The Modern Penny Dreadful: Public Prosecution and Crime Victim Privacy in a Digital Age
39 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2017 Last revised: 4 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 1, 2017
When the criminal justice system creates a digital public record of alleged abuses, it may aggravate invasions of privacy for crime victims indefinitely. A public trial and digital public record may be even more intimidating for certain victims, such as cybercrime victims, whose loss of privacy constitutes the gravamen of the harm. Courtroom policies are expanding traditional pre-digital approaches to protect the safety and privacy interests of crime victim witnesses, such as Jane Doe pseudonyms for witnesses and recording restrictions on electronic devices in court. Statutory privacy protections in the form of public records exceptions for certain evidence have also emerged and adapted to a Digital Age. Both approaches face constitutional challenges by the media and others in the interests of First Amendment rights and the right to a fair and public trial for defendants. This tension and balance of interests is examined, addressing the court's evolving recognition of the dangers and disincentives of a public trial for vulnerable litigants and witnesses, as well as the inappropriate use of the courtroom public record as a modern penny dreadful for entertainment purposes.
Keywords: privacy, 1st Amendment, media, crime victims, cybercrime, public records, courtroom, internet, Digital Age
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