Legal and Media Enmeshments: Criticizing "Objectivity" Through High Profile Crime Cases

Lynn Chancer, Fordham University

This paper draws on an ongoing research project concerning high profile crime cases to examine how media influence poses special problems for the law. Once individual cases swell into social causes, perceived as having general and symbolic implications, can and does the law still operate under "business as usual" conditions? In order to probe what I call a problem of enmeshment (one which also puts legal "objectivity" into question) I interviewed judges, lawyers and jurors in seven high profile crime cases. These ranged from the 1989 Central Park Jogger case to the 1995 O.J. Simpson case. The paper argues that high profile crime cases present an opportunity for analyzing how social problems in the American context are often thought about legalistically. At the same time, this analysis suggests that in reverse, the legal system starts to process symbolic high profile crimes as through they were social problems.

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Updated 05/20/2006