Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Does Watching Tiger King Make You a Better Litigator?

Will binge-watching Tiger King or Making a Murderer improve your trial skills?

Possibly, says one litigator and aficionado of true crime TV and podcasts. 

“Most, if not all of us, know someone in love with true-crime documentaries (if we aren’t that person ourselves),” writes Oklahoma trial lawyer Adam Banner in this article for the ABA Journal. “Humans love to play detective. As the younger generation that grew up with shows like Making a Murderer and Tiger King come of age, they’ll be the ones receiving summonses. With that knowledge, it might be beneficial for trial attorneys to start reframing their approach to communicating with juries.”

Banner says familiarizing yourself with popular criminal shows and true-crime podcasts will help you understand the mindset of potential jurors and witnesses.

“[I]f we can get the jury members actively involved in our story, they are more apt to embrace our narrative,” he writes. “If we can get them hooked, it’s more likely we can get them committed to our cause.”

The best way to hook a jury is engage them in telling your story.

“Many attorneys feel the need to give the jury every fact necessary to paint the whole picture,” writes Banner. “But when dealing with true-crime-fan jurors, we need to resist the urge to solve the puzzle for them. Our need to be good storytellers remains, but the way we tell our stories may need to change.

“If you play your cards right, you’ll find yourself delivering a closing with a bunch of jurors nodding in approval,” says Banner. “They’ll feel as though they beat you to the punch and figured out whodunit (or who didn’t—as is often more important in the criminal trials I defend). That sense of accomplishment will not only keep them engaged throughout the proceeding, but it will also go a long way toward aligning them with your side.”

Read “Can the True-Crime Genre Help Attorneys With Their Jury Trials?” in the ABA Journal here.

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Five Best True-Crime Podcasts

Here are the five top true-crime podcasts as ranked by Rolling Stone (quotes are from the Rolling Stone article):

  1. Firebug. “In the ‘80s and ‘90s, an arsonist used a unique incendiary device made with a coin, a cigarette, and a book of matches to set dozens of fires in Southern California.”
  2. Through the Cracks. “WAMU reporter Jonquilyn Hill tells the story of Relisha Rudd, who disappeared from a Washington, D.C. homeless shelter in 2014 when she was just eight years old.”
  3. Crimes of the Centuries. “In the Obsessed Network’s weekly Crimes of the Centuries,  [journalist Amber] Hunt picks major crime stories like the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, H.H. Holmes’ murder mansion, or Fatty Arbuckle’s rape case, which might not be common knowledge today, but went the pre-internet equivalent of viral.”
  4. Stolen: The Search for Jermain. “Connie Walker has been making podcasts about missing and murdered indigenous women for years. A Cree from Saskatchewan, Canada, Walker grew up on a reserve, like many of her subjects, giving her intimate insight into the women whose stories she tells. The eight-part Search for Jermain finds the podcaster digging into a more recent case: the 2018 disappearance of a young mother who went missing after leaving a bar in Missoula, Montana.”
  5. Dr. Death Season 3: Miracle Man. “In addition to rooting for the non-criminal surgeons struggling to get [Dr. Paolo] Macchiarini kicked out of the profession, one of the more enthralling facets of this seven-part tale of medical nightmares and narcissism run wild is witnessing this dangerous doctor deceive a seasoned television producer and pull her totally off her professional game.”

Sources: ABA Journal and Rolling Stone/Yahoo Entertainment


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About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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