Mug Shots: Intentionally Polluting the Jury Pool?

We’ve all seen it.

A police department makes a big drug bust, rounding up a couple dozen ‘suspects’ (and that is what they are, by the way– suspects).

Then we all see the images splashed on social media.

People being hustled out of their homes in handcuffs, piles of alleged drugs (without a lab report, it’s alleged drugs) and cash carefully arranged like bouquets of flowers at a wedding reception, all to make the accused appear guilty in the public eye.
And then there are the Mug Shots.

Everyone’s mug shot makes them look like a drug crazed criminal after being awakened by the police bursting in at 5 am and getting hauled to jail. They are bleary-eyed, wild-haired and stressed out in the extreme.

Try this: Take a pic of yourself 2 minutes after crawling out of bed in the morning.

You probably look like someone who spent the night smoking crack with Charlie Sheen.

Not exactly a good Facebook profile pic.

Now imagine being accused of a crime and that photo being splashed all over the internet as a representation of who you are.

Here’s the rub: As a defense attorney, even I am not allowed to view those photos until the accused have had a formal arraignment.

And yet police departments routinely post these pictures to their social media sites within hours of making a bust, even before a preliminary arraignment has taken place.

The media grabs these photos and the next thing you know, they’re everywhere.

Although this information is ultimately in the public domain, news outlets are using these photos to drive traffic to their website, etc., and using that traffic to sell advertising, long before anyone has been convicted of anything.

How is that possible? The rules say that a defense attorney can’t view these photos until a formal arraignment has been held, yet within hours of the arrest, the media is using them for profit.

It’s possible because police departments, in their haste to get a guilty verdict in the realm of public opinion, and maybe an “Atta’ Boy!” as well, are disregarding the Constitutional guarantee of a fair trial.

They are polluting the potential jury pool and attempting to influence the outcome.

We need to consider when and how these photos– some of which constitute evidence– are made available to the media and the public.

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