On DA’s who voir dire on law and order

I can remember before I was an attorney watching a criminal trial. The DA talked about law and order and CSI and made a joke that this is not TV, we all understand that right???  I did not think anything of it and found it charming. Barf.

When I later became a criminal defense attorney, it became very apparent to me why DAs love to use this in voir dire.  I have watched a lot of law and order SVU.  I yell at the tv screen because the coppers are always violating the constitution and falsely accusing someone but it is in this spin that it all seems perfectly reasonable. One thing that is clear after you watch episode after episode is that, by the end, you are always convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, who is guilty and why.

When DA’s reference law and order, and also CSI, they do so to tell the jurors that what happens in those cases: where it is clear that the defendant is guilty, where there is actually scientific evidence that is reliable of his guilt, where cases are thoroughly investigated, is not how it will be here.  They want to plant that seed that when jurors begin to deliberate and find themselves asking why didn’t they do this or that? the juror will simply say, well, this isn’t law and order, and that’s ok.

I never addressed or pointed out to jurors why the DA does this. The more I have thought about it though, it might be worth pointing out the jury if you can do so in a way that you don’t look like a total asshole and you don’t get objected to.

It is just totally offensive that they are trying to be charming while subliminally poisoning the minds of jurors into this belief that it is ok to take away someone’s liberty when you aren’t really sure and the evidence isn’t really there.

Published by Jenny Brandt

About Me: sociology, african american studies, chicano/a studies, critical race studies, and criminal law scholar. public school kid from kindergarten-J.D. Former public defender. I am a post-conviction guru. Appeals. Sentencing. Withdraw Pleas. Habeas. Published author in the Criminal Law Bulletin and California Defender. "I do it for the joy it brings, because I'm a joyful girl, because the world owes me nothing, and we owe each other the world." Why I started JJC: My PD buddy suggested it. What and who JJC is inspired by: public defenders I have worked for, with, and next to. my clients who have battled things no one should and are still here. innocence and guilt and everything in between. My coworkers, who fight just as hard as the PDs I love, for many of the same reasons. My husband who was once voted "most Christ like" (every Jewish girl's dream). My Corgi who loves everyone. The constitution. Tabloids. My mom, for giving me a voice. My dad, for teaching me what to say. My brother, for teaching me how to say it.

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