Those in Massachusetts who enjoy reading crime news may be interested in a new policy being enacted in many newsrooms. Certain news outlets are choosing to no longer use online mugshot galleries. Because of the pervasiveness of the internet, many people feel that posting mugshots in this manner may deny the accused a fair trial.
The problem with mugshot galleries
In the past, mugshot slideshows have been frequently posted on news websites. Viewers can click on the mugshot, linking them to a story or an explanation of the mugshot. Known as clickbait, each click on the mugshot earns the website more advertising money. These mugshots are also able to be shared by viewers. This allows potentially millions of people to see the mugshot.
People who have been detained by law enforcement have not been convicted of a crime. The popularity of mugshot galleries, however, may lead to long-lasting effects on the lives of those whose mugshots have been viewed and shared. A 2016 survey of Univision’s Fusion channel of 74 newspapers found that 40% published these types of galleries. The recent outcry about the practice and the decision of many news websites to no longer publish the galleries may lead to their decline in the future.
Ensuring a fair trial
Those who are accused of a serious crime are entitled to a fair trial with a jury made up of their peers. Jurors should not have preconceived notions about the defendant prior to the trial. If they do, this may lead to those who are accused of a crime not receiving the fair trial that they legally deserve. For example, an individual accused of a DUI may have had their disheveled mugshot posted in online galleries. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to remove jurors from the case who have viewed the defendant’s mugshot in an online gallery, helping him or her to receive a fair trial.