Tag Archives: trial

Stafford Coverage Shows Right and Wrong Way to Deliver Content

By Jason Menard

I remember many years ago – in the pre-Internet days — being upset when, despite all my efforts, my desire to remain blissfully ignorant of a World Cup soccer final result until I was able to watch my VHS-taped version was foiled.

I was playing softball during the game. We had banned radios both to and from the game. We were prepared to avoid all TV and radio reports so that we could get back to my home, rewind the tape, and watch the game.

All went well, until I was about one minute from my home. And then a gaggle of jubilant Brazilian fans poured out of the local watering hole. Continue reading

Tori Stafford Will Not Be Forgotten As We All Owe Her a Debt of Gratitude

By Jason Menard

While I’ve found I have no interest in reading about the details behind the ultimate price Tori Stafford paid, I do realize that I owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Today marked the start of the Tori Stafford murder trial. The Crown began delivering its opening statements – and you could follow along for up-to-the-minute coverage in any number of ways. Local radio, television, and newspapers have dispatched reporters to the scene. Continue reading

Millions of Tweeters Behind the Scenes of Anthony Trial

By Jason Menard

I only know one truth when it comes to the Casey Anthony case. And that truth is that I don’t know anything.

Sorry, I also know two more truths: it’s absolutely horrible that a little girl died; and I have no idea how Caylee died.

Apparently, however, I’m in the minority, given the passionate and vociferous explosion of anger on the social networks. And what’s even greater than the level of anger is the absolute certitude that people are condemning a woman whom the court of law has found not guilty. Continue reading

Misplaced Call for Restraint

By Jason Menard

Some lawyers need to obtain a sense of perspective before they start throwing around accusations – after all, the bigger the glass house, the more shards can come crashing down. And, in the case of a St. Thomas man charged with sexually assaulting his child, this so-called lack of restraint may help to prevent similar episodes from occurring.

Bob Upsdell, the lawyer for a St. Thomas man who has been charged with sexually assaulting his own child live on the Internet – an act which allegedly was witnessed and acted upon by an undercover officer – is tossing the word restraint a little too loosely when it comes to castigating the police for releasing information about the trial.

Restraint? Restraint? Perhaps, if the claims are true, his client should have shown a little more restraint when it came to abusing his own offspring. Instead of chastising police and superciliously stating that they need to “restrain their need for validation of the work they do,” perhaps this lawyer should realize that he’s dealing with a client that allegedly should have shown more restraint in his need to validate his need for sexual gratification by fondling his own child.

When treading through filth like this, one must tread lightly. Upsdell instead has jumped in with both feet – and now those feet are lodged firmly in his mouth.

As repugnant as the charges may be, everyone is entitled to a fair trial. But the nature of this crime – allegedly willfully violating the parent/child trust for sexual gratification – is so abhorrent that the normal rules of decorum need to be thrown out. When one has seemingly shown so little regard for one’s humanity, it’s hard to take a position of moral superiority, but that’s what Upsdell has done.

Yet Upsdell is simply trying to protect the rights of his client. As any good lawyer should, he has his client’s best interests at heart. And in an attempt to ensure a fair trial, he’s well within his right to argue that police comments have the potential for tainting the jury pool. But knowing public sentiment for the crime his client has been literally seen doing, he should have come out in a less accusatory tone.

In the end, all Upsdell has created is more animosity for his client. I would think that one’s hard-pressed to find someone who sympathizes with his client’s plight. In fact, I would think the only reason that people are in agreement with the generalities of Upsdell’s argument. If all the reports are true, then it’s safe to say that no one wants to see the accused go free. As such, the general public are just as invested in making sure that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed.

Sympathy for his client is in short supply, and appealing for that is a wasted effort. However, appearing conciliatory and co-operative will help ensure that public image only stays at the repugnant level. Actions like this only move it closer to the abhorrent category.

The fact of the matter is that you’re never going to find a virgin jury pool — and, honestly, do we really want to have a group of people who are so removed from the news and realities of the world that they are unaware of this case deciding the fate of anyone, anywhere?

All you can hope for is that a jury of this man’s peers – and thankfully that doesn’t mean a pool of other alleged sub-human child molesters – will be able to execute their responsibility with all the respect and attention it deserves. We don’t live in a vacuum, so the reality is that we have to trust that people are able to separate speculation, emotion, and hearsay from the cold, blunt facts.

The jury pool’s already been tainted by Upsdell’s client’s alleged actions. If true, he has no one to blame but himself for that. And when you’ve shown a complete disregard for the rules and regulations of our society – and, in fact, the very essence of human decency – then taking a stand based on human rights is one that’s not based on the firmest of footing.

Could the police have shown a little more restraint in releasing the evidence? Maybe. But I, for one, am happy that their actions may help to prevent actions like this in the future. Knowing that there are police acting undercover in chat rooms and watching the going’s-on may give just one person pause to reconsider his or her actions. It’s not going to solve all the problems. And if the Net becomes too unsafe, people who are of the mind to commit these atrocious crimes will simply find another venue.

But if only one child has been saved from just one incident of molestation, then I for one applaud the police’s lack of restraint. If only Upsdell’s client practiced the same standard of restraint that his lawyer expects of others.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Do We Say Beat It to a Thriller?

By Jason Menard

Is it still OK to like Michael Jackson? That decision will probably be made once a jury of his peers renders a verdict on allegations of inappropriate activities with children? But the question is should a guilty or innocent decision make a difference?

To a large extent in our society celebrities are given a get out of jail free card, cashing in on the goodwill generated by their various talents. Our admiration for their abilities also seems to foster an exaggerated gift of the benefit of doubt.

We live in a society where one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But, let’s face it, if the average guy showed up on TV, proudly boasting that he sleeps with young boys – but there’s nothing untoward about it, chances are we’d be avoiding this guy like the plague. And I know that my son wouldn’t be having any overnighters at the guy’s house.

And that’s the general reaction we’d have for the average Joe. Not the eccentric, changes-his-face-more-often-than-Paul-Martin-changes-his-mind, former child prodigy that is Michael Jackson.

But, behind the trial, behind the eccentricities, behind the media furor lies an artist and his art. And it’s the appreciation of this art that may be irretrievably lost in all of this, if it hasn’t already been damaged beyond repair.

Is it still OK to like Michael Jackson? The difficulty of this question is magnified by the simple fact that there are two ways to read it. Are we discussing Michael Jackson, the man, who is alleged to have personal demons that are reprehensible to society as a whole? Or are we looking at Michael Jackson, the industry, and a body of work and expressed talent that has rarely been seen.

I’ll admit it — I own Thriller. And I know there are at least one or two of you out there that do to, seeing as he’s sold about a kagillion copies of this album. As a child of the 80’s I grew up listening to his music, watching his talent manifest itself in ways that I had never seen. Listening to his work with the Jackson Five introduced me to the wonderful world of Motown. His performance at Motown’s 25 th – where he unveiled the Moonwalk and tossed his hat into the crowd – is an image I’ll never forget. Heck, I even owned a Glitter Glove!

But will that legacy of music, the influence he’s had on a generation of performers who followed, the innovation he displayed in his music videos, be tainted should a guilty verdict be rendered? Do we retroactively diminish superhuman achievement in light of less-than-human behaviour?

A case can be made in the affirmative when we look at O.J. Simpson. Not guilty criminally, but found culpable in a civil court, The Juice is looked upon as a pariah as he continues his search for The Real Killers in the bunkers and on the fairways of North America. And, while it’s easy to dismiss his talents on the Silver Screen, we accomplishments on the gridiron are now in question. Undoubtedly one of the great running backs of his time, it takes a brave sportswriter to acknowledge his talent in a public forum.

However, our celebrity worship also takes us to the other extreme. When rape allegations against Kobe Bryant were first brought to the fore, thousands of ravenous supporters rallied to his side. These people knew nothing more about Kobe than what they saw on the court, or what his public relations consultants and advertising contracts showcased, but they were willing to throw their wholehearted support behind him! I don’t think these people would do the same for the average guy in their community charged with rape – in fact, they’d probably trot out the old “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” adage and presume guilt.

As our society is increasingly exposed to the trials and tribulations of celebrity justice, so too will this issue have to be addressed. If Robert Blake is convicted of murdering his wife, does that change how we view his performance in In Cold Blood? Yet, modern rap artists gain welcome street cred for behaviour that we’d vilify in the general public.

When it comes to art, should it matter whether or not we approve of the artist? Does singing along to Bad mean that I tacitly support alleged pedophilia? Were my childhood attempts at doing the Moonwalk the subconscious modern equivalent of goose-stepping in time with a malevolent leader? Is all the good brought about by We Are the World lost by allegations of reprehensible behaviour?

I’d argue that’s not the case. It is not a case of the ends justifying the means. In fact, one should have nothing to do with the other. If Michael Jackson is convicted, then he should be locked up and left to dance his way around the general population of Cell Block 1. And the only singing we should hear from him is at his parole review. But regardless of the outcome, our appreciation of his past musical achievements shouldn’t be coloured by our opinion of the man. The art should be separate from the artist – but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.

Perhaps the Jackson trial will set the benchmark for how future popular opinion will be defined. And, in the future, we may have to hold off on our appreciation of our favourite artists until enough time has elapsed to ensure that there are no skeletons waiting to fall out of their closet.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved