Ex Judge Crier in the Dock
On Friday 5 May, it
was announced that two San Francisco Chronicle reporters would be subpoenaed
to testify before a grand jury concerning documents they used in their news
articles and a follow-up book, regarding alleged steroid use by several
elite athletes. They will also be asked to reveal the identity of the person
or persons who handed them over.
The documents under discussion are grand jury trial transcripts. Testimony disclosed to a grand jury is done so in secret and therefore it is illegal to release the content of transcripts.
This news was surprising since there has been another very similar incident in California which has so far gone totally unaddressed by authorities. If the two Chronicle journalists are under pressure to reveal their sources, shouldn’t Catherine Crier of Court TV fame be forced to do the same?
The discovery documentation from the Scott Peterson investigation was subject to a court gag order. This made it legally available to nobody other than the Judge, law clerk, and in this particular case, prosecution and defense. Yet Crier was given a copy of the entire 40 000+ pages and from the third week of the Peterson’s 23 week trial, proceeded to leak their content in the form of at least 22 “exclusives” on national television (Court TV) and the internet (Court TV’s website).
At the same time as leaking morsels to TV audiences, Crier herself admitted using it to write her subsequent book “A Deadly Game” which detailed the entire police investigation of Peterson. It was released immediately after his conviction and went straight to the top of the New York Times best sellers list (not so surprising since Crier had been able to use her CTV appearances to continually plug it).
Crier took possession of the discovery documents illegally; committing civil contempt of court (willfully and knowingly disobeying a court order). By doing so, she risked sacrificing Peterson’s right to a fair and unbiased trial.
Had deliberations ended in a hung jury, Peterson would surely have stood trial a second time. Once Crier had made public what any person serving on the jury was neither legally entitled to hear, nor to base a verdict on, the chances of Peterson being retried in the presence of an untainted jury would have been extremely slim. To Crier, whose previous job as a judge gave her the official authority to preside in a court, try lawsuits and even make legal rulings, this bore no importance to her.
I’m certainly not against knowing what was contained in Modesto Police Department’s discovery; the problem here is not the public’s right to know, but the timing of it. What was the urgency in going public with legally sealed documentation during the ongoing trial and risking the defendants rights? Why could Crier and CTV not have waited until after a verdict when it was legal to release the information?
The answer is they could have, however, Court TV’s main motivation was not the quest to bring the public information of national importance, but for viewing figures. Anyone in television or advertising knows just how important they are. Higher viewing figures mean higher advertising revenues for the station. The “exclusives” needed to be released at a time of peak interest in the trial. Doing so after it’s conclusion simply wouldn’t have had the same impact or received the same attention. People would no longer be sat tensely on the edge of their seats waiting to hear the latest trial developments and trying to predict the final verdict. Effectively, the public would have moved on and there would be little interest expressed in what Crier or Court TV had to reveal.
Catherine Crier’s personal stimulus for breaking the law can only have been to further her own name, her career and the sales of her “soon to be released” book. Doing so will certainly have resulted in a healthy boost to her income.
The reality is that greed and money took priority over the defendant’s rights.
So we know why Crier and Court TV broke the law, but just as important is the question of by who and for what reason was the discovery leaked? Again, whoever passed it on broke the law.
Obviously, in order to be able to gain access to the entire 40 000 pages of discovery, it had to have been made available by someone of high rank in the investigation. What helps to arrive at this conclusion is that neither the District Attorney’s office nor Law Enforcement (Modesto Police Department) appeared to have been in the least bit concerned about one of their own leaking the entire record of their investigation! No comments on the subject from either, nor an internal investigation. Neither to the public’s knowledge was anyone reprimanded or lost their job. The assumption, therefore, has to be that they felt the leak would not hinder the prosecution of Peterson, but on the contrary, help it…
Those that gave the order to handover the information to Crier certainly knew that with animosity towards Peterson already at a high due to bias and incorrect media reporting, the “exclusives” would serve as a further character assassination of both him and his family. The necessity to do this suggests that the authorities knew their case against him was far from water tight, and that if a “not guilty” verdict were to be reached, at least LE and the DA would still retain public support for having brought Peterson to trial, despite their having spent $4.13million of the Californian tax payers money in doing so.
Furthermore, the authorities bringing the case against Peterson could be optimistic that Crier’s leaks would likely reach members of the jury, non of whom were sequestered. All things considered, are we truly to believe that not one of them, during over 5 months of trial, glimpsed a newspaper or internet news headline, heard or saw a report on the radio or television, nor had or overheard a single conversation regarding the case? Impossible.
Crier, is a hypocrite. She is a former Judge and yet has no fear of breaking the law, obviously believing herself untouchable. She betrays the very occupation that took her to the height of her success, yet still has the audacity to write about its flaws. Most recently she authored a book entitled “THE CASE AGAINST LAWYERS” which according to her own website, “confronts a profoundly unfair legal system that produces results and profits for the few - and paralysis, frustration and (sic) injustice for many”.
In actuality, it is ex Judge Ms Crier herself who has profited from a profoundly unfair legal system.