This paper’s topic is over the articles that CNN uses under its “Crime + Justice” category. The articles selected for the paper show multiple different cases that would be considered “celebrated cases” under “The Wedding Cake Model of Criminal Justice”. After looking through many of the articles, it appears all the cases under the category would be considered high profile and popular which is what fits under celebrated cases. In conclusion, after analyzing the cases that were picked, it seems CNN picks controversial topics that would get people thinking about specific ideas and whether things are being done correctly.
Another model of justice was developed by Samuel Walker who attempts to demonstrate how cases move through the system and may be treated differently by media and society. This model referred to as the Wedding Cake Model Theory, is unique because it differentiates types of crimes by how serious the offense is, the offender’s criminal record, and the victim and offender relationship. It is referred to as a wedding cake because of the different tiers or layers on a cake. Take a moment to glance at the wedding cake below and notice that wedding cakes often have different layers and the bottom tends to be the largest with the top being the smallest. This section will explain what each layer would resemble in the criminal justice system.
We are going to work our way from the bottom of the cake, or the most significant piece, to the smallest piece on top. In the criminal justice system, the bottom layer of the model would represent the most significant number of cases handled by the system, which often includes misdemeanors and traffic violations. This layer may also get comprised of first-time offenders of less severe crimes. Misdemeanors are the least dangerous types of crimes which can include, depending on where location, public intoxication, prostitution, graffiti, among others. Imagine getting caught tagging a park wall and never being caught for a crime before, which is where this crime would fall. These are often the crimes most of us have committed, but also most of us may not have been caught or punished. A misdemeanor may result in a monetary fine, rather than jail time.
The Wedding Cake Model theory not only helps us better understand the operation of the criminal justice system but also how our perceptions of crime and criminality can be skewed by what gets reported in the news. It is uncommon for us to hear or read reports on the most common types of crimes, the bottom tier. When we get bombarded with the crimes that are more at the top, celebrated cases, we may begin to think that is the reality.
Our society is so obsessed with the celebrated cases that we often talk a lot about them, cover them extensively on the news, and live in fear because of them. Students in a class that are pro-death penalty often say, “I reserve it for all the Ted Bundy’s in the world.” They are rare, but we fear them! Take this news link that shares s of his last meals on death row.
If a person were speeding five over on the interstate, it is unlikely they would get pulled over, or spend time in court. They are likely to pay the fine which admits guilt. However, if they cannot afford the fine, it would require them to go to jail, which brings in a whole host of other issues. The bottom layer of the cake often does not require a person to go to trial because most people with minor crimes are given and accept plea bargains. If one were to go to jail for a misdemeanor, it is typically for less than one year.
Layer 2: Serious Felonies
The second layer of the wedding cake model includes serious felonies. On this layer of the cake, the criminal justice system engages in its standard operating procedure. There are not the same external factors impacting the system as there are in celebrated cases. Serious felonies are cases involving those types of crimes in which a defendant is not likely to be released on bail. There is a lesser chance that the defendant will enter into a plea agreement before trial.
Layer 1: Celebrated Cases
The top layer of the wedding cake model theory of criminal justice includes the celebrated cases. These types of cases garner a great deal of media attention because the crimes are unusual or because the defendants are celebrities or high-ranking officials. The manner in which these types of cases are undertaken is not typical of the operation of the criminal justice system. Because they are such high-profile cases, there are factors that need to be taken into consideration that do not exist in more typical criminal cases. These include everything from cameras in the courtroom to crowd control. By their very nature, examples of celebrated cases are obvious: OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, Bernie Madoff and so forth.
Which layer of the criminal justice wedding cake consists of less serious felonies?
What are the four criminal justice models?
What are the celebrated cases?