I Got the Shotgun: Reflections on The Wire, Prosecutors and Omar Little

17 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2020 Last revised: 26 May 2020

See all articles by Alafair S. Burke

Alafair S. Burke

Hofstra University - Maurice A. Deane School of Law

Date Written: October 21, 2010


The Wire is a show about institutions, the people trapped inside of them, and a society made static by their inaction, indifference, and ineptitude. Whether the series was exploring the drug trade, police departments, city hall, unions, or public schools, the individual actors within those systems were depicted as having little control over either the institutions or their individual fates within them. As a result, the constituencies supposedly served by those institutions continually got the shaft.

To say that The Wire is about the tolls of unmitigated capitalism and inflexible bureaucracies is not to say, however, that the show is silent on, or indifferent to, the criminal justice system that encompasses its main characters. I became especially intrigued by an episode in the first season in which police and prosecutors rely on the testimony of Omar Little in a murder trial, despite doubts about Omar’s first-hand knowledge of the crime. This essay is a reflection on the depiction of law enforcement in The Wire, both generally and with respect to the single scene that first made me a Wire addict.

Keywords: Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Prosecutorial Discretion, The Wire, Policing, Law And Literature, Television

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Burke, Alafair S., I Got the Shotgun: Reflections on The Wire, Prosecutors and Omar Little (October 21, 2010). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Forthcoming, Hofstra Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-33, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1695590

Alafair S. Burke (Contact Author)

Hofstra University - Maurice A. Deane School of Law ( email )

121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
United States
516-463-4243 (Phone)
516-463-4800 (Fax)

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