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Are Celebrity Legal Cases Held to A Different Stardard?

In an examination of famous cases, some of the law’s most popular myths and legends frequently emerge. For example, when defendants like Michael Jackson claimed an alleged vendetta by a hostile prosecutor, their ammunition might miss the mark for courtroom purposes, but these are shots that can resonate like cannon fire in the press.


On the other hand, while Scott Peterson’s defense repeatedly dissed “circumstantial evidence” for public consumption, the courtroom reality is that homicides are often “circumstantial” cases, and jurors routinely convict when informed by judges that such evidence is as valid as so-called direct evidence. With Martha Stewart, her strategies did not secure an acquittal but did save a career. And both the Peterson and Stewart cases raise the widely misunderstood issue of why high profile defendants rarely testify.

Kobe Bryant’s defenders had better results marketing “he said, she said” as the linchpin of a weak case, even though such defendants usually are at a serious disadvantage in attempting to overcome what might seem like unsubstantiated accusations. In the end, Bryant’s prosecutors were forced into some serious spinning of their own to try to rationalize a prosecution collapse that was actually a result of their own early failures in DNA testing of the alleged victim. And an examination of the tragic story of Andrea Yates – who drowned her own five children – would reveal why the defense of insanity is so commonly exploited in the courtroom of the public’s mind, yet is so rarely validated by a jury’s verdict. Ultimately, it took an appeals court and a second trial before a jury would find this mentally ill woman to be legally insane.

Circumstantial Case —Who Needs Eye-Witnesses Anyway?
Surprisingly for many members of the public, jurors are generally instructed that circumstantial evidence deserves as much weight as so-called “direct” evidence.

Prosecutions of the Rich and Famous—What Kind of Special Treatment Do They Really Get?
Forget kid gloves or a get out of jail free card. Celebrities get investigators who look under every rock and behind every blade of grass to try to make a case against them. But the rich and famous usually have plenty of money and great lawyers. And so the reality show for celebrities is the best of times and the worst of times whenever their names are in a police file.

Prosecution’s Alleged Vendettas—Do Judges or Juries Care?
Not much, “vendettas” are more significant as a media strategy.

Defense of Insanity—Overly Successful or Overrated?
Very limited and rarely successful since laws changed in the wake of the insanity-based acquittal of John Hinkley, President Reagan’s attempted assassin.

When Defendants Try to Put Victims on Trial Who Gets Convicted?
Usually the defendant. Sounds like a clever plan to skewer the accuser, but attacking victims can often backfire.

Crimes of the Rich and Famous—Should Victims Prosecute or Sue?
Usually both. Despite the prosecutor’s insistence in the Michael Jackson case that the alleged victim seeks only justice, not money, the usual strategy is to prosecute first, then sue; after all, a conviction made a civil suit easy for Mike Tyson’s victim, and even when a prosecution fails, civil damages were still later awarded against O.J.

Only A He-Said, She-Said?
While a one-on-one swearing contest may seem too inconclusive to overcome reasonable doubt, defendants typically have a giant disadvantage – an obvious motive to lie. Seemingly, celebrity cases like Kobe Bryant’s would revise that equation given the accuser’s unspoken opportunity to pursue financial recoveries. But truth is in the eyes and ears of the beholder, and so juries can and do convict simply by choosing to believe the alleged victim. And if jurors believe the accuser, they’ll put the abuser behind bars.

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