The first three paragraphs of this article push one of my hot buttons, so you might take that into account when considering my recommendation.
However, I really like Kathryn Schulz’s “Dead Certainty”, about “Making a Murderer” specifically, and the general trend of reporters conducting their own “extrajudicial investigations”.
Nearly seventy years have passed since Erle Stanley Gardner first tried a criminal case before the jury of the general public. Yet we still have not thought seriously about what it means when a private investigative project—bound by no rules of procedure, answerable to nothing but ratings, shaped only by the ethics and aptitude of its makers—comes to serve as our court of last resort.
Schulz puts her finger on something that’s bugged me for a while. I’m not proud of this, but I used to watch “America’s Most Wanted”. Sometimes, it reminded me of a scene from “Fahrenheit 451″, where Montag is being pursued and the pursuit is broadcast live on television, complete with a host who sounds a lot like John Walsh.
I don’t have a dog in this fight: I didn’t watch “Making a Murderer” and I didn’t listen to “Serial”. But I think what Schulz says is worth thinking about:
It is largely because of these systemic weaknesses in our judicial system that we find ourselves with a court of last resort. While that court cannot directly operate the levers of the law, it has drawn attention to cases that need review, and innocent people have been freed as a result. Yet in the decades since Erle Stanley Gardner launched his column, none of the forces that put those people in prison in the first place have changed for the better. Nor have we evolved a set of standards around extrajudicial investigations of criminal cases. However broken the rules that govern our real courts, the court of last resort is bound by no rules at all.