Journalists and the Condemned: The Limits of Media Agenda-Setting in Capital Cases
This study investigated the agenda-setting influences on gubernatorial clemency decisions in four Illinois death penalty cases. It found that press coverage of the cases had a limited impact on the discretionary exercise of clemency power, even when a journalistic campaign for clemency mobilized public opinion on behalf of the condemned. Instead, established political, legal, and organizational considerations tended to prevail. The study also examined factors that shaped the media's agenda in the final phase of capital cases, and found that press portrayals were influenced by the same norms that govern the coverage of violent crime, thereby circumscribing public discourse about capital punishment.
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