Media impact discussed by lawyers – Mark Geragos comments

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[b]Media impact discussed by lawyers[/b] BY TRAVIS LOLLER, The Island Packet Other stories by Travis Loller Published Sunday, August 8th, 2004 The lawyer for Scott Peterson, who is on trial for murder in the death of his wife, Laci, and the co-host of “Living it Up! with Ali and Jack” held hundreds of attorneys in rapt attention Saturday morning while discussing how the media effects the legal system at the S.C. Trial Lawyers Association’s annual convention. [b]Mark Geragos, one of the nation’s most prominent defense attorneys, described how media coverage has left him in situations where his clients are presumed guilty by many potential jurors before a trial begins.[/b] Jack Ford, who worked for years as a lawyer before becoming a television anchorman, legal commentator and co-host of his own daytime talk show, made an appeal to allow cameras in the courtrooms. In describing an unnamed “recent case,” Geragos told the group assembled at the Westin Resort that when potential jurors were asked to fill out a 23-page questionnaire, some who barely were literate wrote almost nothing on the form except “Peterson guilty.” “We have Buddhists who don’t believe in taking another life, except for my client,” he joked. [b]Geragos, who counts pop star Michael Jackson among his former high-profile clients, explained that when prosecutors bring charges against someone, they “hold a press conference and it’s wall-to-wall coverage.” Then they get a protective order from a judge barring defense attorneys from presenting their client’s side of the story to the press. “That freezes the jury pool at the point where they assume my client is guilty,” he said. “… We need a lawyer to decide not to abide by a protective order. At what point does it clash with a lawyer’s duty to provide his client effective assistance?” To make the problem worse, he said, the police plant false or misleading stories in the tabloids or on the Internet which are picked up by cable channels and later the mainstream media. “It’s nothing a judge can do anything about,” he said. Geragos said he spends “50 to 75 percent of my time knocking these rumors down.”[/b] Ford, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, agreed with the problems Geragos discussed, saying that when he started out as a journalist a story “didn’t go on the air unless we had two good sources.” Now, some journalists will cite reports from other news outlets as a source without ever knowing where the information came from or verifying it independently, he said. But Ford differed from Geragos by advocating television cameras in courtrooms both as a way to combat bias and educate the public about the legal system. “People see the judge shows with everyone screaming and the judges screaming,” Ford said “and they think that’s the justice system.” The O.J. Simpson trial, which, he said, got out of control and was far from typical, has further hurt Americans’ perception of the courts. The public was allowed to see that trial, but it has not been able to see others, like the Oklahoma City bombing trial. That trial was in federal court, which does not allow cameras. “That was a wonderfully tried case that made you proud of the system,” he said. “It was the anti-O.J. trial, the anti-judge show.” Geragos said television cameras would be acceptable in most courtrooms, but not in highly publicized cases like the Peterson trial. “With the tabloidization of the coverage and people paying for information,” he said, “it’s reached the point where adding television cameras would poison the court room.” David Harwell, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, who was in the audience, said he started cameras in the court room in South Carolina and the state has not had a single bad experience with them. “The best system is an educated system,” he said :nav Source: [url][/url]

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