Media and the Justice System

The Jinx is an HBO documentary following the life of Robert Durst, the potential killer of three people. It was compared several times to Serial, a podcast following Adnan Syed, the accused killer of his high school ex-girlfriend, as well as his arrest and trial. Before the final episode of The Jinx aired, Durst was arrested in New Orleans. His case was reopened because of several things he said in documentary interviews. Following the finale of Serial, Syed was finally granted an appeal that could potentially get him a new trial.

Both Durst and Syed agreed to have their cases investigated and discussed on some form of public media, and those decisions affected both lives in a significant way. Although the review of Syed’s case led to a potentially more positive outcome than it did for Durst, it is obvious that the portrayal of both cases in the media played a significant role in the justice system taking action. Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 6.06.59 PM

In the case of Syed, I cannot imagine that he is the only person sitting in prison because of a trial based on fairly minimal evidence. The podcast’s reopening of his case and reexamination of the evidence must have had significant impact on the appeal process, as he had tried several times to get an appeal and was only successful after the podcast aired.

For the justice system to consider reopening or investigating a case further, does it need to be featured in some type of media that gains mass appeal? That question might underestimate the justice system in America, but given its resources and the fact that it must investigate current crimes, it seems possible that those convicted years ago with minimal evidence may not have a chance to redeem themselves. The same applies to a person like Robert Durst potentially getting away with murder because police might not have the resources to fully investigate the case. Regardless, I think that the public’s fascination with both of these cases means that we are bound to see more media surrounding true crime in the next few years. I suppose that is a good thing because those involved will be subject to justice a second time.


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