Sunday, November 2, 2014
"Oh I know all about this. I watch Law & Order" Why You May Want to Dismiss This Juror
Attending law school drastically changed the way I enjoyed my primetime television. I now find it very hard to enjoy shows like "How to Get Away With Murder" or "Law & Order," as I'm too busy making objections that their fictional opposing counsel should have. However, for several jurors they walk into their jury duty with the Shonda Rhimes guide to Criminal Procedure and that is all. Researchers are finding these notions of the justice system can have big implications for how a juror processes the evidence in a case.
Many of these shows shape for individuals what the "typical defendant" is supposed to look like, or better yet what a guilty person looks like. This is known as criminal prototyping. In addition to criminal prototyping, jurors also may employ the methods they watched on CSI the week before to determine what true investigative process looks like. Your officer on the stand may not hold a candle to the young lab geniuses that appear every Thursday night. Further, these super sleuths are typically charged with the tasks of a forensic pathologist, detective, and district attorney in one hour long segment.
Researchers have identified some of these preconceived juror expectations as the "CSI effect. Many attorneys, judges, and journalists have claimed that watching television programs like CSI has caused jurors to wrongfully acquit guilty defendants when no scientific evidence was presented. According to one judge surveyed by the National Institute of Justice, "I once heard a juror complain that the prosecution had not done a thorough job because "they didn't even dust the lawn for fingerprints." http://www.nij.gov/journals/259/pages/csi-effect.aspx
Even more than potential problems with burden, many of the new courtroom dramas paint attorneys as "showmen" rather than advocates following procedure and rules. Jurors may wonder why the attorney isn't as charismatic as the lady they saw on ABC, or find their jury experience far more boring than the murder trials in their favorite show.
Luckily, finding out what kind of "courtroom knowledge" your jury pool may be coming in with is one of the easier topics an attorney can address on voir dire. Because these shows are so prevalent and engrained in today's social media, making these inquiries can help the attorney become likeable to the jury, but also reveal any of your potential venire who has an tv degree in crime scene forensics. In light, of the growing prevalence, this topic should be addressed by attorneys much more often where they are dealing with criminal cases.