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February 11, 1984 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-02-11

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0

OPINION

Page 4

Saturday, February 11, 1984

The Michigan Daily

Trial, and

conviction by the media

0

By Pete Williams

In the U.S. district court yesterday, a
Chelsea family was convicted of im-
posing involuntary servitude on two of
their farmhands. It was no surprise to
the citizens of Ann Arbor, however;
they knew they were guilty the first day
they set foot in the court room.
The four and a half hour deliberation
by the jury was merely a useless exer-
cize in justification that served only to
confirm what the community already
knew.
Anyone who has read the front page
of the Daily, or the Ann Arbor News,
lately 'has undoubtedly noticed a
preponderance of stories on the
slaveholders of Chelsea. This is what is
called trial by media.
I CANNOT blame my colleagues for
the more, than adequate front page
coverage they have provided during the
trial - that's their job. This is the first
slave trial in Michigan in 60 years, and
it is in Ann Arbor. It is good, local news'
and it needs to be reported.
In fact, I would be more likely to
criticize these publications if there had
been less adequate coverage. That
would be negligent.
The blame for this trial by media -
and every trial by media - lies outside
the newsroom.
LAST WEEK I spoke to several

people in Ann Arbor about the Kozmin-
ski case. The common denominator of
popular opinion seemed to be that the
defendants were guilty and that "the
guilty bastards belonged in the slam-
mer." Everyone was ready to condemn
the Kozminskis for their alleged actions
against their mentally retarded far-
mhands, Robert Fulmer and Louis
Molitoris.
My only explanation for this
premature condemnation is that people
have a basic tendency to assume guilt.
As the severity of the.accusations in-
crease, so does that tendency. In the
case of mental and physical abuse, as
well as involuntary servitude, that ten-
dency to condemn runs at an extremely
high level. People feel sorry for the
allegedly abused, that pity is translated
into hate for their abusers, and that
powerful emotion, hate, dominates our
sense of justice.
It is easier to cast aside the facts and
demand that the judge put the "guilty"
in jail and throw away the key, than it is
to separate individual opinion and
emotion from the concepts of right and
wrong.
AND HOW about the basis of our
legal system on assumed innocence, a
fair trial, or evidence beyond any
reasonable doubt? Those age-old con-
cepts are far too rational. They get in
the way of our emotions and therefore,

they must be expelled.
Add to this the fact that it seems more
and more vicious criminals are receiving
lesser sentences, and those we perceive
as doubtlessly guilty - with the help of
high-priced legal counsel - always seem
to be released on legal technicalities.
It follows that the public demands a
somewhat vengeful justice system so
frequently.
That type of social concern is com-
mendable. No one wants murderers,
rapists, or other harmful persons
roaming freely through the city streets.
No one desires to be,afraid to walk the
streets at night. And probably no one in
Ann Arbor wants local farmers to be
allowed to take possesion of, or to
physically abuse, other mentally retar-
ded individuals.
BUT THERE is a threshold were this
benevolent social concern for safe
streets and the need to place blame on a
specific person becomes harmful:
when the assumption is made that an
alleged criminal is guilty as charged
because he or she is newsworthy.
Individuals do, of course, have the
right to speculate over the guilt or in-
nocence of the accused, but with that
right, I hope, comes the responsibility
to distinguish between trial testimony
and a guilty verdict.
Read the stories, be concerned for
those whose rights may have been
violated, but realize that the guilt of the

accused must be decided in a court of
law, not in the bars of Ann Arbor - or
Chelsea - or anywhere else.
Trial by media is often the public's
response to good journalism. The
media has the responsibility to print all
pertinent, obtainable information about
,a specific case. The most common
misconception of those who cry trial by
media is that the reporters and their
publications are acting as judge and
jury, deciding the case prematurely by
formulating . public opinion.
Presumably they do this through
slanted stories and publication of select
information.
But this was not the case in the Koz-
minski trial. The news was presented
in a factual, professional manner. But
the trial by media description still per-
tains to this event. Individuals still
formulated premature opinions based
on the media's coverage of the trial
alone.
It seems to me, however, that in this
premature trial, the judgmental
readers of the news, and not the repor-
ters, are at fault. The readers more
closely resemble the jurors than do the
reporters.
Williams is a Daily staff reporter.

Daily Photo by CAROL L. FRANCAVILLA
Mike Kozminski and his mother Margarethe after testifying on Friday. As
far as the community was concerned, their testimony was unnecessary.

_.r---

dien bte a n st Mig
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

LaBan

IN

UT FCLDTeINThe LeDING
DICaTOP1 hW LOU14 POLiCY8
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Vol. XCIV-No. 110

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editoriais represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
A basis in freedom

R ONALD REAGAN'S reluctance to
enforce the improvement of
human rights conditions in El Salvador
stems from misconceptions concer-
ning the basis and implications of con-
flict in Central America.
A report compiled last month by
scholars specializing in studies on the
region concluded that "The revolutions
and civil wars in Central America have
indigenous roots. They are not produc-
ts of a Soviet-Cuban conspiracy." But
the administration sees things quite
differently. Responding to fears that
the security interests of the United
States "are importantly engaged" by a
Soviet-Cuban threat, Reagan has prop-
osed that $312 million in military aid be
allotted to El Salvador- on top of the
current budget's $64 million. At their.
basis, Reagan's policies ignore the in-
terests of the Salvadoran people. Cen-
tral America is not just a battle ground
for U.S.-Soviet influence, it is more
importantly a region whose people suf-
fer from a lack of freedom.
Since 1981, the United States has
flooded almost a billion dollars of
military and economic aid into El
Salvador. Unfortunately, the money
has brought yery little for the people of
that country. The supposed aim of
establishing a working democracy has
not been realized and even while

blatant violations of freedom persist,
the monetary aid is not being used as
leverage against the Salvadoran
government to make progress on
human rights.
This week the House of Represen-
tatives took steps to correct this failure
of U.S. policy by approving legislation
that would require the administration
to certify that the Salvadoran gover-
nment was making a "concerted and
significant" effort to ensure human
rights, eliminate right-wing death
squads, and improve land
redistribution. Though the bill is a
logical and necessary extension of a
policy aimed at the establishment of
reedom for the people of El Salvador,
it is also very similar to one'President
Reagan vetoed last year on the groun-
ds that it was too restrictive. Evidently
it was too restrictive for his anti-Soviet
game playing, it wasn't restrictive at
all to people who live in fear of death
squads and political oppression.
As this legislation moves to the
Senate, and presumably the
President's desk, it should be remem-
bered that the basis for U.S. policy
ought to lie, not in paranoid fears of
Soviet maneuvering, but in the right of
the people of El Salvador to pursue the
same freedoms that Americans hold
dear.

M ? ALL

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This being an election year, it is
not surprising that Defense
Secretary Caspar Weinberger is
now trumpeting President
Reagan's "peacemaker" theme.
Indeed, the Pentagon's latest
budget report is remarkable for
its emphasis on arms control and
superpower restraint.
"Since there can be no winners
in a nuclear war," Weinberger
writes, "we have no alternative
to ensuring the absolute certainty
of nuclear deterrence, and to
making unwavering commitment
to reduce the dangers of nuclear
war through effective arms
reductions." Spending for
strategic nuclear forces and
development of new weapons is
slated to, rise by nearly 23 per-
cent - from an estimated $140.7
billion in 1984 to approximately
$50 billion in 1985. This probably
is the biggest such increase since
U.S. missile submarines and IC-
BMs were first deployed in the
early 1960s.
BY FAR the largest chunk of
this nuclear treasure chest will
be used for wholesale moder-
nization of the strategic
"triad"-the three-legged
system of land-based ICBMs,
submarine-launched missiles, and
manned bombers-that forms the
cornerstone of the U.S. nuclear
arsenal. This spending includes :
" $4.9 billion on the multi-
warhead MX missile
system-now called the
"Peacemaker." Some two-thirds

" $4.2 billion on the Trident
submarine and missile system.
" $8.2 billion on the B-1 bomber,
almost all for the purchase of 34
bombers-at $226 million per
copy the most expensive aircraft
ever produced.
Weinberger says this "hard-
target-kill-capability" will
"deter" a hypothetical Soviet
strike. But critics argue that
such a capacity would give the
U.S. its own first-strike
capability-and would increase
the risk of a preemptive attack
from both sides.
MUCH4 OF the increase in the
budget will go for advanced
satellite systems and com-
munications links designed for
conducting a nuclear conflict that
would go on even after many
elected officials and hundreds of
millions of U.S. citizens have
perished.
President Reagan has a novel
answer to charges that the
BLOOM COUNTY

budget places inordina
phasis on offensive n
weapons. He proposes ac
a new arsenal of space w,
designed for "defense"K
enemy nuclear arms.
This "Star Wars" ap
unveiled nearly a year ag
given formal authority
National Security D
Directive signed Jan. 6,
essentially calls for
development of new techn
for shooting down enemy
while in space. In defend
plan, Weinberger stres
defensive character. "I be
is the most significant'
can and will take to p
peace with freedom andI
on to our children the lega
safer world."
YET MANY experts1
the program will effe
diminish U.S. security..
argue that it will for
Russians to develop a wh

Reagan 's new
Bpeacem aker'
lineup.
By Michael K/are

array of offensive weapons -
some of which could prove im-
mune to the proposed defenses.
Moreover,, orbiting these
weapons will precipitate anew
arms race in space and expose
those of us on earth to -greater
danger of nuclear catastrophe.
It is unlikely, however, that
such systems could destroy all
the thousands of missiles and
te em- warheads the Soviets would laun-
iuclear ch in a full-scale attack. But in
quiring theory they would have a much
weapons greater chance of success if they
against only had to destroy the handful of
missiles that survive a U.S. first
proach, strike against Soviet silos.
go, was There is no reason to believe
y in a that Reagan and Weinberger con-
ecision template such an aggressive
which scenario. But there also is no
rapid reason to assume that future U.S.
nologies leaders will be so inhibited once
ICBMs the technology is in place.
ing this It is essential that we see these
ses its -proposed systems as weapons.
elieve it pure and simple. Once deployed,
step we they will serve an offensive pur-
reserve pose no less credibly - and much
to pass more effectively - than their4
acy of a purported defensive mission.

believe
ctively
They
ce the
ole new

Klare is military editor of
the Pacific News Service. He
wrote this article for PNS.
by Berke Breathed

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