Video of the Week: A Brief History of the Perp Walk

tags: Video of the Week, Perp Walk

Parading the accused and the condemned before the citizenry is an age-old tactic used by those holding power. The most famous example goes back some 2,000 years, when a Jewish preacher from Nazareth was forced to trudge painfully to Calvary. William Wallace, the Scottish independence leader, experienced it being dragged through London before his execution in 1305. French monarchists, during the revolution, endured it as well in the tumbrels carrying them to the guillotine.

That sort of public shaming has not disappeared, even if conducted in 21st-century America with less brutality. The modern version is known as a perp walk. As in days of old, a criminal suspect is displayed in front of a fevered crowd — composed now not of the howling masses but of camera and microphone holders pushing and shouting in sweaty pursuit of the best possible lens angle.

This installment of Retro Report, a series of video documentaries evoking major news stories of the past to help explain the present, examines the evolution of the perp walk because it remains integral to the criminal justice process, notably in media-soaked environments like New York City. Variations of the ritual have recently taken place in criminal cases against the film producer Harvey Weinstein and the former Trump lawyer Michael D. Cohen. With the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III still at work, it would seem reasonable to anticipate more to come.

Read entire article at NYT

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