Jonathan Sherman Addresses European Conference on Courts and Communication
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
(L-R) Philipe Langbroek, Professor of Law, University of Utrecht (Netherlands) School of Law; Tünde Handó, President of the National Office for the Judiciary, Republic of Hungary; Jonathan Sherman
Boies, Schiller & Flexner partner Jonathan Sherman delivered a keynote address on October 15, 2015, to the Third Annual European Conference on Courts and Communication in Budapest. Sponsored by Hungary’s National Office for the Judiciary and its Supreme Constitutional Court, the Conference invites some 100 people from more than 25 countries to discuss the intersection of courts and communication.
Mr. Sherman’s address, "The O.J. Infinity Mirror: If the Glove Didn't Fit, You Probably Watched from Ferguson," came shortly after the 20th anniversary of the day a jury acquitted the former international celebrity of a notorious murder – one that blacks and whites “now agree“ he committed, according to a September poll.
If we want to have an honest debate about cameras in courts, Mr Sherman told the group, we should stop invoking the “cultural myth” that the O.J. Simpson murder trial “proves” cameras interfere with fair trials. If anything, Mr. Sherman said, the trial shows the opposite, describing it as “the most viscerally honest textbook” about race and justice in America ever created.
To insist that cameras sacrificed truth to create “TV’s first reality show,” as Vanity Fair called the trial, misses the meaning – and power -- of jury trials, he said. Nine of the twelve members were black and a tenth was Hispanic, he noted, and they heard the case eight miles from where race riots exploded in Los Angeles three years before. The camera attached to the courtroom wall above them captured what they saw—generating what Mr. Sherman argued is the most powerful narrative of how the racially marginal must “see” the criminal justice system.
The images of celebrating blacks and stunned whites watching the 1995 verdict shed light on why we have Fergusons or Baltimores a generation later—and, he suggested, perhaps why black public figures and polls show skepticism that the election of Barack Obama “proved” America morphed into a "post-racial society.”
The Conference’s other keynoter was Philip Langbroek, a law professor at Utrecht University. He urged that cameras “poison” the “sacred mystery” of, and power of the “written word” underlying the task of “seeing justice done.”
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