TV Justice Influencing Reality

Most polls show that a majority of people believe that Casey Anthony is guilty of killing her daughter, Caylee, and that the jury finding her not guilty got it wrong. It brings back memories of the OJ Simpson trial where the same outcome stunned a majority. This is very likely to continue to occur if the trial-by-jury process continues to emulate TV.

The O.J. Simpson case, which became its own TV show, redefined “reasonable” doubt as “any” doubt. OJ’s defense team claimed that a discovered bloody glove was ‘planted’ but had absolutely no evidence to substantiate it. The defense, however, is under no obligation to prove anything and the judge allowed the water to become muddied. Consequently, it has become a standard defense tactic to produce ‘any’ doubt because juries now see it as ‘reasonable’.

TV is not just influencing high-visibility cases; it is falsely defining justice, guilt, forensics, and trials for juries in everyday cases. Infected with what is becoming known as the “CSI Syndrome”, jurors expect forensic evidence to be perfect and leave absolutely no doubt as to the culprit. When it doesn’t live up to that idealistic TV model, they believe they have to acquit. Convinced by TV shows that the incredible forensic labs with genius technicians depicted on TV are available everywhere, they expect TV forensic results.

Another common misconception by juries concerns motive. It is not required in a criminal prosecution but it makes TV plots more interesting and, consequently, is viewed as a requirement. One of the reasons given by an alternate juror for finding Casey Anthony not guilty was that the prosecution “failed to show a motive”. They didn’t have to, but juries have been conditioned by TV to expect it. This given reason proves that TV is influencing jury’s decisions.

When a bad childhood, too many Twinkies, or just the inability of the prosecution to read their minds can help defendants get away with murder, a guilty plea guaranteeing jail time is not attractive. Perhaps when accusing UFO aliens of committing the crime becomes “reasonable” doubt to a jury this trend will cease. Until that time, real trials will continue to become indistinguishable from TV trials and we can expect commercial breaks in the courtroom to become a natural part of the system.

David J. Hentosh

UPDATE: Juror #3 says: “If you’re going to charge someone with murder, don’t you have to know…why they might have killed someone?”  Legally and in reality, the answer is “no”.  On TV, the answer is “yes”.      Juror #3 Speaks.


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One Response to “TV Justice Influencing Reality”

  1. Eddie Says:

    Considering the fact that future potential jurors are not going to stop watching television, maybe it’s time to eliminate jury trials.

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