New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez is presently facing “Obstruction of Justice” charges. Right now the comments on sports websites are more likely to presume he is guilty than innocent. This is contrary to how we pretend our justice system works. The media released some circumstantial “evidence.” We do not know whether or not any individual claim is true, but we do know that media will frame an issue in such a way as to generate ratings. One of the circumstantial bits of “evidence” floating around right now is that Mr. Hernandez is involved in a gun-related lawsuit down in Florida. Let’s look at two examples of framing:
- After refusing to cooperate with the police due to an unspecified injury, a Florida man filed a lawsuit against Aaron Hernandez; or
- GUN PLAY: Hernandez Involved in Prior Shooting
As you can see these headlines are vastly different. Which one do you think would have higher rankings?
Now, there are other pieces of “evidence” in the rumor mill. These include Hernandez allegedly destroying his cell phone, destroying his security system, hiring a cleaning crew prior to his arrest, the proximity of the body to his house, and other information. Undoubtedly, some of these rumors will be found to be inaccurate, though many may end up being used as valid evidence against Hernandez in a judicial proceeding.
The question is not: Assuming all the gossip is true, is it more or less likely that Hernandez was involved in the incident? The question of guilt is a determination to be made in a court of law after evidence has been qualified and entered, not smeared on a blog. The State must prove its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt – not just make sense to a knee-jerk audience in the blogosphere. These Constitutional and Civil Rights protections are there to keep us safe from, among other things, a gossip-ridden, ratings-driven runaway media that is just trying to fill in the cycle.
As a criminal lawyer, I do not jump to conclusions. I am often surprised. The media reaction here is shameful – how will we ever find an “impartial” jury?