An email from a very astute friend in Texas raised a very interesting point: in its rush to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the George Zimmerman trial, CNN has launched a new program called HLN After Dark, which will feature a panel of so-called experts discussing every detail of the trial ad infinitum on a nightly basis—and which will most likely set race relations in this country back two decades.

Legal systems in other countries allow for “in camera” proceedings (conducted out of the hot glare of prurient publicity), and they do so for a good reason; the commonweal sometimes trumps the vaulted notion of the public’s “right to know”—and to know virtually instantaneously. Unfortunately for us, that won’t be the case for the Zimmerman trial, which will be live-streamed each day starting Monday and endlessly picked over at night.

Even though the case was initially about Florida’s “stand your ground” law, Zimmerman’s attorneys have opted for a self-defense strategy instead, arguing that their client, a neighborhood-watch volunteer (the judge has ruled that the state may refer to him as a “wannabe cop” and “vigilante”) killed teenaged Trayvon Martin after the two engaged in a life-or-death struggle. Since Zimmerman is Hispanic and Martin was black, every aspect of these proceedings is bound to be fraught with racial innuendo, the kind that will force individuals, be they on the right or the left, into more firmly entrenched positions and greatly increase animus between the two camps.

And the TV cameras will eat it up, making things that much worse, just as they did with the O.J. Simpson murder trial 20 years ago—except now there are more pundits, more networks, and more cable hours to fill. Meanwhile, ever since O.J., trials in America have gradually morphed from being a democratic method of determining guilt or innocence into pure spectacle; or a way for judges and prosecutors to become famous so their chances of running for higher office are enhanced. Defense lawyers in high-profile cases know that win, lose, or draw, the media exposure will greatly increase their stature and reputation, not to mention their bank accounts in all future cases.  

But the worst players in these despicable passion plays are the irresponsible pseudo-journalists of the ilk of that snarling, hatchet-faced Nancy Grace. A woman who, lest we forget, was accused of intentionally driving Melinda Duckett (the mother of a missing 2-year-old) to commit suicide back in 2006 with her relentless hectoring and badgering during an interview. Grace eventuallysettled a lawsuit filed by the woman’s family, but in an act that can only be described as cowardly, she demanded privacy for herself and didn’t want her own deposition in that case to be shown on the air. A privacy she has been unwilling to grant others she seeks to publicly draw and quarter.

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