Trial by Media: a troubling Netflix series on press coverage of the courtroom
The Guardian:  If there’s one case that epitomizes the synonymity of courtroom drama with American television, it’s commonly accepted to be that of OJ Simpson, the celebrated black ex-football player whose acquittal in the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson, and her acquaintance Ron Goldman in 1995 became a months-long national obsession. It spawned its own universe of catch-phrases (“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”) .
and reality stars (the Kardashians) but though grand in celebrity, it was hardly the first case in which court television built frenetic national interest. As the Netflix docuseries Trial by Media reveals, the history of American media’s embedment in the criminal justice system has a much deeper and dizzying history than one sensational, oft-cited case.
Trial by Media, whose executive producers include George Clooney, Court TV creator Steven Brill and longtime CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin (whose book on the Simpson trial inspired Ryan Murphy’s 2016 Emmy-winning drama The People v OJ Simpson) is a deeply researched, bitingly edited sprawl of a series that favors identifying America’s tentacled media and criminal justice system over one pointed argument. It revisits six cases – some famous, others less so – in which the media played an outsized role.
“We wanted a mix of cases that were famous and recognizable, and cases that were … just bizarre and fascinating on their own terms,” Toobin, a New Yorker staff writer, told the Guardian.
The series begins with one of the thorniest examples: the so-called “talkshow murder” in 1995, when a young man from Michigan, Jon Schmitz, shot and killed acquaintance Scott Amedure days after Amedure revealed his crush on Schmitz on an episode of the Jenny Jones Show, a “gotcha”-style daytime program which thrived on ginned-up conflict between guests with little regard for off-air consequences. (The episode featuring Schmitz and Amedure, queasy clips of which are played in the episode, never made it to air.) The episode introduces themes coursing throughout the series: the boon of sensational courtroom television, which broadcast the trial; the toll of attention on participants; the unreality of televised speculation twisting conflicting public sympathies in real time.