Los Angeles, CA—Celebrity justice is a strange animal. Either the accused is or because of a sensational crime becomes a celebrity. When that happens it’s dangerous to the very core of our American justice system.
Too often I’ve seen celebrities prosecuted simply because some cops and prosecutors know only too well they may hang on to the coattails of celebrities they too will gain fame and fortune.
The issue of fame and fortune too often taints criminal and civil trials. Indictments are sought just to raise the political profile of prosecutors and other government bureaucrats. Often judges change their personal behavior and make rulings designed to prolong their time in the spotlight. No high profile can begin without a press release boasting of an arrest or indictment
In our society the celebrity phenomenon brings bizarre results. Celebrities are created by the press for talent or some innocent or nefarious involvement in a monumental event.
The O.J. Simpson murder trial made numerous careers of lawyers, writers, broadcasters, a dishonest LAPD homicide detective and a freeloading Simpson house guest. Many went from government salaries to serious financial rewards. Simpson’s prosecutors did not fair too well from publicity simply because they lost the case.
Unfortunately infamy makes people rich as quickly as fame for admirable deeds. Disgraced detective Mark Fuhrman was the only person convicted of a crime in the Simpson case. He used his perjury conviction like a sword to become a multi-millionaire as an author and broadcast crime commentator for Fox News. He also is a talk show host. Today most people have forgotten Fuhrman is a convicted felon. Many people admire this criminal because of his infamous crime!
Judges get in on the act too. Sometimes it’s a career killer like it was for Simpson judge, Lance Ito. Who could forget the dancing Itos from The Tonight Show?
Now we have a new player in celebrity trials, the Internet. Jurors are admonished to avoid the media, Internet or conversations connected to the cases they are asked to judge. It’s nearly impossible to police jury conduct. In low profile cases this particular kind of jury misconduct does not happen.
People selected for jury duty too often love this duty for all the wrong reasons. They lie about their prejudices and personal baggage. Like Juror Number Nine in the first Phil Spector trial admitted recently, many of them enter the jury room with their mind already made up. This kind of misconduct eliminates discussion and deliberation as a way to a verdict.
In a low profile case several years ago I wrote about a justifiable shooting case in Hollywood. I wrote about the extensive criminal record and dubious immigration status of the so-called victim. That information was kept out of the trial and not transmitted to the jury.
More than a year had passed since that shooting and I noticed my web counter got 14 Los Angeles area hits on that forgotten story. I guessed why the sudden interest. The trial of the accused began and members of the jury were all doing Google searches on the defendant’s name! They had full access to the information the court ordered withheld and my opinion on just why this was a justifiable use of force.
That trial ended and I got an e-mail and phone call from the foreman of the jury telling me they acquitted the defendant! The IP address of that jury foreman matched that of a visitor to my site numerous times throughout the trial.
The first Phil Spector trial was covered by all manner of media complete with gavel to gavel TV coverage. I had suffered an injury and my movement was very limited as a result. I used that free time to watch the coverage and fully blog the trial.
I discovered an anti-Phil Spector hate campaign develop on the Court TV website and a Sherman Oaks woman’s blog that provided a true hatemonger’s view of the Spector case.
Juror Number Nine from the first Spector trial contacted this woman blogger the very day the trial ended in a mistrial. I remain convinced that this fellow who sought conviction was reading the Sherman Oaks based hate blog every night after the trial recessed.
As for the Spector re-trial only the Sherman Oak's based hate blog is publishing information about this case on a daily basis.
Should Spector be convicted I intend to suggest to the defense lawyers that subpoenas be issued for the ISP information of the juror’s. The website address viewing of the jurors is kept by the ISP and getting that information is simple. I see a mistrial for jury misconduct and perhaps we will see jury members get some unwanted fame.
I think the only right answer in high profile cases is to sequester the jury. That will keep them away from outside influence.
A side note: As some people try to castigate Phil Spector as a hater and abuser of women, that it was Spector who made millionaires out of so many women he promoted as a record producer. Spector brought out some of the most wonderful voices we’ve ever heard.
In case you’ve forgotten, sit back and enjoy the Dancing Itos!