Professor Kevin Qualls is this week’s #RacerScholar. His paper, “The answer to trial publicity is a better question,” was published in volume 3 of the Journal of Criminal Justice and Legal Issues.
Free-Press/Fair-Trial contests now happen in a new media age. Judicial remedies such as change-of-venue, sequestration, jury admonitions, and gag orders were fashioned in an era that included broadcast radio and television, an emerging cable television industry, and the traditional print media of newspapers and magazines. That content was, to some degree, geographically bound and temporary. Now those judicial remedies are applied in a new media age that extends the reach of traditional media in time and space while offering interactive capability. The efficacy of these remedies is in question. This paper provides an historical overview of how judicial remedies for pre-trial and trial publicity have developed along with the media industries that provide such publicity. A case study will provide insight into a recent Free Press-Fair Trial contest in which traditional judicial remedies were sought. Finally, the results of an experiment using exposure to media reports in the case study will be discussed. Specifically, reaction to a standard voir dire question regarding pre-trial publicity is measured on a traditional yes/no categorical response and on a semantic differential between not guilty and guilty. The mass media theories of hypodermic needle, two-step flow of communication and uses and gratification theories are compared to contemporaneous judicial estimation of the effects of publicity on the rights of the criminally accused.
The answer to trial publicity is a better question
By Kevin Qualls
Journal of Criminal Justice and Legal Issues : July 2015, vol. 3