KWIKH attorney Kate Mangels was recently quoted in Jennifer Chung’s the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal article that explores both positive and negative portrayals of law and the legal system in crime documentaries. Crime documentaries, when depicting events accurately, can provide viewers with helpful insight of how the justice system works.
“A lot of true crime documentaries focus on law enforcement as a key part of the legal system,” Kate said. “That portrayal can at times be sensationalized, but it does give some view into the processes and procedures that go into an investigation up to trial.” Kate advised that documentaries can even shed light on cold cases, such as the Golden State Killer investigation series, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.”
Oppositely, crime documentaries have the power to unfairly portray the legal system by focusing on notorious cases and fixating on imperfections in the legal system. Some crime documentary creators may also prioritize viewer engagement over accurate, factual representations of real crimes.
Information must also be condensed to fit into the allotted programming time, and omissions of information may negatively impact reputations before a verdict has been reached. In these cases, Kate asserts that the audience has a responsibility to recognize that allegations do not necessarily indicate that charges will be proven. She also warns about the potential negative consequences for victims.
“There’s always the danger of a victim’s story being exploited as part of a documentary, particularly when it involves criminal cases,” Kate shared.
The full article originally appeared in the December 21, 2021 issue of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal. The full article can be found here (subscription required).