The Effects of Crime Media on Reality

54 Am. Crim. L. Rev. Online 9

Destiny Howell*

In today's pop-culture climate, there is no shortage of shows depicting the American criminal justice system. In the 2015–2016 season, thirteen of the top fifty shows on broadcast network television (based on viewership) were crime dramas or police procedurals. Thirteen new network shows of the 2016–2017 season have some kind of criminal justice element. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is currently the longest-running scripted, non-animated U.S. primetime series, followed closely by NCIS, another procedural. The public's fascination with the criminal justice system is thus reflected in these media sensations.

Many Americans get their knowledge of the criminal justice system from these television programs, rather than personal experience. Given the overwhelming popularity of the genre, this piece explores the potential effects these programs have on the criminal justice system. Evidence suggests that crime media affects the general public's perception of crime, and commentators have spoken extensively on the effect that crime dramas supposedly have on jury members. Although it is not clear whether these programs have any significant effects on the outcome of trials, evidence suggests that any such effects are more closely correlated to influences on attorneys, rather than influences on jury members.

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