Pretrial Publicity: Media Coverage And Guilt Attribution Abstract: This Study

1167 words - 5 pages

Pretrial Publicity: Media Coverage and Guilt Attribution Abstract: This study was done to establish the effect that the media imposes on criminal trails. The media is the most influential part of our society. The media contributes to our thoughts, dress and attitudes. However the media can impose influence where it is not needed at times. For example, the media is able to influence a jury and stimulate a specific response to a case. The court system has struggled with the need to bar media influence from jurors and potential jurors. The bias that the media evoke usually represents community bias. Community bias directly influences pre-trial guilt attribution and therefore is detrimental to the justice system. However, since many have claimed that media poses little or no threat to pre-trial guilt attribution data was analyzed about five murder cases.Method Richard A. Shaffer, a professor of Sociology at California Polytechnic State University, conducted the surveys and documented the findings. The key concepts in the survey were: Pretrial publicity, information integration, juries, courts, guilt attribution, change of venue, media, trial, and jury selection. Pretrial publicity is the media representations of a case before trial begins. Information integration is when different medium covers a case. Guilt attribution is the assumption of probable guilt before the case is tried. Change of venue refers to the movement of a case to another location because of potential bias in the first location. Even though pretrial guilt is issue for the court scholars (Kaplan & Schersch, 1980) have stated that it can be overcomed by the instruction of the judge to disregard such information received from outside sources. However it was found that jurors still considered outside information during deliberations.Procedure The first case involved a head librarian who was shot at a local state college. The shooting occurred on the campus' parking lot, the librarian died two days later. A father and son were arrested and charged with first-degree murder. 286 potential jurors were interviewed by phone. Change of venue motion was not met due to the confession of the defendant. The second case involved multiple crimes and multiple defendants. A man in his fifties was accused of molesting a ten years old girl and then hiring three others to kidnap and kill the girl for a $1,000. 266 potential jurors were interviewed by phone. Change of venue was approved. The third case was that of the three younger defendants in the second case. The case was represented in the media as an horrific crime. 416 potential jurors were chosen to be interviewed by the court. Change of venue was approved. The fourth case involved a woman and her live-in boyfriend who was accused of beating his girlfriend's two-year daughter to death. The beating was for disciplinary reasons.357 potential jurors were to be interviewed. Change of venue was granted. The fifth and final case centered on the...

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