Numerous times on this blog we have bemoaned the inappropriateness of “trial by media.” The press/media cannot possibly have an intimate understanding of all the evidence, facts, affidavits, and testimony in a criminal trial. But to gain readership, they piece together whatever bits of information they can gather, and publish stories that tend to appeal to the sensationalistic interest of the general public. This is no surprise. That’s what they do. It’s unfortunate, however, because this stuff can and does have an influence, both during and, perhaps even more so, after trial.
But nowadays, there is a new internet-age version of trial by media. I call it “trial by website.” This happens when someone becomes personally dedicated to the guilt or innocence of a particular defendant, and sets up a website to proffer their one-sided views. There are both innocence-based websites and guilt-based websites. However, my observation is that the guilt-based websites are much more vitriolic, and generally based upon much unsubstantiated, or downright false, information.
There’s been much recent discussion due to the overturning of the Amanda Knox acquittal, and the websites run by people who have dedicated themselves to her guilt are going great guns. Two of these are the Perugia Murder File (PMF) and True Justice for Meredith Kercher (TJMK).
Nina Burleigh is a journalist who actually went to Perugia, and studied all aspects of the case for over a month. She has recently published an article in TIME in which she talks about these “Knox Hater” websites. And in opining about what the outcome of any new trial will be she states, “In my opinion, the new panel will agree with the last one that the case against the students is fatally flawed.”
You can read Nina Burleigh’s article here.