyers don’t already know what the consultants are likely to say about the manic coverage the case will almost certainly receive.

From the website of one of those fancy firms, an outfit called Decision Points, comes a pithy hypothetical: “What do you do when there is a negative front page story about your client on the morning of jury selection?”

The answer may surprise you. ‘Bad’ publicity may actually help both sides seat their idea of an ‘unbiased’ jury.

With research, the consultants found that “the jurors most likely to be predisposed against us were also the ones most likely to have read the bad publicity. And these same jurors tended to become more inflamed by the article and more likely to express these inflamed opinions to the court.”

An 'inflamed' potential juror is one who's easy to spot, and can be readily dismissed for cause.

Yep. That continual ‘stirring the pot’ for which the Media takes so much guff can actually help secure defendants’ Constitutional right to a fair trial. The pricey experts say so.

Imagine that.