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Trial by media : the betrayal of the first amendment’s purpose.

Duke University School of Law
Publication Date
  • Law


There is continuing concern in the United States about the kind of media storms that swirl around high-profile criminal proceedings such as the Sam Sheppard case,3 the O.J. Simpson trial,4 or the Duke lacrosse case.5 The knowledge that the transformation of the sober and impartial investigation of guilt into a grotesque media “carnival”6 could probably happen nowhere in the Western world other than the United States reminds us again of the distinctiveness of First Amendment jurisprudence; but the difference in this instance seems to arouse more mixed feelings in Americans than usual. As will appear below, the pernicious effect of media reportage upon public perceptions of the guilt of high-profile defendants,7 with a possible concomitant effect upon the fairness of trials, now seems to be fairly widely accepted.

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