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The Media Does Its Hanging Judge Act, Before the Trial

Glen Rogers is obviously guilty. Man oh man, is he guilty.

Many who’ve had brushes with him insist he’s a serial murderer, the lethal loverboy who went on a cross-country killing binge that lasted seven weeks. The accusations are supported by his long criminal record and history of violence. Plus, he led cops in Kentucky on a high-speed car chase before they captured him. And he looked plenty mean when growling at a TV reporter who asked him how many people he’d slain. This guy is some rotten apple.

Obviously guilty. Has to be. Unquestionably. Open and shut. Bring out the shackles. Warm up the chair. Apply the noose. Yet. . . .

What if he isn’t guilty?

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What if authorities have the wrong man? It’s a long shot, but what if, despite the tonnage of circumstantial evidence cited against Rogers so far, the sure thing turns out to be not at all sure? What if he’s merely a bad guy but no murderer? What if his denials are on the level? What if the stories about him are exaggerated? It wouldn’t be the first time that such mania was misplaced. Remember the McMartin preschool case?

If he isn’t being prejudged, how then to justify the level of coverage heaped upon Rogers, the daily massive updates on TV, the close scrutiny of all the victims attributed to him, the background probes, the psychoanalysis from afar, the live reports from Kentucky and a general frenzy by media looking for a new gig to get them through the post-O.J. doldrums?

The sheer weight of it--arriving on TV just in time for the November ratings sweeps--indicts Rogers as murderer of the multitudes.

So much for being innocent until proved guilty.

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Tossing in an occasional “allegedly” doesn’t soften the strong implication of guilt, one that has whipped up public opinion against Rogers to the extent that authorities may feel compelled to proceed with murder charges against him only in response to the expectations that have been raised.

Of course, this is just speculation. Surely he is guilty. Must be. Bank on it. But if he’s not guilty, many in the media are.

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GERRI AGAIN. The PBS series “P.O.V.” two weeks ago aired a haunting documentary, “Leona’s Sister Gerri,” that traced the life of a 28-year-old woman who died in 1964 following an illegal abortion and whose grisly death photo was subsequently appropriated by abortion-rights activists as a symbol of their cause.

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Tonight, “P.O.V.” airs the second of two follow-up programs, this one featuring viewer responses to the documentary via e-mail, voice mail, faxes and home videos in the form of letters. (It airs at 10 p.m. on KCET-TV Channel 28.)

The result is fascinating and instructive, not only because of the technologies employed, but especially because the comments are a refreshing counterpoint to the inflammatory hotspeak that so often spews from talk radio brouhahas covering abortion, to say nothing of the vacuity of 900-number insta-polls on volatile topics that some newscasts and tabloids operate solely as gimmicks.

Addressing both the abortion and privacy issues, tonight’s responses are sometimes as raw, personal and emotional as any on the airwaves, but they are presented in an atmosphere of calm and reason that gives them cogency. There’s no demagogic talk-show host with an agenda, only America speaking.

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DEEPENING POCKETS. Yes, Marcia Clark and Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. signed book deals for advances in the $4.2-million range, as publishers continue throwing fortunes at just about anyone who has come within earshot of the O.J. Simpson case.

Pardon my smugness, though, but let’s just say I won again.

Only this week I completed negotiations for my own blockbuster book, “My Journey to Wealth: I Have Nothing to Say About the O.J. Simpson Case That You Haven’t Already Heard or Read but Am Getting Big Bucks to Write About It Anyway.”

The publisher, Chutzpah House, is the foremost source of superfluous nonfiction by Jewish Americans aimed at judgmentally challenged suckers who will buy anything with Simpson’s name on it.

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Naturally, there was enormous excitement about my first chapter, “O.J. and Hanukkah: There’s No Connection So Let’s Move On to Another Topic.” Chapter 2, “Bar Mitzvah Boys With No Opinion of O.J. or His Golf Game,” also caught the interest of Chutzpah House. As did my chapter “I Spin the Dreidel, Not Tales of Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden.”

Ditto the depth of historical perspective in my chapter “The O.J. Simpson and Alfred Dreyfus Cases: They’re Unrelated, So Comparing Them Would Be Foolhardy.” As well as the brutal frankness of the chapter “My Thoughts on the Prosecution Team? Don’t Ask.”

What really sold my book proposal, however, was my concluding chapter, “A Jewish Man’s Reflections on the Simpson Case: I Have None.”

This book is very important to me. I want it to remind people of my never-ending battle to uphold my lavish standard of living and that one selfless person really can make a difference. According to Chutzpah House, there is a great market out there for ambitious authors with nothing new to say about the Simpson case. And I aim to tap it.

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