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Perp Walk: Due Process v. Freedom of the Press

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Ethics Volume: 21 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer/Fall 2002 Pages: 44-56
Jim Ruiz; D. F. Treadwell
Date Published
13 pages
This article discusses the impact the perp walk has on due process.
The perp walk is the act of displaying the alleged perpetrator of a crime so the news media has an opportunity to photograph or videotape the individual for newspapers and television. The perp walk places the accused in both a physical and legal position that appears to belie the presumption of innocence. The success of the police and the media is heavily dependent upon cooperation even though there is conflict on a regular basis. Police officials are aware that the success of their agency is measured by their ability to solve major cases and by high numbers of arrests. The media are almost completely dependent on the information given to them by the police to feed the public’s appetite for crime news. The perp walk benefits both the police and the media for these reasons. The most common form of perp walk occurs as police conduct the accused from a vehicle into a police station or courthouse. When the alleged perpetrator of a crime is walked for the benefit of the media, little care is taken to assure his or her safety and well being. In 1999, a New York Federal court judge ruled that a perp walk violated a suspect’s right to privacy. As a result, the New York Police Department no longer routinely advises the news media about opportunities for photographing suspects. Negative media coverage can taint jurors’ perception of the defendant. For those arrested and paraded before the media, the images of guilt will not be easily erased from the minds of the public. The stigma of criminality remains attached to people accused of criminal wrongdoing long after charges have been dropped or not guilty verdicts have been rendered. Defending the perp walk for purposes of identifying the individual being walked for other crimes is a weak argument and is counter to fairness. 120 notes