I’m watching 48 Hours, a show I almost never watch. I am usually quite skeptical of shows dissecting unpopular acquittals in criminal cases. Often such shows are simplistic and sensationalistic. The television producers take a single case, present as much damning evidence as they can, and fail to place the jury’s actions in any sort of context. Juries arrive at verdicts based on the evidence placed before them. Some of the information presented by the program, mostly involving the alleged motive for the murder, was not information the jury was allowed to hear. The judge ruled that the prosecution had not shown the evidence in question to be relevant enough to outweigh its inflammatory nature. Did the judge make a bad decision in disallowing the evidence in question? Maybe. Did the television cherry-pick the most sensationalist evidence, hoping to throw the verdict in doubt, creating another “this is how broken the system is” screed? More likely.
One piece intrigued me, though. The show included an interview with the jury consultant who helped the defense pick the jurors that they would try to keep and those they would try to get rid of. (I have rather mixed feelings about jury consultant firms. I’m sure they work — or they would continue to exist — but their existence makes me feel uncomfortable for reasons I cannot quite articulate.) The jury consultant talked about how she and the defense used the television shows the prospective jurors liked to determine whether or not they would try to exclude them. According to the consultant, liking The Good Wife meant that you were likely to be skeptical of law enforcement, whereas liking Bluebloods or Criminal Minds indicated that you would be more likely to favor the prosecution.
Really? I can’t speak for Bluebloods, but Criminal Minds is one of my favorite network shows. I like that there is ambiguity — even though the series is about serial killers, a lot of the villains are humanized. There is a sense that the underlying message is that all of us are closer to the abyss than we like to think about. I think it asks more of its viewers than, say, CSI.
I love Criminal Minds, and I tend to be very suspicious of law enforcement. I would be a great person for a defense team to have on their jury.
(Well, maybe not: in the case under examination on the show, the theory of the case that resulted in an acquittal (namely, that all of the DNA evidence at the crime scene was a result of DNA transfer) was only introduced in the defense’s closing argument. I would have wondered why they did not mention it earlier, and note that they introduced it in such a way that the prosecution could not produce expert witnesses to rebut it.)