As the death penalty trial for the Boston Bomber is underway, and more incidents occur, I have begun to become more aware of the effect of social sentencing that occurs by the public and the media. Once someone becomes accused, arrested, or charged with committing an unjust act the American public and the media seem to jump to conclusions about if an individual is truly guilty, and then decide the sentence for this individual.
From Mike Brown to Freddie Gray to the Aurora Theater shooting and the Boston Bombing the public bases their opinions off of the media framing of each incident. The emotions connected with a violent or unnecessary death produce an environment that goes to the extremes. A surge of emotions causes people to think that ‘an eye for an eye’ is the best form of justice, and thus the death penalty is what the people cry for. While in some instances, such as that of the Boston Bomber, the death penalty may be the justified sentence for the spree of crime that ended with the streets of Boston looking more like a urban war zone rather than a historical city of deep passions. The people of Boston have waited and watched for two years for the decision from the court about the fate of the man who terrorized their city, but those outside of the city the media that defended on the traumatized city. This media set up a frame of what occurred, and handed down their judgement and their the appropriate sentencing, whether that match the outcome that the people of Boston called for or not.
In the recent cases of blacks dying at the hands of white cops it has sparked a debate of what justice for taking a life, innocent or not, should be in the case of those tasked to serve and protect. While no situation is identical the framing by the media places as many similarities as possible together to create coverage that draws in viewers. This combined framing of similarities and sentencing creates a mass hysteria that is creating riots and protests that have simultaneously set fire to cities such as Ferguson and Baltimore, and the judgments handed down by the courts that do not side with the overly emotional public just further deepen the rift forming between authority and the public.
While the public does not hand out judgements and sentences, the influences of the public reign strong on those citizens who eventually make it onto juries who ultimately decide the fate of those charged. The effect of social sentencing by the public delegitimizes the sources that were established to hand out just judgements and sentences, thus providing some explanation to the violence and distrust that currently exists in the US.