Obsessed with True Crime Docs? It May Be Ruining How You See the Justice System
While true crime has always been an obsession for Americans, there has been an increase in true crime influencers and online media in general. Netflix documentaries like Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer and American Murder: The Family Next Door give an interesting glimpse into how social media played a significant role in the investigation of two horrific murders. However, as is the case with social media, some people begin to take the role of “armchair detective” to heart.
The rise of true crime influencers and online detectives has influenced the general public that online users are just as qualified, if not more, as law enforcement officials to solve crimes. This type of thinking is dangerous for several reasons; one of the main reasons is that it actually affects the rights of the accused in a negative manner.
Why are the actions of true crime influencers and online detectives dangerous?
There are true crime influencers on various forms of social media who cover crimes and mysteries out of genuine interest or from a sense of awareness. While some of the content online is well researched and detail-oriented, some online users begin to speculate and assume the guilt of the alleged perpetrator of a crime based on the evidence presented.
The accused has already been deemed guilty in the court of social media before an actual trial has taken place in real life. Even worse, the true-crime influencer or online detective develops a false sense of pride at solving a case that was already solved. The actual work of collecting evidence and establishing the facts of a case has already been performed by law enforcement officials.
Do true crime influencers actually hurt people accused of crimes?
Yes, they do! And the primary method for this is speculation. True crime influencers and online detectives may or may not be as knowledgeable about the law and statutes from different regions and states. In addition to the lack of knowledge concerning criminal law, these armchair detectives are usually not as diligent about verifying whatever information is circulating about the crime. Similar to other social media platforms, the anonymity behind an account allows anyone to make any type of statement, regardless of whether that statement is true.
Instead, the may find themselves in positions where they are spreading false information and speculation. These types of actions have disastrous consequences for the individual accused of a crime.
Every person accused of a crime has a right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Unfortunately, the online true crime community thinks otherwise. Even if there is evidence that the person accused of a crime may not have been responsible for the crime, some online detectives and true crime influencers will still find a way to justify why the accused is still guilty.
Should the crime that the person is accused of transition into a trial, the person’s case can be tainted during trial selection. In a criminal trial, one of the factors that determine whether a person is selected to serve in a jury is how much the potential juror is aware of the case. This is where true crime influencers and online detectives cause a negative impact on a person’s case.
Because a majority of people receive their information from social media, it is easy to go online and look up any information regarding the case. This will taint the jury pool, making it difficult to find truly neutral parties to serve on that jury. This also increases the chance of having to seek a venue change, which can be complicated. Bad publicity is a leading cause of venue change requests, but they are not guaranteed.
Do true crime influencers harm the victims and families?
Some of the actions taken by true crime influencers and online detectives cause harm not only to the accused person of a crime but to the victims or the victim’s family. Presenting misinformation online about victims or the accused can cause torment to their family members. One example of this incident happening is the actions of online users on the website Reddit. During the Boston Marathon bombing, there were online detectives who publicly declared that a student named Sunil Tripathi was responsible for the bombing.
This devastated Tripathi’s family, who at the time were searching for their son. It was later revealed that Tripathi was not involved at all with the bombing. In fact, to make matters worse, it was revealed that he was deceased. These accusations did nothing to lower the blow for Tripathi’s family, who have to be reminded of this tragedy every time the Boston Marathon Bombing is referenced.
Finally, but equally important, is the false sense of hope that the accused AND the victims may feel when they hear their case is being picked up by the online community. Often, victims feel like maybe this time, their loved one will be avenged. The accused feel like this time, the truth of their innocence will come out. Sometimes it works out for one party and not the other, but more often than not, everyone goes away disappointed. As attorneys who help people accused of crimes they did not commit, as well as people who have been victims of attacks, we cannot stress enough how terrible this can be for people’s mental health, and how much additional burden it creates.
We know that true crime podcasts and shows can be fun – we’re watching Only Murders in the Building, too – but the truth is that they are causing irreparable harm to defendants and victims alike, not to mention local and state law enforcement officials whose work is cherry-picked to skew an audience’s perception. We would never suggest you not watch your favorite show or listen to your favorite podcast, but we beg you to remember that these are for entertainment purposes only. The real work is done by countless attorneys and legal aid societies behind the scenes, not online influencers looking to score likes and subscribers.
The Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates will work hard to protect your rights in criminal defense cases. We work tirelessly to defend your rights and build a case that helps you fight the charges levied against you. Call our office today at 615-977-9370 or submit a contact form to schedule your free initial consultation. We serve clients in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood.