Should the Media Ask Opinions as to Guilt or Innocence?
It seems that every time a criminal case becomes “high profile” the media engages in a campaign to convict or acquit the person charged with a crime. We all watched the OJ Simpson case unfold live, then came Casey Anthony – a lot of outrage about the jury’s verdict there. But was it our place to opine? Now we have Jerry Sandusky, the well known Former Penn State Assistant Coach who has been charged – officially accused- with multiple counts of sexual abuse involving young boys, including seven counts of first-degree involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Should we the the people who are not even in the vicinity nor otherwise connected to the crime charged be discussing these type of cases?
Media Opinion Polls:Do you believe Jerry Sandusky is guilty or just the victim of people trying to dirty the image of a public figure?
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, one local television station actually posted this on its Facebook page:
It’s time for this weeks “What do you think?” question. Former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys. He was booked then released on a $100,000 bond Saturday. His attorney maintains he is innocent and says he’s known about the allegations for a while. But we want to know what you think. Do you believe he’s guilty or just the victim of people trying to dirty the image of a public figure? Let us know and we may air your comments on NewsChannel9 at 11.
This of course prompted many people to comment, most to declare that he must be guilty due to the number of alleged victims. Some did reserve a judgment because of past experience with convictions by the media. Another article by a Washington Post writer goes into depth about what if Jerry Sandusky is guilty, what if the allegations are true? Is this proper? Do we really need the media to ask such questions?
It is understandable, is it not? The media is there to report the news, and this is Big News! Jerry Sandusky is a famous coach and well known man with a stellar reputation and has been accused of horrific acts – preying on young children. This is every parent’s fear, and the scourge of society. So the media reports it, and we feel we must voice our opinion, put our two cents worth into it. However, is the news media crossing a line here? Its one thing to report the news, and let the normal conversation flow, as it undoubtedly would even without polls that prompt such discussion. Now more than ever, with social media like Facebook and Twitter being part of our daily lives, the news media scrambles to get ratings. Opinion polls get attention and give us the ability to chime in on the topic, this creates discussion, but is it proper discussion?
The Allegations Against Jerry Sandusky are Horrific, But Guilt is for a Jury to Decide.
Our system of criminal justice is built upon the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty before a jury of peers. It is the jury of 12 men and women that is ultimately responsible to decide whether Coach Sandusky is guilty or not guilty of the crimes charged. We all watched as Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her child, and of course many were outraged because of the belief that she was guilty. Some would even try to convince us that the burden of proof should be lowered in such cases. This is the product of trial by media. A trial by jury must look at the facts as revealed by the evidence, and poured over the law. An accused has the right to confront witnesses and dispute the evidence. A trial by media gives the listening public snippets that have been released, uses talking heads like Nancy Grace to convince us of the guilt of the person charged, then viola GUILTY! Which is more fair to someone like Jerry Sandusky a trial by jury or a trial be media- with millions of armchair jurors?
The news media should report the news, not form the news. Before long we will see polls published that tell us how many people in certain demographics believe that Jeryy Sandusky is guilty. This is pointless and grossly unfair to a person who has been accused, not convicted. Or has he already been convicted by us? The news media should not ask for our opinions as to guilt or innocence, no matter the nature of the charges.