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April 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Legal analysts have raised ethical questions about a CBS 48 Hours Mystery report Saturday about the upcoming murder trial in Orlando of Casey Anthony, who is charged with murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee. Appearing on the Sunday-morning program Flashpoint, which airs on the CBS affiliate WKMG-TV, the station’s legal analyst Mark O’Mara criticized the program’s use of an Orlando focus group to weigh the evidence that is likely to be presented during next month’s scheduled trial. As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, O’Mara remarked, “We don’t even know what evidence is going to get presented to the actual jury,” O’Mara said. “The network couldn’t have come up with a precise rendition of what the jury will see.” Al Tompkins, who teaches journalistic ethics at the Poynter Institute in Florida, called the use of the focus group by the program’s producers “shameful.” He told the Sentinel: “We have a system in the United States that works pretty well. It’s a system of discovery, of hearings, of cross examinations, and it’s worked pretty darn well for a long time. We have no business trying this case [on television].” Crime blogger Simon Barrett, who has written extensively about the case for the Blogger News Network, remarked on Sunday, “CBS should be taken out back and beaten for putting the program on in the first place. With jury selection set to start in three weeks, this is the best way I can think of to taint a jury pool.” But Susan Zirinsky, the producer of 48 Hours, said in an interview with the Sentinel before the program aired, “We wanted to do a focus group in the place where it had the most coverage. … The results are shocking.” (The focus group agreed that Anthony should be acquitted of first degree murder but convicted of manslaughter.)