Pretrial publicity is potentially dangerous in two respects. First, it often divulges information, including unsubstantiated rumors, that is not later allowed into the trial record. Second is the matter of timing. Because many news stories precede the actual trial, jurors learn certain facts even before they enter the courtroom. From what is known about the power of first impressions, the implications are clear. If jurors receive prejudicial news information about a defendant before trial, that information will distort the way they interpret the facts of the case. In fact, an analysis of secretly recorded mock jury deliberations showed that exposure to pretrial publicity was openly discussed and completely tainted their discussions of the defendant and evidence even though the judge warned them to disregard that information. So is there a solution? Since the biasing effects persist despite the practices of jury selection, the presentation of hard evidence, cautionary words from the judge, and open jury deliberations, justice may demand that highly publicized cases be postponed or their trials moved to less informed communities.
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