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Should court trials be televised?

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      11.10.2011 12:36
      Very helpful




      The current Michael Jackson trial has been yet another fascinating look into the black heart of the rich and famous, race, money and vanity at the heart of yet another crime. It's a poison that becomes a cancer when injected into celebrity, laid bare on live TV for the world to see, the court case the crime tumour, a true democracy in action. If the stars can go down then we all can. Not that the stars ever go down for anything serious though.

      American justice is very showy and open and that could be on the way to Britain as plans are drawn up to televise aspects of cases here. Why they think it will work here is the question. Our lawyers and judges with those silly wigs and gowns are hardly box-office.

      The first big difference over there is they have jury selection by the attorneys, the current Jackson trial having just one black American on the roster. Before the trial they had to find 12 people that were not bias, didn't really have an opinion on Jackson and the Conrad Murray arrest in general. Intriguingly they selected 6 whites, 5 Hispanics and just one African - America. In Britain it works in reverse in that 12 are picked by random from a large pool and then the defence and prosecution can ask jurors to be omitted if they don't like them. For the OJ Simpson trail it was nearly all black and they acquitted Simpson, of course, where as the Rodney King trial was nearly all white and they acquitted the cops. The question you then have to ask is would those verdicts have been reversed if you swapped the juries over? I'm pretty sure a white jury would have sent OJ down but the city of Los Angeles could not afford another riot like they got for King and so they made sure OJ walked wit the majority 10-2 black jury. But King deserved a good kicking by the cops as he was a bad guy and had only just been released from prison for attacking a shopkeeper with an iron bar whilst high on alcohol when the cops did pull him over. A white or Black jury would definitely have convicted King if he was a white career criminal with a rap sheet as long as Kings. Race is such an intriguing part of the se American court trials. When I did my jury service in Northampton it wasn't race that was the problem but social class, all but one of my fellow citizens working-class and proud of it. Northing wrong with that but lawyers are smart people and easily exploited that, both my trials seeing the bad guys let off, one for dealing drugs and others for theft. The system looks fair and democratic but its stacked heavily in favour f the judges final summing up, what he or she thinks the verdict that is coming.

      The question now is that if this jury does convict Conrad Murray for manslaughter then some in the black community are sure to say it was racist whereas if they don't convict then people will join some of the Jackson family's rumblings that this was a white/Jewish conspiracy to get rid of Jackson to boost posthumous record sales (no, seriously). The other half of the Jackson family don't share that view and even cashed in with a Michael Jackson tribute tour during the trial, a show in Cardiff only last week. The truth is mostly likely to be that Jackson was a habitual drug user and Murray got the job as the family GP as he did what he was told and administered Jackson's drug cocktails on demand, or 'milk' as the cocktail has been called in the trial. Once anxiety gets out of control you worry about everything and so have to be medicated against everything, a self-perpetual spiral. In fact the family have been the most anxious and concerned in court of late as they didn't want the public to find out that Jackson was still using skin whitening creams. There is nothing more damaging in the black community than someone famous who wants to be white by using these creams and only dates white girls and wants to escape the poor black areas so to live with those whites, what Jackson did. It's these racial elements to the trials that draw the biggest audience. America's race-lines and the contradictions that flow down them in show trials are deliciously cringing at times. You really get into the unseen underbelly of the rich and famous...how one lot hates the other, why Obama cant possibly win the election.

      We have also had show trails for white folks, of course, Amanda Knox and the shaken baby trial of Louise Woodward back in the 1990s to name but two. Woodward served just 279 days of her sentence after massive negative western interest on the trial and diplomatic pressure was applied to get an early release, all concerned accepting Louise never did anything deliberate and may simply have dropped the baby, and not hurled it down after a good shake as suggested. Evidence in shaken baby cases is always ambiguous and just as likely to convict as it is get the person off, many a Cot Death anything but through current law in America.

      Knox was a more complex case, an affluent America also released after originally being convicted of killing English student Meredith Kerchner in Italy, a sex game gone wrong the suggestion. She and the other two guys involved in the court trail were originally convicted on a narrative that seemed to have been built around patchy and ambivalent evidence, the black guy who went down admitting he was the killer through a deal for half sentence, but only taking that deal because the other two were supposed to be accomplices. But Knox and Sollecito seemed to compare alibis and were inconsistent in their evidence and so the black guy still in jail and they released, the Italians no doubt lent on by Hilary Clinton to 'speed things up' on the retrial. All these trials, of course, are about politics in the end and so save important careers and not deliver justice and if Knox did point the finger at the black guy as being at the scene with the knife then that's a confession she was at the murder scene too, why she could never use that as a plea bargain.

      Because Amanda Knox had the intelligence to learn Italian in jail and speak fluently in court she became even more interesting and powerful on TV and so embarrassing to Italy, almost released to stop any further undermining and embarrassment of the Italian judiciary, one of the most corrupt in the world. I don't know if she did it or not but she will have to cash in big time with the media and book deals like OJ did to help pay her pending legal fees. Amazingly, 'Foxy Knoxy' shares the same birthday as OJ Simpson, July 9th, and they were both acquitted on October 3rd. Louise Woodward was also convicted in October. Is the autumn the allocated primetime TV for these trials in America we wonder? And if you wondered what happened to Woodward...well she got a 2.2 degree in Law - ironically - and then dropped out of barrister training in 2004 because she couldn't hack it. Somewhat bizarrely she retrained as a ballroom and Latin dance teacher in Chester, perhaps her brush with fame still holding a candle for her. And if you want irony for televised court room trials then look no further than Rodney King, who recently married one of the jurors on his civil case against the LAPD. And the month of his civil compensation payment for $4 million dollars in court that the juror served on? October! In March and July of this year King was arrested for drunk driving and not having a valid licence. Some people never learn. Maybe the black community understand a little more why some guys just need a good beating by the cops to get the message, regardless of their skin colour, a drunk King just as likely to run down a small black or Latino child as a white one.

      Of course these TV trails are really about America's obsession with celebrity and televising them makes no real difference to getting the verdict right and showing the legal system to be fair. This is the same country that has viewing theatres with velvet curtains for watching prisoners receive lethal injections to carry out the death penalty. The lawyers crave to be involved with these trials as their salaries shoot up thereafter and who will ever forget the stunned faces of OJ's lawyers when they did get him off. OJ was bang to rights but a black jury let him off, no doubt Los Angeles fearing another King riot if they sent him down. Race plays a huge part in America's legal and penal system with blacks and Hispanics now 70% of the prison population there and white 70% of the lawyers, 1-in-96 Americans now practising attorneys. Bizarrely, Dr Murray was actually the doctor for one of the prosecution lawyers in the current trial, also medicating them for stress and anxiety; such are the quirks and contradictions these trials throw up.

      So how will televised trails transfer to British TV? It will start of unobtrusive with certain aspects not allowed to be filmed but once the door is a jar TV will steam in and make demands for much more exposure. Being in court in any aspect is a stressful time and it's hard enough to get witness to come forward as it is, the prospect of the accused family tuning in a further deterrent. This will only create more problems than its worth but the vain lawyers want those TV trials and salaries and so this will happen. It would be fascinating to watch a terrorist trial to see just how contrived these sting operations are and it would also be fun to see the chav families having a ruck in the viewing area. What this will almost certainly do is stereotype crime to each racial group. If we were allowed to see just who was going down for the recent riots and what 'previous' they had it would not be comfortable viewing for the black community. The Asian community, on the other hand, did not riot in Britain this summer and that fact alone is fascinating to crime observers, people who will just love TV trials.

      Current British trials I would like to be watching right now would be the Pakistan cricketer match-fixing trial and the Jo Yates murder trial. The cricketer trial is now dragging Australia's name back into the mud over match fixing. That comment alone from the accused sure to earn another libel court case down the line. The Jo Yates case was news because it was a white pretty middle-class girl killed in a likewise area, not the done thing to educated young ladies that stay well under the radar and obey all the rules. The evidence so far has the defendant bang to rites, the internet footprint the killer, far more effective evidence in a premeditated murder case than DNA it seems, prints you can't get rid of with bleach. Not one man in Britain would dare hand over his hard-drive for inspection.


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