The murder of Caylee Anthony was littered with media attention, some media outlets went as far as to call her mother Casey Anthony her murderer. The trial was publicized live, the parade of witness testimony conducted over days, and the eventual verdict of not guilty shocked the nation. Even though due process was given to Casey Anthony, the majority of America’s media watchers were both amazed and outraged at the verdict. Even the change of venue from Orlando to Clearwater Florida didn’t seem to help that the trial of Casey Anthony conducted in the court of public opinion had her guilty as charged. The change of venue was due to the amount of media coverage in the first place, the desire for a non-biased jury seemed fantastic at best. The jury, sequestered from media outlets’ reporting, was unable to see what the rest of the viewing public saw during the course of the trial. While most arguments in court were without the jury present, the misunderstanding that the jury would have the same opinion as the viewing public was cultivated by media coverage failing to depict the actual case as viewed by the jury. Also, the report that one of the jury members planned to leave for a non-refundable vacation cruise which the jury seemed to afford a quick verdict for seems to explain away the puzzling verdict for the public viewing audience.

Again, another case charged with public opinion debated by supporters of one side versus the other is the death of Trayvon Martin and the shooter George Zimmerman has become a trial through public opinion. The repetitive nature of such cases hitting the headlines is unsurprising considering that a change of venue will more than likely occur, hundreds of potential jury members will be questioned by both sides for application of non-biased jury, and the result of that jury’s sequestered verdict will be misunderstood via remarkable media coverage of the trial. So many supporters of George Zimmerman and supporters of Trayvon Martin and his family will both express shock and awe at a verdict that does not favor the view of the applicable side. Media that has already condemned either party will exaggerate and sensationalize their upset at the verdict delivered and or the sentence imposed if the verdict is guilty for Zimmerman. Some relative coverage designed to attract viewers to their outlet will cover the story to the point of absurdity in order to inflame, ignite, and charge viewers who had already formed a verdict of guilt or innocence due to exhaustive media coverage of the tragic event.

Interestingly, it could be logical to assume that as a result of the coverage could introduce the idea of rioting that occurred when the beaters of Rodney King were found not guilty. It also doesn’t erase the fact that a majority of people find information given to them to be of quality merit when it clearly is not (see previous post While I agree that it is the job of the media to report the news, the manner in which information is presented is often not scrupulous or remotely presented in a way that is designed to irritate, enrage, and engage the viewer to a passionate response. Regardless of the subject’s content, media outlets realize that the more sensational sounding the report is the more people will tune in and watch clips, read headlines, and later react to the news. The whole point is to grab the attention of the public and maintain that attention in any degree that it can. The media’s role in actual ethical reporting has long been dismissed. The trial by public opinion via media outlet information is contagious, especially in cases that pull on one’s passionate beliefs or values and heart strings. Thus, the need for fair trials by change of venue has become commonplace for various cases. The whole structure of the case’s prosecution and defense beyond a reasonable doubt is tainted every time the story airs on a news outlet webpage or channel. It degrades further when unethical reporting becomes downright ridiculous and insidious. Yet every editor and producer knows that coverage of puppies or kittens being cute doesn’t get the ratings that a racially charged murder does even though evidence might suggest otherwise or that the murder of a beautiful little girl at the hands of her mother regardless of proof of that woman’s guilt does. It all boils down to the more people watch the news outlet, the more people will buy advertised products, assumption of guilt due primarily to information presented gains them favor and trust to warrant them staying in production, and they are able to impact the opinion of the public in a manner that counts as free advertising as the people site their website or channel for sources of information.

Yet none of the news outlets will actually report what is called a “fluff” piece on a regular basis because that doesn’t draw viewers like a dramatic murder suspicion does. A “fluff” piece for those not in the know is a feel good story that features a happy or pleasant occurrence such as a child’s father or mother returning from war surprising them to tears. Drama draws them in, whether sensational or not, and it becomes a hot topic quickly becomes viral at the office or place of employment, gathering place, or around a dinner table discussion. The more outrageous the topic and content of information, whether speculation or ethically questionable in nature, the greater the amount of attention that media outlet gets regardless of negative or positive qualities. The outrageous assumption made of the guilt of anyone accused without the necessary and Constitutionally afforded fair trial and conviction proven without a shadow of a doubt on a preponderance of evidence is not only unfair, but wholly unethical to a degree. The assumption made at a fair trial afforded by the Constitution is the accused is innocent until proven guilty found so by a jury of one’s peers, not the media’s self appointed devoir to dispense its own brand of conviction and sentencing. While I fully understand the depth of outrage at the death of Mr. Martin’s untimely death, it is not up to me to find him guilty or innocent outside being appointed to be a juror for that case. Without a preponderance of evidence providing no doubt of guilt or innocence, it is beyond me to attach guilt to one party or another before having all evidence at my disposal if I was a juror. I am not and I most sincerely doubt that my being over one thousand miles away will land me a spot on the jury I cannot participate in. When the media dispenses justice in this manner, people get hurt on both sides regardless of how fair on unfair such public opinions are.