Murder, Courts, and the Press: Issues in Free Press/Fair Trial

Murder, Courts, and the Press: Issues in Free Press/Fair Trial

Murder, Courts, and the Press: Issues in Free Press/Fair Trial

Murder, Courts, and the Press: Issues in Free Press/Fair Trial


When murder is the crime, the clash in the courts is likely to be between two constitutionally enshrined rights- free dom of speech vs. the right to a fair trial.

Kane shows what actually happened in five famous court cases when First Amendment rights (freedom of speech) conflicted with Sixth Amendment rights (fair trial). He reports the circumstances of each crime, the court proceedings, and the conduct of the press in the Sam Sheppard murder case, the Tate-La Bianca murders, the Kellie family murders, the Wayne Clapp disappearance, and the Lillian Keller case. He "combines a de scription of the realities of the cases with an analysis of the opinions of the United States Supreme Court designed to explain the legal principles imbedded in those positions."

His narrative and analysis approach provides interesting stories that illumin ate legal principles and show the roles of actual human beings underlying the ab stractions of court opinions.


It has become something of a cliché to assert that the United States has greater freedom of speech and press than any other society in the world has ever enjoyed, but that does not make the observation any the less true. And whether this fact is invoked to defend the status quo and oppose any broader extension of these freedoms, or whether it is offered as a justification for moving even further to eliminate the restrictions that still exist, there is little dispute over the desirability of what we have achieved and its preferability to the alternatives we see in operation around the rest of the globe.

The differences of opinion that we have over whether to maintain or to expand the range of freedom that is available to us are unfortunately too often based on a lack of understanding of what present law and custom actually provide. There are some people, for example, who seem to believe that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," means literally that there are no legal limits of any sort on what may be said or printed in our country--thus ignoring the restrictions we have on such forms of expression as obscenity, libel, incitement to riot, or desecration of the flag. There are others, at the opposite extreme, who erroneously seem to think that the government may, consistent with the First Amendment, prohibit whatever a significant number of people find offensive-- be it racist rhetoric, the advocacy of communism, or the portrayal of women as objects of sexual exploitation. Before we can intelligently discuss how the balance ought to be struck between free-

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