When an allegation of a sex crime has been made and a suspect has been arrested, Orlando TV stations will often give the arrest sensationalist coverage. A subsequent release of a suspect or an acquittal at trial is typically given far less coverage, if any at all.
We were reminded of this pattern when Orange County deputies recently arrested a man and accused him of using his cellphone to surreptitiously take photos and videos up the dresses of girls at an electronics store last month.
The man, 44 years old, was charged with two counts of video voyeurism after being arrested at his mother’s home just north of the Martin Andersen Beachline Expressway.
After he was taken into custody at the house, police officers searched the property and said they found marijuana plants being grown there. The man was also charged with 20 counts of cultivation of cannabis, marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession.
Police had been searching for the man after store surveillance video had been released to TV stations, with announcers asking viewers to call authorities if they recognized the man seen kneeling on the floor next to a girl.
One announcer said the man had been caught making “sick” videos.
At the time of the report, there was no information available to the TV station or the public about what the man might have had on his cellphone. After all, he had just been arrested. The phone had just been confiscated by officials.
So the TV announcer assumed that because the man was arrested, he must be guilty.
Determining guilt is the job of a court, of course, rather than announcers who can’t resist the temptation of working their assumptions and personal opinions into news coverage.
This kind of coverage makes life much more difficult for those who are wrongly accused of sex crimes. Their names and images can be plastered all over TV stories, but reporters are often nowhere to be found after a suspect has been released for lack of evidence or when a court determines that the evidence is insufficient to convict a suspect of a crime.
While a criminal defense attorney can’t stop TV stations from sensationalizing coverage, they can help a court assess the evidence in a clear, level manner, as intended, so that justice can prevail.
Source: WOFL, “Arrest made in video voyeur investigation,” Oct. 8, 2013