Normally I like to start a thread without the bias of my own opinion. This one, however, will require some preface. I’ll try to measure my words.
Over the years I have seen several high profile trials. One of the first was that of a Fort Worth multi-millionaire named T. Cullen Davis. With the aid of a great trial lawyer, “Racehorse” Haynes, Davis beat a murder rap and later an alleged murder for his scheme that supposedly included thirteen people, including his wife Priscilla and the divorce court judge.
Then there was O. J. Simpson and in recent months Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson, Martha Stewart, Bernie Evers, Robert Blake (acquitted today), eventually Ken Lay and possibly Tom DeLay.
Media coverage of pretrial, trial and posttrial is increasing. On Thursday (March 10), Monday (March 14) and Tuesday (March 15) nights the Abrams Report
aired hour specials on the Michael Jackson case. In my opinion, Abrams is ok. He seems knowledgeable and tries to be objective. Three hour special on Jackson, to use a British understatement, a bit excessive. I was talking to a friend at the coffee shop about an hour ago. He said that this isn’t journalism, but “chewing gum to divert the masses attention from the real issues.”Thursday, March 10http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7160592/Monday, March, 14http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7189404/Tuesday, March, 15http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7208304/
I have lived most of my life with the belief (perhaps it’s a grand illusion) that presumption of innocence
is more than a legal jargon—it’s a core value shared by most Americans. My friend at the coffee shop said that he thought this was once a core value, but one is rapidly “eroding.” I talked to two younger people--late teens who work there. Both said they did not believe presumption of innocence was a core value.
Michael Jackson is currently on trial in California. The jury is not sequestered. Last night, Joe Scarborough
essentially declared Jackson guilty on a major prime time TV show and called him a creep.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you, Rabbi Shmuley, I look at Michael Jackson. I liked the guy back in the 1980s. I can’t stand to look at him on TV. He’s a gross caricature of himself.
I just—every day, I wonder, can people look at this guy and be fair? I mean, you know Michael Jackson. Does he get even creepier the close you get to him?
SCARBOROUGH: I think Michael Jackson walks. And I think it’s a disgrace. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7208275/
I am not interested in discussing Jackson’s guilt or innocence or Jackson’s personality. Presumption of innocence is one of my core values.
Declaring some one guilty or innocent while the trial is in progress is outside my comfort zone, though I’m fully aware that many others disagree.Questions for Debate
1. Is “presumption of innocence” a core value for most Americans? Why or why not?
2. Is my friend at the coffee shop correct in saying that this value, if it exists, is eroding?
3. Did Joe Scarborough cross the line in what we might describe as honest, ethical and professional journalism?
I’ll have more to say about this later.