Media Whining About Access to Jackson Docs – MJEOL Bullet #161 Apparently some are becoming insane from not having access to certain information Judge Rodney Melville, the judge presiding over the Michael Jackson “case”, seems to be the bane of the media’s existence at the moment.Despite the outcry from media attorneys, tabloid reporters, cry-baby TV lawyers and legitimate reporters, he has consistently disallowed access to a number of different documents.As a result of all the secrecy, some in the media have become temporarily insane, making ridiculous arguments about what they should be entitled to do and have access to. Prefaced is the fact that there is a question as to whether Melville is trying to preserve an untainted jury pool based on what prosecutor’s found, or if he’s trying to make sure the public doesn’t turn on the prosecution because of their lack of finding any evidence in their approximately 50 different search warrants. In a July 1 2004 AP report, Judge Melville is quoted as being concerned about avoiding media speculation and analysis of evidence:

“In this case, protection of the parties’ right to a fair trial and full opportunity to investigate the facts overcomes the right of public access to the record,” the judge said. (see article)

The report also says Melville has indicated he wants information to remain sealed until he decides if it will be allowed in trial or not. The heavily redacted documents don’t even indicate if Jackson is the focus of the search warrant(s) and apparently includes searches of banks, phone records, cell phone records, and department stores around the country. What’s the media response to all this secrecy? They’re pulling their collective hair out. The attorney representing the various media outlets, Theodore Boutrous, has unsuccessfully argued for access to unredacted documents, including the one-sided grand jury transcripts. In a June 29 2004 report, Boutrous comments:

“So much of the material is under seal that that creates a vicious circle where the parties think that every document that gets filed must also be under seal. Sealing breeds more sealing.” (see article)

These types of arguments, needless to say, don’t impress the judge in this case. Based on the way the media has reported the Jackson “case”, from the day of the Nov 2003 raid, it’s unclear if they even care whether or not Jackson gets a fair trial. Suspicious minds may think that the only reason media wants to get their hands on grand jury transcripts and search warrants is so that they can engage in ratings-grabbing discussions about what the accuser is alleging Jackson did. With their pompous and expectant attitudes, they have collectively become exasperated with Melville. This exasperation has undoubtedly led to temporary insanity by some in the media; in particular MSNBC’s Dan Abrams. Abrams, in one of his Closing Arguments, almost becomes rabid in his confused view on why the presumption of innocence is so important and how that may be affecting the secrecy in high profile cases. Apparently Abrams doesn’t believe people should be considered innocent until proven guilty outside of the courtroom. I warn you: the following comments from Abrams may make you lose all respect for the chicken-little TV lawyer. I know I have, until he does something to redeem himself:

The presumption of innocence does not and should not exist outside a courtroom. Think about it. For to us presume someone innocent is for to us presume the authorities got it wrong whenever they arrest someone. I‘m not willing to assume that unless I‘m a juror. It‘s a legal fiction that was designed for the courtroom…But it makes no sense outside of the courtroom, particularly for our purposes. (see article)

This type of argument is ridiculous because it turns us from civilized reasonable people, into witch-hunting old world Salem, Mass. residents. That blood thirsty and corrupt period of time presumed the authorities making the ‘witch’ allegation against a person was inherently right, and that it was ultimately up to the accused to prove they didn’t cast demon spells on people or practice witchcraft. I’m not willing to assume that whoever gets charged with a crime is immediately guilty, unless the info is overwhelming. But when you’re dealing with credibility cases—like ‘witch’ allegations, molestation cases, and rape cases—presumption of innocence is paramount because of the massive damage it can do if the allegation is false. Charges that arise from he-said, she-said cases are the most damaging as well as the easiest to make. If a person makes the allegation, it damn well should be up to them to prove the person is guilty, otherwise the chaos of stupidity and suspicion will ensue, with people making allegations left and right just to gain something in the process. To shore up the argument, Abrams uses a rather ludicrous scenario of how the media would report news if they’re actually forced to presume innocence:

Imagine an evening news piece where the reporter presumed the person innocent. John Doe was arrested today on charges of smuggling drugs, but since the presumption of innocence applies, we must assume the authorities got it wrong or we must presume it was sugar, not cocaine in his possession.

Ridiculous. How about simply reporting that John Doe was arrested on charges of smuggling drugs and STOP at that point? This is what’s wrong with media coverage. If you’re under the guise of a news program, then why not simply report the news? I’ll tell you why: it’s because the money is too good once opinion is injected into the situation. Abrams knows this. His ratings would be in the toilet if he just sat and read only the things we know to be fact in each of these high profile cases. I’m very adept at giving my opinion as is Abrams. The difference is that I’m not out to convict a person based on evidence that I haven’t seen–or which may not even exist–while that person is on trial. Would it be so wrong for that sample report to say “Police say John Doe was found with cocaine. Doe was arrested on charges of smuggling drugs. Doe insists that he’s innocent.” At least that way, you give both sides of the argument. And what if Doe was as guilty as sin? What is lost by being cautious? Nothing. Would it have hurt the discussion? Of course not. However, what if Doe really was innocent? Now, we’ve got someone who is innocent, who everyone will think is as guilty as sin partly based on media discussion about the case, evidence that may not have ever existed, and speculation that had no basis in fact. Let’s face it. A mere accusation immediately causes some subsection of the public to believe the person is guilty. That subsection may always be there. So how the hell would the presumption of innocence hurt media? Will they all suddenly turn into dust if they are actually forced to have a two-sided discussion? ‘Heavens no! We can’t possibly have a two-sided discussion! That’ll be too much work and cause our research departments too much time in having to search for actual facts!’ Give me a break. What those with Abrams’s attitude want is carte blanche to be as sleazy, as salacious, as accusatory and as defamatory as they want to be. That’s all well in good when you’re dealing with free speech. It’s absolutely devastating, totally unfair, stupid, and chaotic when you’re dealing with sending someone to jail for 20 years or putting them to death. As guilty as he may appear to some people, should Scott Peterson be put to death for our first amendment rights? Hell no. In that case, we already see a detective on the witness stand lying about key evidence in the case. Should we have presumed the police weren’t telling the whole truth before the case went to trial? Probably not. But information is coming out suggesting that at least one officer may have been lying about certain details to make Peterson look as guilty as possible. Let’s recap: Abrams said “For us to presume someone innocent is for us to presume the authorities got it wrong whenever they arrest someone.” Well, Danny, I hate to break it to you, but it looks like the authorities did in fact at least get some things wrong. Should Kobe Bryant be sentenced to jail, have his career ruined and family devastated, all to protect our first amendment right? Hell no. The case is a walking disaster. The accuser was found to have two different peoples’ sperm on her body when she went in to have the rape kit done. They apparently found a cauccassion hair on her person as well, which would point away from Bryant. Just yesterday (July 1 2004), the lead prosecutor stepped down from the case citing a lame excuse about neglecting other duties. In the face of this information, how wrong does it seem, now, to have presumed the authorities got it completely right when they arrested Bryant for rape? Should Michael Jackson have years of work and charitable acts go down the drain, his children stripped from him, and spend 20 years in jail all to protect our first amendment right? Hell no. That “case” is a walking disaster, as well, for a number of reasons. There are accusations from various 3rd parties that the mother coached her children to lie under oath in at least one prior civil case. LA Child Services (DCFS) cleared Jackson of these very allegations with this family in late Feb 2003, smack in the middle of the prosecution’s timeline. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s department also did a 2 month investigation of these very allegations with this family, ending in April 2003, which concluded there was no criminal activity, no complaining accuser, and no other accusers. Apparently there are witnesses who saw the mother allow her children to drink alcohol at Neverland when Jackson was away from the premises. Research yields interviews of the accuser and family given when they were suppose to be getting “held hostage”–to keep them silent allegedly–by Jackson associates. Santa Barbara police notes say that Larry Feldman, the family’s attorney, was preparing to file a lawsuit against Jackson even before the accuser had his first interview with psychologist Stan Katz. I could go on and on. If Abrams had his way, the media would be under no obligation to consider any of this information if they didn’t want to, and could continue to proclaim guilt in the face of things to the contrary. Presumption of guilt—or not being obligated to apply the presumption of innocence–can be a very dangerous thing. The media has the ability to both shape and mirror opinion. In the Jackson “case”, we already have a perfect example of how some irresponsible members of the press can take actual documents and mislead the public about their contents: the 93 settlement agreement. When that document was leaked to tabloid reporter Diane Dimond, the initial reports were outrageously false. Some reporters, including Abrams I may add, initially reported that Jackson admitted to “negligent” sexual molestation of the 93 accuser. Outside of that being totally illogical, it was completely false. For me to presume the media was accurate about their initial reports would have been for me to accept totally illogical and asinine information which I later found out to be untrue. Can we even trust the media to accurately report information from court documents if Melville did decide to release unredacted copies? But not only that, why was there a need to skew the reporting in a negative light to make Jackson look guilty of something? And what about the damage done when they got it wrong? These are questions members of the media, including Abrams, need to ask themselves. The media’s whining about access, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t seem that big of a deal in comparison to the life (and death) decisions being made in the courtroom by judges like Melville and jurors. As for the ‘presumption of innocence outside the courtroom’ argument, I can only hope Abrams is never falsely accused of anything. Thus, it would be my right to presume him as guilty as hell, berate him because of my own ignorance, try to sway other people to think like me, and attempt to interfere with his right to a fair trial—not to mention his right to make a living—until he proves to me that he’s innocent. Remember? I’m under no obligation to presume him innocent if I subscribe to his way of thinking. We’ll see if his attitude changes if he’s ever on the other side of the law. Stay tuned. -MJEOL

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