All municipalities should embrace media alert on verdicts

Mar 20, 2019 By Melody Izadi

A recent directive that requires Toronto judges to alert the media when a jury is about to come back with a verdict will benefit the general public, Toronto criminal lawyer Melody Izadi tells “The public needs to be fully informed about what is going on in our courtrooms, especially when verdicts are released in high-profile cases,” says Izadi, an associate with Caramanna, Friedberg LLP. The new directive replaces a judicial policy that allowed a trial judge to decide if the media was to be notified, a Toronto Star story states. Without this notification, reporters either sat outside the courtroom to wait for the verdict or relied on tips from lawyers or the police in order to make it to the court in the 15 minutes it typically takes to reconvene.

While welcoming the new directive, Izadi says she can also understand why the old policy was in place. “The delivery of the verdict is a very intense moment,” she says. “There is a knock on the door, and the jurors file into the room. For the accused, that is like being on the worst roller-coaster ever. Emotionally, that person may not want to have a media circus behind them, but instead, have some privacy at that moment.”

This is not a privacy issue, Izadi says, considering that the verdict is always publicly released. “It’s more the idea of respecting the process, and understanding that this isn’t a movie,” she says. “When the verdict comes in, someone’s life and future are hanging in the balance, depending on the deliberations of 12 strangers in another room. It is a very big deal.”

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