Justice in TV-Land

Justice is no longer blind; she carries a TV camera and seeks her verdict from the “person in the street.”

What, you ask, isn’t it a violation of some right to deny “the people’s” prurient interest in the blood spatters and sex lives of the rich and infamous? No, it isn’t.

How can justice be served when lawyers and judges are playing to the camera, as in the O.J. case? When a President can marshal his minions to argue that prosperity and popularity are defenses against indictment and impeachment? Justice isn’t entertainment. It belongs in grand-jury rooms and court rooms, where it has worked well enough over the centuries, not on TV where it distorts the search for truth.

Yes, dear networks, you have every right to cover what you’re allowed to cover, to spill leaks all over us, and to foist platoons of pundits upon us night after night. But don’t you have any taste or manners? (Note: I won’t appeal to your sense of justice.) I know, each of you is afraid to take the first step back from the hysteria you’ve created because you’d lose ratings and advertising revenues to the other networks.

So, here’s an anonymous idea from a nameless network gnome: “Hey, kids, let’s put on a TV show and call it ‘Trials of the Centuries’.” Yes, TV has done mock trials and dramatizations featuring such notorious figures as John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, but most of those shows were done before the emergence of star-quality lawyers. (The earnest, if leftish, Arthur Miller pales before Johnnie Cochrane.) With all of these mediagenic lawyers around, we could have a long-running series. And would it ever grab the ratings! Just picture it:

  • Jerry Spence gets Socrates off by pleading that his client was entrapped by homophobic polis.
  • Marcia Clark, in a role reversal, saves Joan of Arc from the stake by arguing that her client was the product of a sexist society.
  • Louis the Whatever escapes the guillotine because his wealth enables him to hire all of the $1,000-an-hour lawyers in the U.S. — a “super dream team.”
  • Robert Shapiro (no-mercenary-he) salvages Hitler’s reputation by arguing that Stalin was really behind the Holocaust. (A later episode is devoted to Shapiro’s tearful regrets, but he keeps the fee.)
  • Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray are acquitted posthumously when Johnnie Cochrane shows that the arresting officers weren’t perfect human beings.
  • Robert Bennett proves that Janet Reno ordered the Watergate break-in and Paula Jones caused the 18-1/2 minute gap.
  • Bill Clinton escapes removal from office in his Senate trial when Hillary “stands by her man” and is able pin the blame for everything on Vince Foster and Ken Starr.

Far-fetched? Well, if we deserve the brand of leaders we elect, surely we deserve the brand of justice we tolerate. Anyway, it would sell commercials, and isn’t that what really matters?