Mar 1 2009

Due Process Mugged

You’ve seen it everywhere. It made the cover of Newsweek, the front page of the New York Times “Week in Review”, and the CBS, NBC and ABC news: Manual Noriega’s mug shot, looking just like the criminals at the end of each “Dragnet” episode after Sgt. Joe Friday had brought them to justice.

But what you didn’t often see is an acknowledgment that the release of such mug shots is highly unusual, and may threaten Noriega’s already slim chances of getting a fair trial. The Miami U.S. Attorney’s office claims to have released it “under pressure from the press,” according to the New York Times (1/14/90). “We will not comment very frequently on this case,” U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen said, calling that “the key to success.” Sure, as long as the media are willing to publish prosecution leaks without regard to the defendant’s constitutional rights.

[Below this are two covers:] Newsweek (1/15/90) has “NORIEGA’S NEXT HOME? America’s New Alcatraz” at the top; followed by “EXCLUSIVE The Noriega Files; His Treacherous Links With the Drug Cartel, Castro, Bush and the CIA”, accompanied by a picture of a Noriega mug shot–he in a T-shirt holding the sign:

“U.S. MARSHAL, MIAMI, FL, .0.0.4. ’90”


New York Post (1/5/90) has “CANNED PINEAPPLE” covering half it’s cover, with a subhead “Arrogant Noriega: I’m a political prisoner”; the bottom half shows two photos: one of Noriega surrounded by three police officers restraining him, and the other, the same mug shot as Newsweek.