CSI and Its Effects: Media, Juries, and the Burden of Proof

Simon A. Cole & Rachel Dioso-Villa

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Deciding between the guilt and innocence of an accused criminal is the weightiest of the weighty tasks that law sets for itself. Such decisions can terminate free individuals’ life and liberty, and they can bestow or deny justice to free individuals who have been terribly victimized. Law’s mechanisms for making such decisions are unabashedly imperfect. Law manages to live with this imperfection through the belief that these imperfect mechanisms are preferable to the alternatives. In U.S. law, the ultimate authority for this decision is vested in the jury, a non-expert democratic body. The law exerts a great deal of control over the supply of information to the jury, but the actual decision-making process is treated as sacrosanct and generally outside the purview of the law. American law’s faith in the jury bespeaks a faith in deliberative democracy, the wisdom of numbers, and in common sense.
41 New Eng. L. Rev. 435


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