As legal commentators, our role is, first and foremost, to educate the public and the media. The next thing that a commentator can do is, of course, provide some type of expertise. An experienced lawyer or legal commentator should know enough to say, if given the opportunity, that a certain fact will not necessarily make a difference in the case because the jurors will not hear it or because it is unrelated to the legal issues in the case. Another thing legal commentators can do is address problems in the presentation of what the law and the legal process is. Legal commentators, and this comes up in more recent cases, can aptly point out the problems with different types of forensic evidence, including lie detector tests. If the legal commentator does not know the problems, he certainly should be able to refer the media and the public to those experts who do. That is one of the roles of the legal commentator: to warn the public that science is helpful, but there are many factors, such as the collection of evidence, the corruption of evidence, and the way that evidence is presented to the jury, that can impact how devastating the scientific evidence will or will not be. I believe that legal commentators, like reporters, have to recognize that we all have inherent biases and that we have to do our best to either set them aside or, at minimum, disclose what they are. Indeed, legal commentators must do the job that reporters do not always do, which is, constantly, as a lawyer would look for the conflicts, take steps to ensure that they are not misleading the public.


Symposium: Toward More Reliable Jury Verdicts - Law, Technology, and Media Development since the Trials of Dr. Sam Sheppard

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