Friday, July 15, 2005

Wait, TV Isn't Real?

Mike Dooley reminds us that you can't take believe everything you see on television:
More and more, police, attorneys and judges involved in the criminal justice system say they’re encountering jurors who take what they see on TV shows as gospel. “They want everything solved in an hour,” said Deputy Prosecutor Steve Godfrey. “They expect it to be like what they’ve seen on television.”

Several jurors involved in recent criminal trials in Allen County said they’ve watched the shows, and some of them said they were left with slightly mistaken expectations of what they’d see and do at a real trial. One questioned why prosecutors didn’t offer certain evidence – in his case, fingerprints – but said he later realized investigators may not have been able to collect prints from items at the crime scene.

All the jurors, who wished to remain unnamed, said their panel included at least one person who referred to something they’d seen on the shows. The most common remark, they said, was “they didn’t do that on TV.” Because of confidentiality rules, people selected for jury duty are identified only by a number, and their identities are not revealed even to attorneys involved in the case.

Still, is seems there is an upside to jurors with crime scene savvy.

Deputy Chief Karl Niblick, who heads the Fort Wayne Police Department’s crime scene unit, said the shows have had a mixed effect on his division and its employees. “On one hand, those shows have taken some things to the extreme, and they’ve dealt with some things that are unreasonable,” Niblick said. “But they’ve forced us to do a better job. You can’t criticize them for that.”

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