Ripped from the Headlines: Juror Perceptions in the Law & Order Era
38 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2013 Last revised: 24 Sep 2014
Date Written: August 30, 2013
Film and Media Studies scholars have long claimed that television is a primary source of information about the criminal justice system for most Americans. These scholars have also found that television can significantly impact viewer’s perceptions of the world. In the last decade, Jerry Bruckheimer’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has been the subject of significant scrutiny. Many have claimed that CSI’s highly dramatized, romanticized, and generally unrealistic portrayal of forensic science and the investigative process has significantly altered juror expectations and poses a challenge for lawyers trying criminal cases. The concept has been discussed in nearly 400 news articles and more than 100 academic journal articles. With all of this attention paid to CSI, the impact of Law & Order on jurors’ perceptions of the criminal justice system has been largely overlooked.
In this Article, I analyze the dominant narrative in the Law & Order franchise, demonstrating that the show is rooted in Packer’s Crime Control Model. This Article discusses the various techniques the Law & Order franchise employs to construct that narrative and shape our views, through the use of basic psychological principles, detailed character backstories, casting choices of various characters, and dialogue and specific plot events. This Article considers the potential impact of this narrative on peoples’/jurors’ perceptions of various aspects of criminal investigations and the justice system, including interrogation techniques, eyewitness identification and lineup procedures, and the presumption of innocence. Finally, this Article makes suggestions for future research.
Keywords: criminal law, television, jury, decision making, film
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