Supreme Court Case: Sheppard V. Maxwell 1966
Supreme Court Case Sheppard V. Maxwell is the first case in American history to question whether the American right to a fair trial should be interrupted by the American right to freely publish one’s thoughts and opinions. Sheppard’s conviction, brought on by the biased eye of the press, was exonerated. However, concluded from the lack of policy alterations post-trial, the Sheppard V. Maxwell case still informally decided media is no real threat in the court system. Some may say otherwise. Although media may not directly affect court rulings, the press can certainly affect the public’s opinion, which in turn can affect a court case.
Sheppard V. Maxwell Revisited—Do the Traditional Rules Work for Nontraditional Media?, an article written by G. A. Hengstler, visits the main question raised in Sheppard V. Maxwell. Hengstler does not disagree in his article that the press may not have been that threatening in decades prior when media was primitive, but he argues that media is a sure threat today. It shall be clarified that the media in the 1960’s cannot compare to today’s rapid technological advancements. The rise in technology has led to a new competitor in the news field that utterly baffles journalists—the internet. Mainstream journalists are aware of ethical codes, but can that be said for every at home blogger or amateur critic?
The marketplace demands that mainstream journalists do the moral thing, unless they would rather feel the viewers’ wrath in a sharp decrease of ratings. Amateur bloggers, on the other hand, do not have the fear of losing viewers. It’s the web, so what the heck right? This is a problem that needs addressing. Hengstler insists that “Technology has changed the playing field in every aspect of life, and the judicial system is not immune to those changes.” With the threat of amateur press, what is to say that viewer’s opinions will not be given information that is not credible? What separates the media from common rumor now?
The masses have an inescapable presence in the court. Some forget that the jury is made out of common people. “Common people” means the jury can be made of people rich or poor, educated or ignorant, wise or not. Regardless of economical, religious, or social stature, people trust the news—But, should they? The jury may come to court with their vote already subconsciously, or not, instilled in their minds. Hengstler states that, as of now, “with respect to balancing First and Sixth Amendment rights and values under our system, the answer is not readily apparent.” He closes the article by presenting a challenge for others to find an answer that is suitable to conform to the new millennium’s ever growing technological advancements.
Moving aside from the question of whether technology changes the view on ethics in journalism, it’s important to look on the opposite side of the spectrum—the court itself. Jonathan Entin does just that in his...