Free Press v. Fair Trial: Australia, Canada, United States
This paper will discuss the problem of prejudicial publicity and the right of criminal defendants to a fair trial. The first part of the paper will introduce the problem by describing two current cases in Canada and the United States which have been accompanied by overwhelming publicity. The second part of the paper will discuss the problem in terms of the rights involved: the right of a defendant to a fair trial and the interest or right of the public to free expression and open judicial proceedings. The third part of the paper will describe the problem of conflict between the two rights and the responses of courts in all three countries to this problem. The fourth part of the paper will discuss some of the remedies utilized in all three countries for combatting the problem.
In July of 1993, Karla Homolka was convicted of manslaughter in the slayings of two teenage girls and sentenced to two concurrent 12-year terms. These simple facts were all that Canadians were allowed to hear by their government, for at the time of the trial, the trial judge imposed a ban upon the publication of any further details of the case. This ban was designed to protect the right of Paul Teale, Karla's estranged husband, to a fair trial. Teale had also been charged in the killings of the two girls and was presumed to be the prime suspect.
In spite of the ban, Canadians quickly began learning details of the case from foreign press accounts and computer bulletin boards. On November 23, 1993, the Washington Post published a lengthy article which described the case using interviews with persons knowledgeable about the trial and other press accounts. Paul Teale was an accountant who was connected by police to a series of violent rapes in his hometown. Karla was a senior in high school when she met him; after her graduation in 1988, they moved to a quiet neighborhood on the shores o...