Price and Prejudice

Some people who comment on cases may not be fully aware of the danger of pride and prejudice to innocent defendants.

Pride

  • Pride is dangerous because many people are afraid to admit they were mistaken, for fear of damaging their reputation.
  • Some people believe the cure is to simply remain neutral in public and not express any firm opinion.
  • For journalists who do not research cases in any detail, this is perhaps the wisest solution.

Prejudice

Prejudice against innocent defendants can occur in many different ways.

(1) Giving ill-advised interviews or being seen by reporters.

Causes:

  • Failure to obtain legal counsel
  • Existing fame
  • Being an attractive woman

(2) Police and/or prosecution leaking incorrect information to the press.

Causes:

  • Premature arrest
  • Tunnel vision : failure to investigate all suspects
  • Failure to identify guilty party

(3) Suppression of evidence

Examples

  • Evidence destroyed by police and/or prosecution
  • Evidence manufactured by police, prosecution or other parties
  • Evidence held to be inadmissible by a court
  • Tampering or suppression of trial record / exhibits

(4) Media reports that do not fully disclose defense case

Causes

  • Defense case may be withheld for tactical reasons
  • Truth remains hidden

Media types

  • Newspapers,
  • Television or radio broadcasts ,
  • “True crime” books
  • Websites
  • Films

Conclusions

  • Be aware of the sources of prejudice listed above
  • Be sceptical about any source that seems one-sided
  • Be sceptical about police or ex-police sources
  • Do not express an opinion on a case without being aware of the prosecution and defense case.
  • It may be necessary to consult primary sources, where reliable secondary sources are not available.
  • Nothing can be certain, but if all the facts have a clear explanation, you are probably correct.
  • Sometimes the required information to draw a firm conclusion may not be available – reasonable doubt.
  • If you find discussing a case distressing or are reluctant to look at some new information from a credible source, your conclusion about the case is probably wrong.
  • If you are puzzled by some or many aspects of a case, your conclusion (if you have one) is likely wrong due to a combination of pride and prejudice.
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