This is just one of those places people know all too well. Where the public’s opinion is in direct conflict with the court of law, sometimes it blows over, and sometimes it does not.
Perhaps the signature case for this could easily be the OJ Simpson murder trial. OJ was acquitted because one piece of the physical evidence did not fit, namely the gloves the murdered wore. But the court of public opinion found him guilty as charged. Because of that he got little support from the police who felt he was guilty and seemed to put an effort in finding another reason to arrest him. In fact it became a game to nail OJ to the wall.
This is repeated again and again but rarely on such a big scale. The proposed ground zero mosque will likely fall into this and it will be interesting to see how that unfolds. The laws of the US permit the mosque, but public opinion is opposed as it is viewed as an ‘in your face’ gesture or whatever you want to call it.
But ironically in direct contrast, the court of public opinion is gradually swinging against the US military presence in Afghanistan, and that presence is a direct response to the ground zero terrorist attack on 9-11-2001. So we have a situation that could almost be defined as seeking a neutral peaceful balance that some form of segregation exists. Unfortunately the circumstances of today’s world do not permit being neutral as the eventual outcome of being neutral is highly likely to be negative.
That also means some controversial laws go against the court of public opinion. Perhaps the 2 hottest topics at the moment are the Arizona law on illegal immigrants and the California law that targets same sex marriages. The California law is based on religion, and the Arizona law is based on ‘If you wont I will.’
Other issues that spark to court of public opinion include the full facial covering of Muslims in France and other places, as well as governments looking too deeply into peoples private lives in the name of security.
Perhaps the longest running controversy in the US is the right for a woman to abort her pregnancy. There are strong public opinions on both sides of this issue, but when you crunch the numbers you will find the anti abortion group is simply a very vocal minority with many more people supporting a woman’s right to choose.
The bottom line is the court of public opinion carries no weight legally, but it can influence change in a variety of ways. On the same note being put in the spotlight to activate the court of public opinion for doing a person wrong is a very effective tool. News broadcasts do this all the time, and often the results are good. An example would be an insurance company denying coverage for something they should. Another example may involve an unjust firing or some unethical behavior. This is all meant to shame the person or company into doing what the court of public opinion wants.
Often the court of public opinion is based in common sense, but there are times it is based in raw emotions. It is those times careful consideration must be given as how to make things right.