Televised Trials: The For-Real Hunger Games

Obsession 1

I did not watch the Zimmerman murder trial. I did not watch the OJ trial. I haven’t watched any of the televised trials that obsess the public.

I also didn’t follow the Timothy McVeigh trial, even though I had a personal interest in its outcome.

From the way that Americans seem to react to these trials, I think perhaps a lot of other people should consider skipping them, too. Trials that put people’s lives and freedom to the test are not some sort of call-in entertainment where the audience picks the winner. 

The people who are tasked with the terrible decisions these trials require are the citizens who sit on the jury. I leave it to them, and when I do it, I am grateful that I am not one of them. 

Even with Timothy McVeigh, I did not want to sit on the jury that tried him. I did not want to watch his execution. I didn’t want any part of it. However, with McVeigh, I was so trapped in the horrible web of near victim obsession with this particular crime and criminal that I could not stop thinking about it. I oppose the death penalty, but it was a relief when he finally shut up and I knew I would not have to hear about him anymore. 

I cannot imagine how I would have felt if the jury had turned him lose. However, I do know two things: My job would have been to go on from there and live, and watching the trial would not have helped me deal with an unwanted verdict. 

I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through trials where people I know are involved. Believe me, you don’t want that to be you. 

These trials are about horrible events that shatter people’s lives. They are usually about twisted situations that have been brewing and stewing; distilling their malice and meanness for years. There is nothing pretty or edifying about them. The people involved, on both sides, are at the extremities of grief, terror and desperation. This is not a fictional movie or television show in which actors pretend to be in anguish. These are real people, and they are suffering agonies. 

Obsession

These televised trials are becoming a sort of Hunger Games gone real, with vast audiences entertained by watching people suffer horribly. There are no winners in trials like this. The person who has been murdered has already lost their life. In a very real way, the person who is on trial has lost their life, as well. They are suffering extremities of fear that are unimaginable for those of us who haven’t been in the judicial barrel. The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will usually end up with tarnished reputations and, due to the massive television audience, the full grief of public notoriety. 

The public, in many ways, is the biggest loser, for the simple reason that they have the most to lose. They aren’t dead. Their loved ones haven’t been murdered. They are not on trial for their lives. They don’t have to make the agonizing decision as to guilt and innocence. They are safe, free, unburdened by the responsibility of holding another person’s life in their hands.

But by watching this trial hour after hour, day after day, they become enmeshed in the terrors and miseries of other people’s tragedies to the point that they start feeling as if it did happen to them, and it is about them. This is empathy turned self-destructive. It is obsession that removes the person watching from the simple reality that none of this is about them and none of it happened to them. 

These viewers let this trial eat up their days and consume their emotions and thoughts. They take on the responsibility of the jury and sit there in front of their tvs, allowing a cheap obsession to take over their thinking and their lives. 

When the verdict comes down and they don’t agree with it, they go into paroxysms of rage and outrage, demanding a re-trial, another charge, another dose of vengeance. Or, if they like the verdict, they feel sated and smug, released of the tension-producing competitiveness that their understanding of the evidence might not prevail.

Obsession

There is a word for this. The word is obsession. The so-called “news” stations who run these trials are not even vaguely trying to report news. They are going for inexpensive ratings. They are ignoring serious news stories that the public needs to know about to put these trials on the air. 

I didn’t watch it, but I gather that the President of the United States had to make a speech about this latest public trial. I see photos of protesting mobs, and grief stricken people, including little children, who are enraged, bereft and emotionally scarred by this verdict. 

Make no mistake about it: The events that set this trail in motion are tragic. It was and is a gut-wrenching, heart-tearing tragedy that should not have happened. The people who are close to it will never be the same. But it didn’t happen to that vast television audience or those enraged mobs or even to the President and his Attorney General.

The people it did happen to will suffer for it all their days. But the rest of us will forget it and move on to the next new televised tragedy. In a matter of weeks, we’ll be wringing our hands over something else. Because, you see, it didn’t happen to us. It’s not our lives that are torn apart. It is our cheap entertainment, our obsession that blocks out the pain of whatever really is happening to us. It is our hunger games. 

From my I-didn’t-watch-it perspective, all this obsessive rage over this trial looks crazy. I can not fathom it, and that, my friends, is the fruit of not watching. I’m not enraged and distraught. I have not spent my days suffering through a tragedy I can’t change. I am clear of all this craziness and pain. 

I know I’m going to get thrashed for saying this. But people need to turn off their televisions and go outside. They need to take a walk or go to a movie about a fictional trial where nobody really dies and nobody really suffers. 

Spend time with your families. Pay your bills. Read a book. Play some golf. Go swimming, kiss your babies, say your prayers. 

And realize: This didn’t happen to you. 

 

Obsession

The Government Lost the Trayvon Martin Case. Now the Government Should Accept the Verdict.

Bill of rights 630

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that American citizens may not be put on trial repeatedly for the same crime. 

If a jury finds you innocent, the government can not turn around and re-try you again and again for the same crime. 

Do you see the reason behind this? If the government can just keep putting a person on trial over and over until they finally get a jury who will convict, then they will eventually win every case. Under circumstances like that, there is no reason to have a trial at all. 

It does not matter if lots of people watched a trial on tv and are angry about the outcome. It does not matter if the federal government meddled in what should should have been a state case in the first place. The verdict is the verdict is the verdict. 

In recent decades, the Federal government has taken to meddling in cases where the jury chose not to convict by charging the defendant with some other crime that is related to the first charge but is federal, rather than local. Every time they have done this that I’ve seen what they are actually attempting is to overturn the first jury decision by putting the defendant on trial over and over until they finally convict him or her.

The Constitution protects us from being tried repeatedly for the same crime. What they are doing is using statutes that address different aspects of the same crime to try people and void our Constitutional rights to freedom from double jeopardy in court.  

Justice Scales

Let’s say someone robs a convenience store and you are put on trial for the robbery. Let’s further say that the jury find you not guilty. You are free to go.

Unless the federal government steps in and says that the theft of a bag of chips that was also taken during the commission of the robbery makes it a federal crime. After all, the chips were manufactured in one state and shipped to the store that was robbed in another state. Ergo, the crime is interstate, and federal. The feds then put on you trial in a federal court on the chip charge.

Is this putting you in double jeopardy? I think so. Does it violate your Constitutional rights? I believe it does. 

I’ve read that the Justice Department of the United States Government is considering taking up the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case by charging Mr Zimmerman with federal aspects of this same crime for which he was found not guilty. I think this is because they don’t like the verdict the jury in Florida gave and want to, as a friend of mine said about an entirely different case, “try him until they fry him” on the Federal level. 

Mr Zimmerman was tried in open court by a jury of his peers and found not guilty. The government had the opportunity to use all of its massive powers to formulate a presentation in court that would convince the jury to convict. They did not convince this jury. The jury has spoken, and their verdict is not guilty.

I think the Justice Department should accept the verdict. 

From Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it is looking into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin to determine whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case.

The department opened an investigation into Martin’s death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.

In a statement Sunday, the Justice Department said the criminal section of the civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida are continuing to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal probe, in addition to the evidence and testimony from the state trial.


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