The Unjust Criminal Justice System
Socio-economic status, high profile lawyers, the media and an unbalanced criminal justice system are are all inter-related. One of the many factors which has an impact on the criminal justice system is the societal and economic status of both the criminal and the lawyer representing them. High profile people are capable of hiring high profile lawyers. This therefore provides a criminal with the capability of hiring a well-read attorney and having an advantage when it comes to arguing their case. Additionally, lawyers of high stature have been known to find ways to keep their clients out of jail that are not necessarily legal or lawful. Certain attorneys seek through their clients methods to publicize themselves and make more money off of the high profile cases despite knowledge that their client is guilty. These tactics used by lawyers help to create a criminal justice system that is unbalanced and unequal to all criminals. This is undoubtedly a contributing factor as to why celebrities are given unlawful and special treatment in the court of law. As a result of high-profile lawyers utilizing illegal tactics, manipulating the media, and utilizing other resources which the average citizen does not have, they assist in creating a corrupt and unbalanced criminal justice system. These sorts of unfair methods are best exemplified when it comes to celebrity trial.
The justice system seems as though it has an entirely different system for normal middle and lower class people versus high-class people, thus, exhibiting a very unfair process. While it is understood that celebrities pay their lawyers more than an average person, it is not lawful that celebrity criminals are treated better in court, where they will be shown much more respect and privacy, if they so choose, than an average person with a public defender. Just because they pay their lawyers more doesn’t mean that they are above the law. This is not how the criminal justice system is supposed to work as there should be one unified government that represents all people equally regardless of the amount of money they have in their bank account. There are people who believe differently, that there is no problem with the justice system, or that the justice system is harsher when it comes to high profile criminals.
Concerning my thesis, high profile lawyers by definition are well-respected lawyers of higher notoriety in our justice system, that can gain media attention and are usually only available to wealthy people who need a specific type of lawyer for their case. These types of lawyers take cases that involve celebrities, cases that involve a lot of money and cases where somebody needs to be represented by a very credible person. This means that they are paid a lot more by their clients, and usually, the only people that can afford them also have a high profile. These lawyers are not easily obtained and definitely are not up for grabs. High profile lawyers are private lawyers most of the time and are very selective with their clientele. As explained in an article written by H. Patrick Furman called “Publicity in High Profile Criminal Cases,” these lawyers also have connections and power in the media that is higher than that of a public defender. This means that a client of higher status may have more options and and more protection from the outside world when it comes to their case. I️n other words, they will have much more privacy if that is what they want, or they can have their story highly publicized if that is what they think will help them. At the time of sentencing this will help the defendant because a jury may create a specific opinion that is influenced by a tabloid. This isn’t necessarily possible for a person that isn’t of a high profile considering they do not have the resource of money to protect their privacy. If we take into consideration the case of OJ Simpson, for example, he was originally found not guilty of murder even though all evidence suggested he was guilty of the crime. Years later he was given a much harsher sentence in response to a robbery he committed. An article by Carmen M. Cusack titled “Celebrity Justice and Gossip Blogs: Demographic Characteristics of Victimized and Allegedly Criminal Celebrities Featured on Top Gossip Blogs” explains why it was likely he was given this sentence years later. “Because the verdict happened to defy traditional biases, some observers claimed that Simpson’s jury intentionally attempted to establish equality by countering past biases inflicted by police forces and other criminal justice members.” This provides an example of how members of the criminal justice system have been unjust for years and letting celebrities and high profile criminals get away with crimes. Although, now OJ Simpson has gotten a large sentence to make up for what he should’ve gotten in the past, most high profile criminals do not commit another crime to be able to serve the time they should have. If OJ would have been found guilty in the first place like he should have been, he wouldn’t have been able to commit another crime and further cause injury to anyone else.
Additionally, high profile attorneys and their clients have an ability to manipulate the press, whether it be privacy or over-exposure. This sort of advantage is frequently allowed when the attorney or client has a favorable reputation. As explained in “Celebrity Justice” by John Gilbeaut, some “lay the blame on wealthy defendants who can afford to carry on fights not only to clear their names, but to keep them out of the newspapers and off the evening news, not to mention the super- market racks.” Sometimes, it isn’t the lawyers doing this deed but the people that they are defending who are in danger of losing reputations. By the same token, when it comes to desired increased media exposure, high profile lawyers will not only try to win their case but also act on intentions of gaining media attention for their benefit. It is explained in the article “Publicity in High Profile Criminal Cases” that “it seemed that the lawyers spent more time in front of the camera than in front of the bench. Ironically, after the trial, half of the lawyers got their own television shows.” This exemplifies a high profile lawyers own individual motivation to gain media coverage during and after a major case, providing them with a very lucrative reputation. This very well may be their only reasoning behind taking the sorts of cases they do.
Contributing to this, it is possible that people (and juries) will choose to side with a celebrity or their lawyer based on their status or past reputation. In an article by Bruce A. Corroll titled “Celebrity Adjudication: Comparative Analyses of United States Verdict Rates for Celebrity Defendants”, it is explained that “this combination of a susceptible jury, a strong media-influence, and celebrity presence can cause the jury to render a judgment that is biased by the media at the expense of a fair judicial preceding…”. This overall plays a large role in why these cases are notorious for exposing the imbalance of the United States Criminal Justice System. An “impartial” jury is, after all, one of the most sacred tenants of law when it comes to trial. Lawyers that represent high profile criminals are also characteristically known to not handle their cases professionally due to media attention. This idea is explained by Patrick Furman; he says “these [cases] are also precisely the cases which are most likely to tempt us into behaving out of character and unprofessionally.” This is a cause of an unfair justice system because these high profile lawyers are not doing their jobs correctly and still usually getting justice for their clients. Acting unjustly in a court of law is not allowed and is illegal, but, unfortunately we are still allowing people with a lot of money to get away with breaches of the law.
Noting this, an unbalanced criminal justice system has been a problem since the beginning of time. There will never be a perfect way to balance a system based on two things, guilty and not guilty. In our justice system, that is what is expected. In a world where nothing is ever black and white, it is hard to find a way for justice to be found. However, our criminal justice system has come moderately close to figuring it out. The balance, however, is being disturbed by the fact that not everyone can get the same type of defense. People with more money are getting off more easily, and it is not fair that someone whose only option is a public defender does not get the same type of representation as someone who has a high profile lawyer. An unbalanced criminal justice system is a system by which the courts treat a person differently than they treat other people because of their status. According to an article titled “Celebrity Justice” by John Gibeaut “advocates say today’s unmatched effort at secrecy cheats the public out of its First Amendment right to observe and criticize the system through its surrogates in the press. Ideally, public oversight is supposed to keep the system honest.” As regular people, when we go to court, our cases are heard by a public jury, where they vote on whether we are innocent or not. Just because our stories don’t end up in the media and all over tabloids doesn’t mean its not public information just like a person of a higher profile. Lawyers that represent high profile criminals also tend to try to keep the story out of the media and cover it up. This is unjust as well because freedom of the press is an amendment and should not be overlooked just because of the amount of money someone is paying to get rid of it, Gilbeaut says that “media advocates say today’s unmatched effort at secrecy cheats the public out of its First Amendment right to observe and criticize the system through its surrogates in the press. Ideally, public oversight is supposed to keep the system honest.” How can our system be honest if we are being silenced? In order to have a justice system that is fair for everyone in the country we need to put a stop to the people who are trying to hide the truth from the media. H. Patrick Furman believes “a free and vigorous press is critical to the proper functioning of our democracy.” A free and vigorous press is indeed vital to our government, as long as it is accurate.
Furthermore, the ability of the press to impact public opinion on the justice system in relation to both celebrity and average citizens plays a crucial role. An article titled “Dealing with the Press in High-Profile Cases, How to neutralize the 13th Juror” by Ellen C. Brotman helped me to understand that “high-profile cases have high-profile clients whose reputations can be ruined no matter what the outcome”. But, does this mean that the average person’s reputation can’t be ruined as well? Definitely not. So why is it fair that high profile criminals with high profile lawyers are so easily protected from ruined reputations and the media, but regular criminals are not? Discussing this concept of the perception of the world being warped by the press, Patrick Furman notes that the world is not shown the reality of the cases in many situations, and this causes “the image [to become] as important as the substance-a bizarre and unsettling state of affairs to those of us who value reality.” A jury would be completely unable to make a fair judgment of a person if their opinions were supported by fake news reports that they’ve seen and read about in tabloids. The criminal justice system would rather close the case when it comes to a high profile criminal rather than find actual justice. It is clear to me that the only reason for this is to keep everything quiet, keep everyones reputations clear and to keep all of their money. However, is this fair to the people who are not of a high profile whose cases also are part of a public record? Definitely not. “Celebrity Justice” by John Gibeaut explains how this helps to “[create] the appearance of a two-tiered justice system-one for celebrities and the other for everyone else-media”. This just further explains how unbalanced and unjust our system is when it comes to higher profile cases. Celebrity criminals can protect their reputations while criminals that are represented by public defenders, other lawyers, etc… are forced to take on the media and public backlash with no defense. However, no matter what your status is, what class you are, everyone’s cases should be presented to the public. If you are of a higher status, it should be expected by yourself and whoever is representing you that this will somehow get into the media. Because this is a huge issue for defendents, there is something being sone to help try to protect everyones rights. There are websites that the media has access to with only certain information. Author John Gilbeaut further explains that this is to “[make] it more difficult for media lawyers to argue for access when they don’t know a document’s contents.” In addition “the lawyers and judge speaking in court refer to documents in a code that only they understand.” This insures that the media cannot try to fabricate things before they are public knowledge because they will have no idea what the lawyers are even talking about. This is an important step in creating a government that is stable and fair for all classes of people.
While the media can help a criminal case, it is known that it can be detrimental as well. An article titled “Televised Trials: Weighing Advantages against Disadvantages” by Susanna R. Barber states, “Trial publicity may serve a crime control function and reassure viewers that justice is being served, but this same publicity encourages negative perceptions of criminals and fosters prejudice against defendants.”. This explains that yes, having a case that is publicized and open for interpretation by the world is fair and is one of our rights in this country, but, also that this type of exposure to a case can be detrimental to the defendants’ case. Thus, giving them a disadvantage over a less high profile case. While it is noticed “that television exposure is a form of public punishment, leading to permanent stigmatization in the eyes of the community”. In other words, those involved in these cases may gain a shameful reputation after the case is closed, even if they are found not guilty simply because of the negative exposure their case obtained in the media. This explains why high profile lawyers continue to try to keep media coverage low, but it also is unfair. Some may also argue that these criminals are placed under a microscope and all of their mistakes are played out in front of not only a court but the entire world. “Preparing for the High Profile Case: An Omnibus Treatment for Judges and Lawyers,” an article was written by Gerald T. Wetherington, Hanson Lawton and Donald I. Pollock explores the idea that not only are the criminals at a disadvantage, but also the judges and lawyers taking on the case. They share information that proves that the defendants aren’t the only ones being criticized. They say that “A judge who is assigned to preside over a high profile case should expect to be confronted with an explosive free press and fair trial issues even before the first scheduled hearing.”. These judges are forced to deal with the backlash of the media and public outburst before the case is even closed. While I do understand these points of view, it is important also to see that the lawyers and judges should be prepared for this type of thing when taking on these cases. The high profile criminals aren’t the only ones that receive bad press; however, regular criminals, most of the time are also shown in the media in a terrible light. So, while criminals with more money are mostly protected by their fancy lawyers from a lot of the media backlash, normal people do not have this luxury. Regular criminals are forced to have their faces plastered on social media with untrue headings and have absolutely no one to pay these people to stop. Another point that is important to realize is that so much money is involved in high profile cases that the court needs to be ready for all of the financial responsibilities that are to come and can replenish their losses at the end. Gerald T. Wetherington, Hanson Lawton and Donald I. Pollock also explain that so much publicity comes before the case is even in court for high profile criminals that, “the necessity for court officers to begin preparations to handle the extraordinary judicial management problems that such cases generate.” In this case, the disadvantage is that both the court and the defendant could lose a lot of money in this process. Although this may be true, it is also possible that the majority of the time the high profile criminals are getting off easier because this would be less expensive for all parties involved.
An unbalanced criminal justice system and the power of high profile lawyers have a strong correlation as one of these is the cause of another. It is important to realize that not everyone will have the same opinion as you. Celebrities are treated better than average criminals is an unorthodox idea and some people believe that these high profile cases are at a disadvantage. Others believe that celebrity criminals can lose everything in a court of law just like anybody else; however, from my point of view, high profile lawyers and their ability to impact the media as well as the jury cause this system to be unbalanced. Of course, some of these lawyers do actually abide by the law and go about their job professionally and lawfully, but, for the ones that do not it is very obvious. Lawyers of high profile criminals tend to try to find ways around the law and execute ways to make the most money, or lose the least. Money is power in our criminal justice system today, and this is not the way it is supposed to be. High profile lawyers seem to try to get rich off of their rich clients, do not represent low-class defendants and use their reputation to unfairly and unjustly support their clients. They do not always use legitimate strategies when it comes to defending their clients. The criminal justice system was supposed to be built on amendments that protect the rights of every person, criminal or not, and we are all supposed to be treated equally in a court of law. People of the lower and middle class a lot of the time do not have access to these kinds of lawyers or resources; therefore they do no get the same type of representation. The justice system does not need to be this way. The appeal is understood that there should not be one type of lawyer for every type of case, as everyone is different and has different things they need when looking for someone to represent them. What is outragious, is the idea that people with more money should be able to wiggle their way around the law.
Wetherington, G. T.; Lawton, H.; Pollock, D. I. (1999). Preparing for the high profile case: An omnibus treatment for judges and lawyers. Florida Law Review 51(3), 425-488.
Cusack, C. M. (2013). Celebrity Justice and Gossip Blogs: Demographic Characteristics of Victimized and Allegedly Criminal Celebrities Featured on Top Gossip Blogs. Journal of Law and Social Deviance 5, 244-297.
Gibeaut, J. (2005). Celebrity justice. ABA Journal 91(1), 43-49.
Brotman, E. C. (2015). Dealing with the press in high-profile cases: How to neutralize the 13th juror. Litigation 41(4), 40-44.
Barber, S. R. (1985). Televised trials: Weighing advantages against disadvantages. Justice System Journal10(3), 279-291.
Carroll, B. A. (2013). Celebrity adjudication: Comparative analysis of united states verdict rates for celebrity defendants. Entertainment and Sports Law Journal 11(1), 1-8.
Furman, H. (1998). Publicity in high profile criminal cases. St. Thomas Law Review10(3), 507-536.