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'Boys Club and Trial by TV'

November 09, 1987

I would like to comment upon Howard Rosenberg's review ("The 'Boys Club' and Trial by TV," Calendar, Nov. 6). Rosenberg points out that Jim Pittman, the bodyguard of convicted murdered Joe Hunt, the central character in "The Billionaire Boys Club," attempted to stop the broadcast of NBC's program. Without explaining why, Rosenberg concludes, "If there is a third Pittman trial, it may be hard to find jurors who might not have seen the miniseries and been influenced by it. Anyone watching the miniseries almost certainly will be convinced of the guilt of Pittman."

He then turns to the on-going trial in Redwood City of Ben Dosti and Reza Eslaminia for the slaying of Eslaminia's father: "A judge can instruct unsequestered jurors not to watch, but some may watch or hear about it anyway and then be influenced accordingly."

In our legal system, we start with the proposition that the free exchange of information is the single most critical component of a free society. For that reason, freedom of speech and freedom of the press were put in the First Amendment.

The question Rosenberg raises, then, is whether this free flow of information can potentially impact a person's right to a fair trial.

Hunt and Pittman are scheduled to be tried in Redwood City early next year. It is unclear whether Pittman will be tried again, and Hunt will only be retried in L.A. if his conviction is overturned on appeal.

In San Mateo County where Redwood City is located, there are about 537,000 potential jurors. The number in L.A. County is well over 850,000. On average, NBC's miniseries last year were seen by 17.2% of all the people who have TVs. Thus, if "The Billionaire Boys Club" hits NBC's average, there will be 444,636 potential jurors in Redwood City who have not seen the program and over 703,800 in Los Angeles. From such huge groups, surely two sets of 12 people can easily be found who will not have heard of the BBC, Joe Hunt or Jim Pittman.

Rosenberg's assumption that broadcast of the program may affect the Dosti-Eslaminia trial is only slightly more troublesome. The trial judge was aware of our program and specifically instructed the jurors not to watch or discuss it with anyone. Rosenberg assumes that some of the jurors will violate these instructions. It is difficult for me to imagine, however, that these people will so flagrantly ignore their duty.

There is no chance that broadcast of "The Billionaire Boys Club" will affect the legal process, much less harm it.

DONALD L. ZACHARY

NBC Vice President, Law

Burbank

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