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'Objection, Your Honor! Television is not the relevant authority.' Crime drama portrayals of eyewitness issues

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Using a coding protocol based on a juror knowledge survey, this study focused on identifying changes, if any, in the prevalence and type of media portrayals of eyewitness issues over time in television crime dramas. Content of 263 episodes of 12 popular television crime dramas from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were coded for 35 specific eyewitness issues with respect to: (1) presence or absence, (2) type (e.g. explicit, implicit), and (3) meanings and implications of these presentations for eyewitness accuracy. Results demonstrated portrayals of eyewitness issues, and the broad topic of memory, generally increased since the 1980s, with prevalence highest in episodes from the 1990s. With rare exceptions, the meanings and implications of the presentation were not made explicit, but were implicitly depicted, inferred from character dialogue or episode events. In general, media portrayals failed to depict a relationship between eyewitness variables and memory accuracy, and, as a result of their omission, the relationships typically differed from those agreed upon by experts.

Keywords: expert testimony; eyewitness testimony; juror knowledge; television portrayal

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: BC Mental Health & Addiction Services, Port Coquitlam, Canada,Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada 2: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA 3: Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada

Publication date: June 1, 2008


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