The Media’s influence on Juries

The media now is part of almost every aspect of our lives. A study indicated that Americans spend about 30% of their waking hours using media singularly, and 39% involved using media while also doing another activity (Lamb, 2005). With these much access to TV news, newspapers, and social media, how are jurors not affected by the media? And, how does this affect the justice system’s verdicts?

First of all, the way the legal system is presented on media could affect a juror’s decision. Many people watch TV shows such as “Law and Order” or “NCSI,” and has possibly seen movies about criminal cases as well. These shows and TV movies could potentially portray Judges, Lawyers, witnesses and other people involved in a case in certain ways, and watching these could ultimately influence a juror’s preconceptions and expectations about the legal system. For example, a psychologist in a movie who is giving a testimony about the defendant could be portrayed as not being good at his job, and his testimony could be the key piece that makes the jurors reach a conclusion. The person watching this movie could make the assumption that not all psychologists are not the best at their jobs, and if they are selected to be part of a jury in a case that involves the testimony of a psychologist, then their decision could be influenced by what they saw in that movie.

Learning about the case they are working on could not only be affected by the media exposure of that specific case, but also the verdict the jurors reach could be affected by previous cases. In a mock jury study that included trial testimony by an eyewitness to an assault-a prosecution witness, it was determined that publicity about previous cases similar to the one in the study influenced the decision the jury made. Several mock jurors mentioned that after hearing about another case and the errors the jurors committed when arriving to their verdict, they put little faith in the prosecution’s eyewitness testimony, and that helped them reach their own verdict (Greene, 1990).

Additionally, with easy access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, jurors could potentially know the factors that involve a case even . this could affect the jury selection more, because a large part of society has access to these sites, and finding a person who has not heard much about a big case will be difficult.  Jurors in a case with extensive media coverage will likely have developed some biases about the case based on the media information to which they have been already exposed. If jurors who have no access to the media or social media, then it makes one think more about their possible judgement when it comes to reaching a verdict. Will this person make the right decision, and are they capable of critically think about the evidence and facts about a case that are presented to them?


Greene, E. (1990). Media effects on jurors. Law and Human Behavior, 14(5), 439-450. doi:10.1007/BF01044221

Gregory M. Lamb Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor. (2005, ). We swim in an ocean of media: ALL edition. The Christian Science Monitor

1 comment

  1. Elizabeth A Fahey

    This post is jarring and a great wake-up call to anyone involved in the judicial system. Because of the prevalence of entertainment vehicles based on law enforcement scenarios, the viewers feel that what they watch is an accurate portrayal of what actually occurs within the legal system. I’m sure if you asked many public defenders and courtroom stenographers, the fiction is similar, but probably much more glorified and exaggerated. The exaggerations are what keep viewers interested week after week. This is where it is so important for parents to be involved with whatever their children are exposed to on the internet, television and social media. As parents and adults, we have a responsibility to our children to reinforce the concept that television is not reality. We also have a duty to develop critical thinking in our youth. (I could take a tangent and talk about standardized testing here, but that would be better suited for another blog post). It is essential to teach our children about things like the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law.
    I have been summoned to jury duty 5 times so far. One time, I was selected to be the foreperson of a jury in a civil trial involving negligence in a traffic accident in Portland, OR. On our first poll, all but 2 jurors felt that the defendant (an immigrant for whom English was his second language) was negligent. After reading the definition of negligence AND looking at the evidence that was provided (not what we thought we saw, but what we actually saw), the 10 jurors changed their minds and we found the defendant not-guilty. It boiled down to what our actual instructions were, not what our preconceived ideas of negligence were. It was a terrific lesson in civic duty and critical thinking for all twelve of us. Unfortunately, I think we were the exception as opposed to the rule. I would encourage all judges and attorneys that work with the jurors to carefully educate the panel on what the obligations are and what the law really states. It’s imperative to the very fabric of our judicial system.

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