We hope that this blog gives you an insiders look behind the courthouse doors of the Lower Hudson Valley.
When people ask me what it’s like covering murder trials and other legal matters for a living, my answer is always the same — real courtrooms do not work like the ones on television. No where is this more evident than on “Law & Order” which I think is now the longest-running courtroom drama on TV. When I watched the premiere last week, I laughed thinking how much easier my job would be if trials were this quick and as easy. I envy L&O’s fictional newspaper reporters.
But L&O has influenced the collective cultural opinion of the court system so much, judges here have to remind people coming for jury duty that L&O and other TV trials won’t be like the trial they’re about to sit through.
To illustrate that point, here are some differences between “Law & Order” and your typical high-profile homicide trial in the Lower Hudson Valley:
Time from arrest to trial
L&O: 30 minutes
LHV: 1-2 years
Length of trial
L&O: 13-15 minutes
LHV: 3-5 weeks
L&O: Occasionally, for a few seconds
LHV: Always, for many, many minutes
Number of prosecution witnesses
L&O: 30 seconds
LHV: 30 minutes to 2 days
L&O: Frequently, without protest from opposing counsel
LHV: Rarely, and always with strong objections
L&O: 1 minute
LHV: 1-2 hours
L&O: Musical accompaniment
LHV: Silence, except for crying relatives
And finally, despite our logo, judges around here don’t use gavels. I’ve yet to see a single one sitting on a judicial bench in the Westchester County Courthouse. Tim says that out of the nearly 60 district and magistrate judges in the Southern District of New York, only one — Judge Deborah Batts in Manhattan — actually bangs a gavel.
With all that said, I still plan to watch Law & Order every week. It’s great entertainment, and it doesn’t remind me of work at all.