Seventh Circuit Review


Ryan D. Suniga


Criminal trials make for inherently compelling television. There are very few things as dramatic as watching an individual being forced to defend their liberty. Because of the spectacle associated with criminal proceedings, the legal drama has evolved into a staple of television programing. Media programing like Serial and Making a Murderer can have profound effects on the operation and integrity of criminal proceedings. While televising criminal justice proceedings adds a level of accountability to those procedures, it also creates an opportunity for abuse by allowing the media to negatively influence individuals vital to the integrity of the criminal justice system throughout law enforcement and judicial proceedings.

Recently, the Seventh Circuit addressed some of the concerns posed by televising the criminal justice process in Hart v. Manina, and urged caution in allowing cameras into the courtroom or police interrogations. James Hart was the subject of a murder investigation where the law enforcement was being filmed for a reality television program. During the investigation, the lead detective made mistakes relating to a lineup identification.

This Note explores the concerns associated with media’s involvement in these proceedings more thoroughly, and suggests that in order to protect criminal defendants, and the criminal justice system in general, courts should impose limits on television’s intrusion into courtrooms and police proceedings. These limits should be reasonably designed to balance the benefits associated with televising these events with the potential dangers that television can unleash on the credibility of the criminal justice procedures.

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