Monday, March 26, 2012

THE COURT ROOM OR THE NEWS ROOM?

Departing from my usual habit of studiously ignoring 24 hour news channels, I watched one today. I saw an anchor ask Angela Corey if she knew where George Zimmerman was, and then act as though Corey had committed malfeasance in office when she said she did not. It's not the chief prosecutor's job to keep track of potential defendants, and it's no reflection on Corey because she didn't know. I prosecuted for almost 30 years and the only time I knew the location of one of my defendants was when he was in jail. As long as he came to court when summoned, I had no desire to know where he was.

Then I saw a "former prosecutor" ranting about how horrible it was that Zimmerman had not been arrested. If she would think back to her days as a prosecutor, I am sure she could come up with a number of good explanations for why the arrest hasn't been made yet. Unless a defendant was a severe flight risk, I was seldom in a hurry to make an arrest.

The police department, which felt it had good and sufficient reasons to delay the arrest, has felt the heat of the media frenzy and begun leaking details which tend to explain why they weren't eager to make an arrest before they got their case more thoroughly investigated. If I were the prosecutor on the case, I would be upset that this information has been disseminated, but I fully understand that the police felt they were acting in self defense.

Interestingly, one newscast I saw cherry picked a single fact from the leaked information to televise and ignored all the other leaked information. Instead of running the relevant facts, they decided to air the completely irrelevant fact that Trayvon Martin had gotten into trouble over some marijuana residue in his backpack.

One would suspect that the media is working to aggravate a situation which is volatile enough already. This case needs to be tried in the court room, not the news room. We all need to just take a deep breath, calm down, and wait to see how the case unfolds. There will be plenty of time to critique the police and prosecutors after the case is over.