Thursday, August 19, 2004

"This is not about Oprah"

No, it's not about Oprah at all. It's about the fallout caused by Oprah. Ms. Winfrey served on a jury in a local murder case, which she should do; it is our duty as citizens to serve on juries when called. Celebrity status should not shield you, nor should your day-to-day life be a barrier to service, barring extraneous circumstances like moving, family emergencies and other similar situations. I am glad that Oprah served, showing that even celebrities are not immune to their responsibilities as citizens.

I am not pleased, however, about Oprah's offhand comment about doing a show that brings in her fellow jurors. This has the potential to ruin the right to privacy of the victim's family as well as that of the convicted man. Even the most innocent slip-up by a juror could endanger the appeals process for Dion Coleman. Is Ms. Winfrey willing to sacrifice the future of another human being for a ratings spike? I hope that she'll reconsider her plans. What goes on in the jurors' chambers needs to stay there for the sake of confidentiality.

A trial, even one such as this, should remain in the courts' purview of what does and does not get released after a verdict is handed down. Oprah and her fellow jurors need to take a step back and determine what effect their public discussion couyld have on this man's future. Oprah Winfrey is a very influential woman, and this is one instance where she should curtail her influence for the sake of another's life.

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