Bending over backwards Robert Sheridan bobsheridan email@example.com
Yeah, I think Harry's nailed it, as he usually does.
No one's ever explained it to me, because I don't work for a radio/tv station where they have their own rules, so here's what I think is going on, for what it's worth. It also goes to the thing that always strikes me as odd, that they always say "allegedly" like John Gotti allegedly is in prison for alleged Mafia related alleged activity.
It's cheap insurance for the broadcasting company to say "allegedly" when describing a killer as a murderer, someone else as a "robber," etc. That way, when it turns out the killer was killing in self-defense, or the alleged robber was simply recovering a debt that bystanders didn't know about, or some other non-apparent defense that makes seemingly-guilty conduct not quite fit the disparaging label, they can say I didn't call him a robber/murderer, I called him an "alleged"...
The broadcasting companies are very careful about that. They get sued pretty often, for big bucks. They usually win, but it's expensive defending. When they lose in the trial court, they often win on appeal, as the U.S. Supreme Court has said that the First Amendment right to free speech, press, is so important that the appellate judges get to re-weigh the evidence that the jury already weighed the first time around. So the defendant publisher gets two bites of the apple, maybe more. People on death row don't get this break. That'll give you a clue as to what's really important around here.
I hate it when, on the morning of trial, the newspaper says "So-and-so, the alleged mastermind in the such-and-such Massacre, goes on trial today..." In case any potential juror missed the fact that your client is not just the defendant, or the alleged killer, but the mastermind, this serves to remind them.
I've sometimes written news editors to say, hey, cut it out, but they always have their lawyer write me back advising of the First Amendment, thank you very much. So I stopped wasting my breath. Turns out in a recent case I got more "discovery" (good information) out of the daily papers than outta the DA. So it ain't all bad. They have the right to tell what the cops, and the courts, are doing, as a matter of reporting on government activity, even if your client gets slopped over in the process.
C'est la guerre.
That's why good attorneys invent twelve-second sound bites to feed the media instead of saying "no comment," which sounds a little like, "When do I get to plead my client guilty?"
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