Over the last few decades, the public’s interest in crime as a form of entertainment has drastically increased. Where once the news would courteously keep most of the sordid and unpleasant details out of their print, the draw toward sensational journalism and the public’s interest in gore, tragedy, and trauma has led to a drastic increase in the number and intensity of “high profile” crimes. The profile, in this case, refers to how much news coverage is generated and the size of the curious audience following updates on the crime through the news. And let’s face it, we’ve all been subject to that morbid fascination that occurs when you hear that someone has died or been injured in a particularly unpleasant or unusual way. The more horrifying the story is, the more most people are fascinated.
It is from this trend that we get ambulance-chaser news reporters and an endless supply of gruesome crime drama television shows and movies. For some reason, the modern public simply craves unpleasant criminal stories and while this seems harmless from the one side of the equation, it’s also very important to consider what all this attention is doing to the legal system and how that affects the accused.
Have You Been Charged with a Potentially High-Profile Crime?
Being accused of and arrested for a crime is almost always an upsetting and life-disrupting experience. The drama, the handcuffs, and the complete examination of your life is enough to make anyone want to crawl into a hole and hide until it blows over, but criminal trials don’t just blow over, especially if they become high-profile. But what exactly puts a defendant at risk of being the focus of high-profile crime media coverage? To be honest, it’s more about the details of the crime that the media can get ahold of and what kind of story they can paint with limited (to zero) evidence than it does with who you are or what actually happened.
The factors that make up a high-profile crime are sex and sex appeal, violence, death, and unusual or surprising circumstances. If the crime can be made to sound like a scary campfire story about monsters and madmen, then it’s almost guaranteed to get at least some media coverage. If one of the people involved, either victim or defendant, is an attractive woman, the chance that the case will become high-profile shoots up exponentially. A good way to judge how your case will be treated by the media is how well it would fit either into a horror movie plot or an episode of Law and Order SVU, two very popular forms of media among the general public for the exact same reason as real crimes ‘go viral’ as the kids would say.
The Bad 15 Minutes of Fame
While it’s said that everyone wants and might eventually get their 15 minutes of fame, the last thing someone charged with a violent crime or involved in a tragedy wants is the entire world looking through their windows and examining their life right after a traumatizing experience. Sympathy for this phenomenon is usually focused on surviving victims who are hounded in their homes by the ambulance-chaser version of the paparazzi, but this kind of coverage is just as bad or worse for defendants.
The problem with being the defendant in a criminal trial that becomes high-profile is the fact that the truth often has zero influence on the spin the media decides to take.
Everyone is Guilty on the News
Media coverage has been known to make or break public opinion of the defendant in a high-profile crime, and mostly they aim to break. Everyone loves to have a villain to hate, someone to curse the name of and warn each other to watch out for like a boogieman under the bed and around every corner. Therefore it’s in the media’s best interests to look for any sign of character flaw down to your disheveled and traumatized mug shot to paint you, the defendant, as the villain in their emotion-driven crime pieces. Victims are all innocent and helpless, perpetrators are all heartless monsters, and whoever the police handcuffed first is obviously the person who clearly did it and deserves to be locked away forever.
But what about your right to a fair trial? What about the jury of your peers who are supposed to only judge you based on the unbiased evidence presented in a sensationalism-free court of law? When a court case goes high-profile before the verdict, as is often the situation, it becomes nearly impossible to find 12 unbiased jury members who aren’t already inclined to convict based on the quite-biased news reports they’ve already read and watched. In fact, even when the media decides to play ‘underdog’ and spin their stories to be about the innocence of the accused, it is still difficult to see a truly fair trial and some jurors might be biased simply because they believe there is unfair favor being shown in the media.
How to Achieve a Fair Trial in a High-Profile Criminal Defense
The legal system does have options when it comes to protecting the right to a fair trial for the defendant of crimes that have become high-profile, but they often won’t take these measures automatically because they cost time, money, and effort. Options like changing venues to get away from local infamy, media restraint, gag orders on participants discussing the case, and creating a place to keep jurors where they are isolated from the news will make it more likely that your trial is fair, but you will need someone to speak up for you in order to put these solutions into motion.
That is where an experienced high-profile criminal defense lawyer can be your best ally. High-profile cases have a different and much more demanding set of requirements when it comes to full and protective legal counsel because your rights need to be defended beyond even the trial itself. or more information about how to deal with high-profile cases or to get in contact with an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer, contact us today!
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