VIP Legal II: Celebrity in Court—Cons
October 23, 2008 11:23 AM
This is part two of a three-part blog series addressing the influence of celebrity in legal matters.
In part one of “VIP Legal,” I discussed the pros of celebrity in legal cases, using the trials and tribulations of O.J. Simpson as an example.
When it comes to a courtroom advantage, O.J. and other celebrities of similar stature and bankroll have the power to hire the best attorneys money can buy, while also having the power of familiarity to persuade public opinion.
Before you cry foul, however, remember that celebrity is a double-edged sword, and with the pros comes a whole set of cons.
With fame comes notoriety and with notoriety comes some strong opinions. As Exhibit A, I present Paris Hilton. Strip away the media circus, public conjecture and hearsay about what everyone thinks she deserved, and the facts are pretty straightforward. This was a simple DUI case, although any situation that puts the safety and lives of other people at risk is never simple. I’m speaking purely from a legal standpoint. The point is that nobody else, generally, in Ms. Hilton’s situation would have received 45 days in jail for a nonviolent misdemeanor. However, in this case, the personal details of Ms. Hilton’s very public life apparently had become impossible for the judge to get around.
By the time Paris stood in front of the judge, her “party girl” lifestyle had led to a string of mostly alcohol-related run-ins with the law. This, of course, could also be said of Hilton’s BFF Nicole Richie, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and others. But the judge clearly decided to make the point that he thought Paris was being so disrespectful to the law that he had no problem at all making an example of her for aspiring party girls everywhere to see.
Fame has its price, and being such a big, public target to have opinions projected onto is a big part of it. Is this fair? From a legal standpoint it’s not. I’ll let you decide how fair it is in the overall scheme of things in the balance of celebrity pros and cons.
Meanwhile, in a courtroom in Las Vegas, the once wealthy, popular and powerful O.J. Simpson is a sad-looking figure. He has made a mess of his life, if you believe predominant public perception that calls him a killer. All he had to do after his not-guilty verdict in the double murder case was to lay low, move forward and lead a normal life with the hope of changing public perception of him. All he really had to do was live a boring life. Instead, he just makes bad choices—over and over again. His celebrity makes it even more difficult than it would be for less notable others to hide those bad choices and sweep the consequences under the rug.
For O.J., Paris and the other celebrities who find themselves in legal trouble, the spotlight shines brightly and without mercy. But what they choose to do with that attention is entirely in their hands and most of the time within their control.
Check back for the final installment of “VIP Legal: Celebrity in Court” next week. Until then, see you in court!