Sensational Reporting of a Criminal Trial Process

I was listening to the radio in Toronto today and one story caught my ear. It went like this: “Two suspects charged with shooting an 18 year old in plain view of a security camera had all charges against them dropped today due to lack of evidence…”. Translation: with video surveillance available that clearly showed that the two accused committed the murder, the prosecution messed up and these murderers got off scot-free.

There’s more here than meets the eye, however. Anyone who has ever looked at security footage would probably know that it is very difficult, if not impossible to positively identify a person on the footage alone. Security tapes are good for showing that a crime has been committed, but due to the poor quality of most cameras, more is needed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This brings up an interesting question: why does the media, especially entertainment-centered radio (this was a music station, not a news station) feel the need to report in such a misleading manner? No doubt that upon hearing this, people unaware of the criminal process or quality of video cameras will blame the prosecutors for this failure to convict. Is the prosecution really at fault here? Certainly not for dropping charges when only a surveillance video is available, although they may have done more to secure more evidence (I don’t know the details, so I cannot speculate on what they should or should not have done).