Courts and the Media

Can pretrial publicity jeopardize justice?


The massive publicity surrounding the O.J. Simpson murder trial has renewed an old debate: Can the constitutional rights to a free press and a fair trial be balanced? Nowadays, the clash between the First and Sixth amendments is occurring in televised courtrooms amid saturation media coverage. Some observers fear that the traditional legal tools for assuring impartial juries -- the questioning of jurors for bias and the change of venue -- are no longer effective in cases where the basic facts are widely known. Others say juries can put aside the impressions received from blanket news coverage. Meanwhile, all agree that the issue is far from resolved and that the media will remain a powerful player in the criminal justice system.

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