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IPFS News Link • Courtroom and Trials

Why Trials Like Trump's Must Be Televised

•, by Alan Dershowitz

If you were flipping between CNN and Fox News following the cross-examination of Stormy Daniels in the New York criminal case against former President Donald Trump, you would have had the impression that the CNN commentator, who professed to be reporting what happened in the courtroom, described a completely different event from what the Fox News reporter, who was also in the courtroom, described. It was as if they had seen two different witnesses and two different lawyers.

The CNN commentator reported that Daniels had done a great job holding up against the incompetent cross-examination of Trump's lawyer. The Fox News commentator reported that the extraordinarily effective Trump lawyer had totally destroyed Daniels' credibility. Who were you to believe? The CNN commentator was an experienced lawyer who was purporting to describe accurately what had happened without bias or subjectivity. The Fox News commentator was a former judge and prosecutor with vast experience, who also claimed to be describing the cross-examination without bias. Neither of the commentators even pretended to paint a gray picture. One was starkly black, the other unambiguously white. No nuance in either account.

If the trial had been televised, the dominant color would have been gray. Perry Mason cross-examinations rarely occur in real life, and witnesses like Daniels rarely emerge unscathed from cross-examinations even by mediocre lawyers.

We, the American public, however, have been denied the right to judge for ourselves how the case against the once and possibly future president is going. We cannot judge the credibility of witnesses, the fairness of the judge or the effectiveness of the lawyers. We must depend on the subjective and generally biased accounts of often partisan "reporters."

Polls following the OJ Simpson case suggested that those who personally watched the trial on TV were less surprised by the not guilty verdict than those who only read about it in the media, which generally described it as an open and shut case and predicted a guilty verdict. They downplayed or omitted the gaps in the prosecution case and the mistakes made by prosecutors that may have led jurors to find reasonable doubt.

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