Many people get their information on how law, lawyers, and trials work through television depictions, but due to the escapism concept of our daily entertainment, Hollywood’s skewed representation has many guessing what is true or false about the law and trials.
While Hollywood may distort our reality, it is clear that we, as a people, wouldn’t have it any other way. So instead, here is a look at common myths and misrepresentations of trial law.
Confessions – There are plenty of docu-series about it at this point (Thanks Netflix!), but yet, as a whole, the public still seems to believe that confessions are proof of guilt. However, due to interrogation tactics, mental instabilities, exhaustion, and fear cause an unsettling amount of innocent people to offer detailed confessions to crimes that did not commit.
Guilty Pleas – It is alarming how many guilty pleas are given when, in fact, many people take guilty pleas out of fear of longer sentences. Rather than take the chance of extreme sentencing, people, even some innocent, are often forced or coerced into accepting a guilty plea to avoid jail time and other consequences.
Reliable Memories – Most often, within television shows and movies, witnesses are brought on the stand to share their memory of the encounter. While it was once believed that memories acted like film, the hard truth is that human memory is incredibly flawed, with the mind distorting and embellishing memories.
Miranda Rights – In nearly every show–maybe not every episode, but definitely every show– there is a case where the “bad guy” gets away due to the police’s mistake of forgetting to read the villain’s Miranda rights. This person gets away free, and the police have to wait for the next crime. While the lack of a Miranda reading can eliminate the obtained confession, prosecutors are still able to charge the defendant with other evidence.
Written Laws – We know things about the law that are written down, like the Constitution or the Bill of Rights; however, much of what makes the U.S. what it is, is common law, or the legal principles existing previous within court decisions. Most laws concerning negligence or contract law are common law and cannot be found written in statute.
Fingerprint Proof – Forensic evidence has been called into question recently by scientists and scholars alike. The seemingly simple process acts as more like art than science, and when tested by scientific methods, fingerprint examiners were revealed to have a significant error rate.