How the Court of Public Opinion Can Influence Criminal Proceedings
Before television and the internet, if a person was accused of a crime, only those close to the defendant or prosecutors were aware of the allegation, in most cases. Today, we have access to virtually the entire wealth of human knowledge at the click of a button. When someone is accused of a crime, especially if that person is famous or well-known in the community, news of it can spread like wildfire. Not only can anyone have access to information about alleged criminal activity, but they can also react to it and have their reaction viewed by millions.
For example, someone who reads about a politician who has been accused of a crime can immediately write scathing comments about the individual on the internet. If that politician is found or proven to be innocent of the crime, the scathing comments remain both on the internet and in readers’ minds. The public, as a whole, is notorious for jumping to conclusions, perpetuating false information, and automatically considering an accused individual guilty.
Many people read news or opinion pieces about alleged crimes and come to their own conclusion as to the defendant’s innocence or guilt. When it occurs on a large scale, this is sometimes referred to as “the court of public opinion.” These conclusions are often based on only partial information or are influenced by emotion instead of facts. Those who come to a conclusion about a person’s innocence or guilt rarely change their minds. Psychological studies have shown us that we are all prone to “confirmation bias,” which is the tendency to favor information which confirms our preexisting beliefs or assumptions while ignoring information which does not support our currently-held beliefs. This means that it is extremely difficult for individuals accused of a crime to overcome others’ negative perceptions of them.
The United States Constitution promises that “No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The term “due process” refers to the right that every citizen has to an unbiased trial, the opportunity to argue their case, and to be represented by qualified legal counsel. If those involved in criminal proceedings have already formed conclusions about the defendant before the trial even begins, they have made that trial biased. In these situations, it is more important than ever for the defendant to have a highly-qualified attorney.
An Attorney Who Will Fight to Protect Your Freedom
The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba has the skills and experience to handle even the most complicated cases. If you have been charged with a crime, a knowledgeable Illinois criminal defense lawyer can help you minimize the effect on your future. Call 815-740-4025 and schedule a free consultation today.