By Libby Lewis, CNN
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(CNN) - The divide between the U.S. and the U.K. over press coverage of crimes is about as wide as the Atlantic.
Cases in point: George Zimmerman, who’s accused of shooting Trayvon Martin last year in Florida – and the cases of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the two Muslim converts who are accused of butchering to death British soldier Lee Rigby in South London last month.
Zimmerman’s lawyer has used the courts – and the Fourth Amendment – to try to reshape the image of Trayvon Martin, says defense attorney Ron Kuby. He’s done it by getting the press to cover his requests to enter evidence that would link Martin, in the jury’s mind, with the idea of guns, and marijuana and violence.
[:44] “O’Mara’s purpose in releasing all this information he knows can’t come into evidence is to dirty up Trayvon Martin….to portray him in the minds of the jurors as a vaguely menacing young black man,” Kuby told CNN
In other words, O’Mara’s using the court – and the press – “trying to eliminate that image of a totally innocent teenage boy armed with Skittles and iced tea.”
By contrast, the restrictive press coverage rules that govern cases in the U.K. bar the press from reporting any but the bare bones of the case, says Mark Stephens, an international media lawyer based in London:
[1:23] “Once somebody’s been charged, you can basically do name rank and serial number. What they’ve been charged with, what they’ve pleaded, but you can’t make any reports that are a symptom of guilt, you can’t provide any information about a defendant’s bad character.”
Those tight rules will apply in the south London case, even though lots of eyewitnesses used cellphones to record statements from the suspects immediately after the attack, and posted them to YouTube.