Friday, August 25, 2006

Trial Observation vs Trial Groupies

Following crime stories and the human drama involved within tragic circumstances is an ages old occurrence. Whole communities, large or small gathered together at trials and at executions in past centuries.

Competition for prime spots to view the event(s) was heightened. Picnics, street vendors, charlatans, pickpockets and all kinds of thievery, misrepresentation and wickedness abounded within the crowds. Outspoken ribaldry, laughter, and jeering could be heard.

Disheartening for the accused or condemned surely.

The desire for justice, or to see justice done is still with us. Many persons follow cases in the news on television, online, or in person. There's nothing wrong with that. But even today, some persons participation in the following of court cases is nothing short of a gladiator style spectator sport.

Today most prefer to think of ourselves as paragons of enlightened, sophisticated, even educated societies where such things and events should not occur. From the equation they leave out human curiosity, nature and emotion. Which is clearly what drives many to observe, report and participate in trials as a member of the public. There are those who conveniently disregard the fact that it's also our right as a member of the public to observe, report and participate.

After all, in all societies, justice must be seen to be done or the people will have no faith in their justice system. Rights of the accused should also be paramount, and seen to be upheld.

That's not to say that speculation and opinion cannot or should not occur. The rights of the accused are inherent within their legal system. Most societies have no laws hampering or regulating public opinion.

For the most part normal, law abiding citizens who through whatever circumstances have the ability to attend an actual trial and do so. Many who attend have no connection with the participants in a case or any forum online.

Others do participate in crime forums online, Many file reports for the other members who aren't able to attend in person. On these forums, speculation, opinion, observations and the discussions about human nature, specific events in the accused's, or victim's lives are conducted. Not always with civility.

Then there is another phenomenon. Trial Groupies.

Some people attend or have agreements with some who do, solely for monetary gain... or notoriety. They compile their notes and opinions and publish, hoping to make a larger name for themselves by attaching themselves to a particular trial or trials.

Some are attracted to specific attorney's who's names are known nationally or world-wide because of trials that they've been involved with, and follow their cases.

Attorneys are becoming much more familiar with this phenomenon. Some have been approached by email, with business cards, (or faux ones) and in person. Granted, many just want to say hello and wish them well. Others, they're hoping for reflected "glory" or "celebrity."

Courthouses the world over are dealing with the active participation of it's society's citizens. Judges, attorneys, detectives or other law enforcement receive letters, emails and some are even approached in person by those wishing to provide a valid tip, share an observation or to wish them well.

Then ... there is the other side. Some people routinely try to insert themselves into the active workings of an ongoing investigation or trial. Often without any basis for doing so other than their craving for attention. For bragging rights to tout their
expertise or participation.

Many in Law enforcement, the Judicial system, and yea, in the public, consider these persons as part of the "fringe" or "trial groupies." They often take up precious time that the judge, attorney or law enforcement officers cannot really spare from an investigation or trial. They are often the bane, stone in the shoe type of event that occurs inevitably whenever a trial goes high profile.

Advice from law enforcement & the judicial system:

If you really do have an avenue of research that you feel LE hasn't followed up on or considered, do write them a letter or an email. Be polite and considerate. Explain that if someone has thought of this, apologize for taking up their time.. but if they haven't....maybe it's an avenue to explore. Be concise.

Don't expect a reply or response. You're providing an avenue of research.. NOT a tip or evidence.

Don't insert yourself into a trial's workings hoping for celebrity, vindication of your point of view or opinion about the accused or the victim. Interference with witnesses, trying to influence a case, all actions can and will be dealt with appropriately.

If you attend a trial. Be considerate, polite and above all, respectful. This isn't a picnic, a reunion, or other venue where it's appropriate to raise your voices in the hallways or in the courtroom. If the bailiff has to quiet you and others in the hallways once, that's once too many times. More than that is disrespect for the judicial system, those who serve it or depend upon it, on your part.

If it's a murder case, this is someone's life.. and justice for the accused or the victim.

It's serious.

It's not a game nor sport.