A Trial By Whom? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   In courts today, who rules the system: the judge, the jury, the lawyers - or the media through public opinion? Can someone receive a fair trial if the media doesn't like him/her? Today's court system is like a soap opera; people watch a trial hoping they can witness an inane event. A person's future can be molded by the feelings of the media. This is outrageous! One ideal of democracy was trial by jury, but now it is being ignored in favor of trial by public consensus.

In a recent trial in Massachusetts, the Eappen murder trial, a British nanny, Louise Woodward, was charged with killing an infant in her care. She was accused of shaking and hitting the baby on a hard surface. The jury found sufficient evidence against her, and she was convicted of murder in the second degree, warranting a mandatory sentence of fifteen years to life. She had already spent nine months in jail, and was to spend fifteen more years when the media and public opinion kicked in, and now she is free.

This trial was televised on Court TV and started a media frenzy. Everyone in our country and England watched as this "poor innocent girl" stood trial. Did the media sympathize with the family of the victim? Or were the parents disliked because they were intelligent doctors who had a nanny? Was this girl's fate decided because the public felt sympathy for her? If the answer is yes, our justice system is a disgrace and it must change!

After Woodward was sentenced, the judge heard arguments and reduced the verdict to manslaughter and released her on time served: 271 days. Was the judge influenced by public opinion? Well, Woodward was on the cover of every paper, candlelight vigils were held outside the courthouse and everyone said, "Let her go free." Why? Because the media liked her, so people liked her and her crime didn't matter. Many people argue that her original sentence was too harsh, and maybe it was. Some may say it's the district attorney's fault, because he charged her with murder, but does that excuse the death of a child? I don't think so!

To discuss the logistics of every case would waste time, but discussing the outside influences in cases is important. Let's look at the influences on the O.J. trial. We had crazy lawyers who danced around the courtroom and put on a wonderful show, as if it were "Saturday Night Live." These lawyers entertained the country through the opinionated media. America concentrated more on Johnnie Cochran's suits than the deaths of two people.

The media seems to be playing the job of the judge, and they are telling us, the jury, what we should conclude. Then we tend to ignore the true jury's verdict. We are entertained by sly lawyers and instructed by egotistical judges who feel they decide the case. We are letting the court system fail innocent victims and allowing public opinion to be the judge.

What has happened to trial by jury? We have to realize that the system has gotten out of hand. We need to send a message to the lawyers, judges and media that trial by media frenzy has to stop! If we want the innocent free and the guilty convicted, we must respect the jury system and stop this insanity! ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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