Starting this Tuesday, CBS is airing a new reality TV show called “Brooklyn DA” which is supposed to chronicle the real-life day-in and day-out of DA Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’ office. But let me ask you this – Is there any reality TV show that actually shows “reality?” We know the answer to that question is a big fat “No.” And while it may be OK for the sake of entertainment to tweak and stage what happens in the lives of mindless bimbettes (See “Long Island Princesses’ coming soon) or backwoods bizarre hunting aficionados (See, “Swamp People” now incredibly in its third season) it is dangerous and irresponsible to do the same to a prosecutor’s office.
There is simply no way DA Hynes (who is running right now for re-election) will allow anything overtly negative about his office to be shot and viewed for the show. For example, what are the odds an episode will feature how his office has been holding material witnesses at gunpoint in a private hotel while simultaneously telling a court that they did not issue a warrant to get the witness (see the story here http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/brooklyn-charles-hynes-office-running-private-jail-system-jabbar-collins-lawyer-article-1.1357737). How about how two federal judges have seriously questioned the ethics of a top aide, along with Hynes’ inaction despite evidence of a gross injustice.(Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/investigate-da-article-1.1206083#ixzz2V54wHxTg). Or how his office has a seriously undermanned Wrongful Conviction Unit that now has to investigate up to 48 possible wrongful convictions; while those have been tied to one rogue detective, the DA’s office kept prosecuting these cases brought by the rogue cop.
Never mind these large-scale wrongs. Will the program show how the DA’s office regularly delays trials; answers “Ready” when they are not ready to avoid speedy trial dismissals; or withholds evidence until the very last minute in a case? All of this behavior is something I have witnessed in my criminal defense work and which any regular practitioner in the halls of Schermerhorn and Adams Street can attest to. The vast majority of Asst DA’s are conscientious young men and women who do a valuable, important job and do it very well. Most of the problems with this office come from the top. So it is unlikely that this vanity piece coming to our screens this week will show the “real DA’s office” anymore than Snooki represents the real Jersey Shore.
But the true danger of this program is how it will influence jurors. Before this show ever aired, trial lawyers had to explain in jury selection that what they see on TV is not what happens in the courtroom. Many viewers of reality TV (particularly younger ones) become infatuated or obsessed with some of the folks portrayed on the show. They think that they “know” them and identify with them. How will those viewers react when they are then in the jury box? TV already glamorized prosecutors and shows defense lawyers as sleazy craftsmen unworthy of trust. The last thing a defendant on trial needs is a puff piece that shows mostly (if not only ) the good side of Hynes’ office.