Perp Walk Survives Legal Challenge


A legal challenge to the “perp walk” — that time-honored ritual in which prosecutors parade people charged with crimes in front of the media so they can snap pictures of them looking shame-faced — was defeated on Friday.

Roger Corbin, a Democratic legislator from Long Island who was accused of tax evasion earlier this month, tried to get a judge to stop Newsday and News 21 from photographing him in handcuffs in front of the court.

Nassau County judge Arthur Spatt wasn’t buying the politician’s arguments. Though Spatt said he was “troubled” by “repeated use” of Corbin’s photograph with his hands handcuffed behind his back when there were “numerous” other photographs of him available from his 14 years as a lawmaker, he said he lacked the authority to “censor the press in this matter and cannot instruct the press as to what images are newsworthy.”

Corbin, who was criticized by his Democratic colleagues for frequently voting with Republicans, is accused of evading income taxes on $226,000 he received from a developer, and then lying to federal agents about it.

We journalists are always quick to cheer a First Amendment victory, but let’s keep in mind how the perp walk relates to the journalistic obligation to be critical of government action. When a D.A.’s office decides that, instead of escorting a person who is still (let’s not forget) presumed innocent out of the back of the courthouse, they’re going to walk that person in handcuffs before the eager media waiting out front, they’re doing so to bolster their own images and careers. And we play right into it. Photo (cc) bkrealtist.