Friday, January 16, 2004
Washington Most Americans think Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Martha Stewart will get fair trials, though blacks are less confident than whites that Jackson and Bryant will be treated impartially, an Associated Press poll on celebrity justice found.
Nearly half the people surveyed said they thought Stewart would be convicted, while far fewer think Jackson and Bryant will be found guilty, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
Jackson is scheduled to be arraigned today in a California court on charges of molesting a child. Lawyers in Bryant's sexual assault case in Colorado are in the middle of pretrial hearings. Jury selection is just beginning in New York in the case of Stewart, who is charged with lying about the sale of stock.
Some 60 percent of people polled said celebrities were treated better by the judicial system because they have a lot of money, while 12 percent think they are singled out for prosecution because they are high-profile. Only one-quarter of the public thought celebrities were treated like ordinary citizens.
"They definitely get special treatment," said Jake Minsinger, a 37-year-old welder from Hanover, Pa. "Usually, they're all out on bail. When they show up in court they're well-dressed. And instead of a public defender, they have a team of the most expensive lawyers in the country."
Some think celebrities have it tougher in the courts.
"I think they get special punishment because they have money and people are jealous of them," said Ruth Gearin, a retiree from Milwaukee. "When they're up, people want to bring them down."
Most in the AP-Ipsos poll were aware of the three high-profile cases. But only one-fifth said they were closely following each of the trials.
Blacks were twice as likely as whites to be paying close attention to the cases against Jackson and Bryant, both of whom are black.
By a 2-to-1 margin, people said they thought the pop star would get a fair trial, and by a 3-to-1 margin they thought the Los Angeles Lakers basketball star and Stewart would get fair trials. Blacks were significantly more likely than whites to think Jackson and Bryant would not get fair trials.
Even if the three celebrities are convicted, the vast majority of Americans say they will continue watching them and buying their products, the survey found.