WODC Tournament: That media organizations should not report on ongoing court cases
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Debate Rounds (3)
The Constitution in the Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants to a fair and impartial trial by his or her peers. The courts have taken measures to protect this right by implementing acts such as peremptory strikes, for-cause challenges, etc. One thing in particular, though, which has played a large role in swaying not only the jurors minds, but also the judges and law enforcement officers is the media. I plan to show the judges in this debate round that the media should not report on ongoing cases. First off, we are going to see how the media sways the jurors minds before any evidence is presented.
Media sways jurors minds
Research has found that “exposure to the various media had a prejudicial impact on people, as they were unaware of their biases.” Media coverage sways the jurors minds in all cases especially since jurors usually have no knowledge of the case which they will be deciding. Let take this on a higher level though, capital cases. (http://www.capitalpunishmentincontext.org...)
Media swaying of the jurors minds in capital crime cases
Death-qualified jurors are very easily swayed and much more swayed to media coverage during the trial. A 2007 study shows that jurors who passed the qualification process to be a juror on capital punishment case were more likely to think the defendant was guilty than the jurors who were excluded. The research found that one of the likely caused for this was, "Death-qualified participants were more likely to watch daily news programs, making them more aware of the facts in the case."
Conclusions reached by researchers and psychologists
Here, I just plan to give the judges a bunch of facts which have been reached by social scientists and psychologists on the effects of media bias on the jurors. First, researchers have found that if the pretrial publicity is negative towards the defendant, the jurors will begin and end the trial with a negative mindset towards the defendant. Secondly, a juror's perception can be altered if inadmissible evidence is brought and talked about on television. These are just a couple of the many different facts that have come from research showing that the media affects the jury. (http://www.theadvocates.com...)
Law enforcement compromise for media and fame
Many police officers are promised fame if they sell their story to movie companies, write books, or receive television appearances. For example, Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief Charles Moose sold his story of capturing the DC Snipers to a major motion picture in exchange for money. Finally, we are going to look at a specific example which includes everything I have talked about in this round. (http://www.capitalpunishmentincontext.org...)
The Case of Aileen Wuornos
When her case came before the court, she was called the first woman serial murderer in history and this became the theme of the media's coverage. Prosecutors used this against her and the media portrayed her as a "man-hating murderer." Public opinion swayed against her and the prosecutor used this against her the entire and this helped the jury to decide in favor of the plaintiff. Three officers became part of major movie deals because they sold their stories to a major movie corporation.
In conclusion, media can sway the jury whichever way we want and we even saw how it effects law enforcement in these cases, but not only did we see it in studies, but we saw it in a real life of example Aileen Wuornos.
Pro is assuming a lot of things. Pro assumes that ensuring a "completely impartial" jury by whatever means necessary is the government's job. Pro assumes that a jury that has no clue about the case is ideal. Pro assumes that influencing a jury is inherently bad. The fundamental problem with Pro's case: it isn't a bad thing. I haven't been shown that to be true, and neither have the judges. Pro talks about the Sixth Amendment guaranteeing a fair and impartial trial, but what does a fair and impartial trial have to do with the media? Pro's answer is that the media sways jurors to *one* side. But there are always articles on both sides of the case. Jurors are swayed according to the values of the people. The reason a "jury" exists is not simply to evaluate the evidence -- it is to take into consideration the factors of this individual case. Each case has certain nuances that aren't objective, and the jury's job is to evaluate those nuances along with the evidence. The court's job is to evaluate the evidence. The values of the society in question, reflected by the press, is what matters here.
There is no question that the criminal justice system needs reform. The media affecting juries negatively is not a disease, it is merely a symptom of the broken criminal justice system. Pro talks about death-qualified juries and similar unfair harsh punishments being given to people because of the media, so the media should be censored. But what actually *needs* to be done is large-scale reform. Abolish the death penalty entirely and do away with "death qualified juries." Significantly lower average sentences. Invest significantly more on rehabilitation, while allowing very good prison conditions. The reality is that changing social conditions is the only way to reduce crime. Life imprisonment should only be allowed for the worst of the worst: serial killers, perpetrators of genocide, people guilty of treason, warlords, and mass murderers generally. Cap maximum sentences otherwise at 20 years, for first-degree murder and extremely harmful financial crimes. Judges shouldn't be elected or be allowed to campaign anymore. Juries should have the power to nullify "guilty" verdicts alone.
If a whole jury believes something, they are reflecting the values of the society in question because we are talking about the *entirety* of the jury here -- or at least, the majority of the jury. The purpose of government, and the criminal justice system, is to ensure safety of the people and reflect the values of society. The government should be allowed to restrict what the media can say about a certain court case, e.g. offering opinions, but completely censoring anything related to an ongoing court case is depriving people of the right to listen and the right to information. Pro talks about Aileen Wuornos, but that doesn't really advance their case, because it doesn't show any harm resulting from the freedom of the press: Wuornos was really a serial killer, so she should have been punished. (Though I do think she should have been given life imprisonment, as opposed to the death penalty.)
So the crux of my response to Pro: (1) certain opinions that media organizations provide on ongoing criminal cases should be restricted without completely censoring the media, thus solving the problems without actually infringing on the freedom of the press; (2) the criminal justice system should be reformed such that it is very difficult for an unfair sentence to ever happen; and (3) the criminal justice system should reflect the values of the society in question, so if a society demands that jurors look at a certain nuance, jurors should look at that nuance.
== My Case ==
The freedom of the press is a fundamental value in any democratic society. The press is the source of information for the people, and it acts as the voice of the people. There's undoubtedly signs of media bias and, in the words of Noam Chomsky, "manufactured consent," that needs to be controlled, but the reality is that a society without a free press (i.e. one that engages in censorship) acquiesces to fascism by restricting the power of the people. Abraham Lincoln correctly noted, "Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people." That's really all democracy is. The people have power, and they have the right to information. Censorship of expression deprives people of the right to hear an opinion and to form an opinion, and that is inherently unjust. It is unjust because the press in a society represents the voice of the people, and tells the people things they ought to know. Depriving people of the right to know because the officials of the state are dysfunctional isn't what ought to be done.
Pro's case is a slippery slope into censoring all opinions about an ongoing court case. But opinions are by definition the values of the people, and juries should follow the values of the people and of society. The press represents those values and gives those values, and those values should be reflected on unless they compete with other values. I don't have a problem with preventing jurors from being exposed to biased press articles, or the sort, but complete censorship of the press completely tears down the fundamental values behind democracy. A government that censors the press is one that deprives the people of the right to information with no proper, well-grounded reason to do so.
Finally, press censorship removes the government of its legitimacy. This brings us to a philosophical question that Pro doesn't provide an answer to: what is the purpose of government? I argue that it is to maintain liberty of individuals consistent with liberty of other individuals, while holding on to the values of each society. And society as a whole recognizes the value of the people having a certain level of influence over the criminal justice system. Pro is arguing for a world where the criminal justice system consists of power concentrated and centralized, in the hands of a few people indirectly elected, people we haven't even met. We shouldn't be comfortable with such centralized power structures. In the words of Alan Moore, "The people should not fear the government. The government should fear the people." The more influence the people have over the government, the more we can truly call a state a democracy. The press is one such way of the people demonstrating their power. So if a relatively unbiased press source influences a juror, it isn't necessarily a net harm to society, whereas the censorship of the people calling for change is inherently harmful.
But Pro might contest these democratic values, so let me justify them. The purpose of governments in general is to ensure that people abide by certain rules that benefit everyone. It is fundamentally hinged on weighing rights against each other, and making compromises. Tribes that disagreed with each other compromised on certain values for what they viewed to be the greater benefit. So, basically, the government ought to legislate based on what the people want -- what the society, as a whole, wants. It exists to ground in law the fundamental values of society, and individual needs and desires. These are made as rights and are weighed and balanced against each other. And the right of the people to change their government and to have power is fundamental because it is the best way of enshrining what the people want. So while Pro is arguing for an authoritarian system that people think to be a "democracy," I am asking to truly uphold democratic values by giving the people more power over the government, and by decentralizing power structures in the process of preserving the freedom of the press.
Let's break this debate down. Pro offers no evidence that some level of influence over jurors is harmful, on balance, to society. I've proven that centralizing power is harmful to society, and that Pro's plan does exactly that. For these reasons, vote Con.
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