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Courts: Fiction vs. Reality

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Courts: Fiction vs. Reality

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Americans depend a great deal on entertainment to educate them about life. In several ways Americans live vicariously through the actors and actresses on television and believe themselves to learn many things from those actors and actresses. For example, many people have said they learned medical techniques by watching medical shows on television or believe they would know what to do in a medical emergency because they have seen it done on television. The same goes for Americans’ knowledge about Court hearings and the judicial system. Many things are done on television by actors playing lawyers or judges that are done just for the purpose of entertainment. “Reality-based” Court shows such as Judge Judy, People’s Court and Divorce Court dominate television ratings every day. Because the judicial system is not well understood by most people or learned in school or explained by the media, people often only have television accounts of the judicial process to educate them. This has resulted in the majority of Americans having distorted beliefs about law, courts, and the trial process. One of the major differences between fictional portrayals of the court process and reality is how the trial process is portrayed. In reality, trials are not fast-paced, exciting procedures. They are long and boring procedures. Attorneys debate for hours, present their evidence, and ask questions that only make sense to the judge or other attorneys. Many things are said and many witnesses may be brought in to testify. It is very rare that anything exciting actually happens. Trials portrayed in movies such as A Time to Kill or Runaway Jury, have us believe that shocking facts are discovered and quick thinking attorneys make major differences in trial outcomes. They misrepresent reality by showing crafty defense attorneys suddenly calling a witness or presenting evidence that instantly Fiction 3

proves the defendant is innocent.
In reality, trials do...