Can The Press Trump the Rights of The Individual?


The New York Times ran an article on Monday by Jennifer Preston.  It appears lawyers representing 20 media companies, including the New York Times, is asking that the judge on the Zimmerman case, unseal the court files.  The lawyers claim that the documents were sealed incorrectly based on procedure, and that this information should be available to the public.  Specifically, the press.  They are also claiming that Zimmerman’s lawyer did not offer the court evidence proving that sealing the documents was necessary.

Preston writes:

“…the lawyers for the media companies, which included The New York Times Company, argued that the records were improperly sealed because Mr. O’Mara did not submit evidence showing that closing them was necessary to prevent a “serious and imminent” threat to the administration of justice.”

You can read the eight-page motion authored by the lawyers representing the media companies, here.

I’m not a lawyer, let me make that perfectly clear.  But, as an average citizen reading this article, I have to wonder if this motion on behalf of the media companies, was not done on a self-serving basis and that alone.  These same media companies, the ones that didn’t bother to pay attention to the story until nearly 3 weeks after it actually happened, now want front row seats and access to all the preliminary documents?

I may be mistaken, but once the official trial date has been set, and the jury selected, and court proceedings are underway, won’t these same media companies have access to the trial?  Isn’t that part of a fundamental right, a public trial?

In this age of competitive digital journalism, it seems to me that these folks don’t want to miss the boat again.  Social networks, as noted in an earlier post, “Social Networks Bring Tragic Story to National Media“, brought this story out immediately, and it wasn’t until it spread like wild-fire and almost 3 weeks after that, did the national media perk up and realize there was something going on.

Something smells rotten in Denmark, as my Grandmother used to say.  I’m not sure how access to these documents at this point benefits anyone.  I don’t see  it benefiting Zimmerman, the family of Trayvon Martin, or the general public.  I do see the possibility of the media getting hold of documents and sensationalize them, and use them to sell papers, online hits, etc.

To believe that the release of these documents and the nature of them could in no way taint a jury pool;  is to believe that the world is full of lollipops and rainbows.

Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but the coverage of this story has been relentless since the national conglomerates got wind of it.  I’m not justifying that or not, it’s just my observation. If I can turn on my television, or computer every day, and find some aspect of this story freshly pressed, then I believe it is in the realm of possibilities that any potential juror could see the same thing.

I think the media companies involved with this motion are forgetting one little, very simple fact.  There is no “right to know” in this country.  Not legally.  Not in the Constitution, no-where.  There are however, several rights that are on the “books” that speak directly about trial and the courts.  It’s called the Sixth Amendment.

I would suggest that the major media companies involved in this motion, take it on the chin and show up extra early at the start of the trial.  Maybe, you can get a good seat.

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About kendra75

Freelance journalist, researcher, history buff and full time student.

Posted on April 18, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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