5 – Regarding the Origin of Trial-based Material and its Treatment

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In the last chapter we introduced the fact that some evidence at trial was also publically accessible, and this chapter is about how it was fed to the public and so informed this book. In fact, it is through such material alone that the author has any knowledge what witnesses reported to the Lee Rigby murder trial; a transcript has not been made available for common perusal, as far as can be ascertained. As for applying for one – there is now a precedent whereby police will arrest people who are investigating the Woolwich incident, and therefore it was decided not to draw attention to this project in order not to run any risks whereby it would not be completed and published. Not having a blow by blow account of the trial is a disadvantage, but at the same time there is an advantage in having to consider material as it has been presented through the prism of the corporate-media. The Lee Rigby trial was an exercise aimed at public consumption as much as it was one of pure legal operation. If we adopt an unbiased opinion, we still can’t help but admit that the two Michaels were convicted in the court of public opinion by the corporate-media even before the trial; the media showed that it was biased. Therefore, why assume that its coverage of the trial should be any different. A great point is made if it can be shown that the material given to the public that is expressly intended to help people form a certain conclusion doesn’t, in the end, do that. This indicates a very big problem, and something that goes beyond selective reporting, and feeds into the question of whether or not the right material was considered in court to come to the correct decision.

The idea of media bias has just been introduced, and so it should be stated that while it is the default position of the author not to trust any corporate-media, i.e. mainstream public and private news broadcasters, there has to be some level of acceptance of what was claimed regarding the goings-on in the trial. We are told that the trial was open to the public (and independent persons reported attending at least one day), and that it was conducted in front of a jury. It should be assumed that these people could corroborate the court reporting by journalists; hence it would be unlikely that the reporting would not reflect events.

However, different parts of the reporting can be treated with varying degrees of trust. Sometimes the reporting quotes extracts from witness testimony, or conveys in quotations words spoken by witnesses who were in attendance at court. This material will be considered as first-hand and the most unfiltered. Other times, the reporting paraphrases witnesses; this territory is shakier as inflection to generate an emotional response in the consumer can be introduced – the source risks having been manipulated by the time it is processed by the media.

Sometimes the court reporting quotes the prosecution lawyer, Richard Whittam QC, paraphrasing witness testimony; it also paraphrases him doing this. The former runs the risk of containing spun version of the witness testimony for the purpose of getting a conviction. The latter, again, can be manipulated for public consumption. Whittam had the opportunity, and arguably demonstrably took it, to misquote his witnesses to create an emotional response from the jury. Any media then paraphrasing him will have had licence to take the distortion to unrecognisable levels because they wouldn’t have been misrepresenting evidence. They would only be interpreting an interpretation. Of course, when Whittam is directly quoted paraphrasing witness testimony, and if we cannot find the original text of the testimony to which he is referring, then we will give it credence to a certain point – i.e. while remembering that he is playing to the gallery, but that he wouldn’t usually be allowed to completely misrepresent any ‘facts’ in court.

It’s only through the court reporting that we can understand if any information that was presented in court was not also shared with the public; if we refer back to the Venn diagram, this is the material on the far right of the spectrum. (The reporting might even fail to reveal that there was information presented to court that was not accessible to the public). The majority of such information seems to be video footage. In fact, there exists in the public domain lots of camera footage of the events that supposedly took place between 2 and 3pm in Woolwich on 22nd May 2013, but we can only understand which was presented at court through the reporting, and then not at all very clearly. Moreover, there are several versions of the same filmed events, so when media reports that the court was shown footage of an event that was filmed many times by different cameras, it is not automatically clear which version is being referred to.

It is not known if certain or indeed any evidence was shown to the jury exclusively rather than to all present in court; specifically people in the public viewing gallery. Therefore, for instance, when reporting states that “the jury were shown CCTV footage of Lee Rigby being hit by a car”, it is not known if the journalist also viewed this as part of a public viewing, or whether he or she was merely reporting on the supposed content of footage that only the jury got to see. This matter is an important one to try and understand. A jury can be constructed in order for any manipulation of it to be most effective. On the other hand, members of the public are not chosen to attend court, as juries are, so there cannot be control of who exactly comprises their number – as is the case with juries. The point is, a jury may be profiled so that it contains people who are ignorant or suggestible and will interpret seemingly incontrovertible evidence, like film footage, in a certain way. A random member of the public may see such evidence very differently depending on his resistance to being told how to interpret that evidence, and any factual knowledge he may have that would affect his interpretation of that evidence.

In actual fact, that the jury must be presumed ignorant is why expert witness is usually employed by prosecutors to present a rationale for why evidence should be interpreted in a certain way. It should be noted that the only expert witness testimony given at the Rigby trial was that of the government pathologist and a number of psychiatrists.

All that concern being expressed, it will be assumed in the treatment here that evidence was shown to all present in court – even though some reporting is contradictory regarding the content of certain film footage, and implies that certain reporters had not seen the footage, implying in turn that the footage was shown only to jurors. However, this need not be the case. Such reporting may indicate that the reporter was not present in court, and writes on a second-hand knowledge.

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