Over the years, Lady Justice has proven to be a very popular muse for writers and directors. She has inspired some of the greatest works of fiction, like To Kill a Mockingbird, and some of our most quoted movie lines, like “You can’t handle the truth!” The longest running television series in the U.S. is NBC’s Law and Order, with its world-famous two beat sound effect that acts as a page break between scenes.
The law has been such a star in pop culture that some law schools study the intersection between the courtroom and the theater and the effect of its influence on perceptions of the legal profession and court system. After all, what we see in the movies and on TV and read in books can heavily influence how we view the real life subjects they portray. Some lawyers were even inspired to become one after a character resonated with them or they watched a passionate closing argument acted out on screen.
If pop culture can alter the course of a career, can it actually impact the outcome of a case? It did in 2011. After watching two documentaries about their case, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and Lord of the Rings Director Peter Jackson, took up the cause of convicted murderers Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin, also known as the “West Memphis Three.” Along with fellow singer-songwriters and actors, Vedder raised money and became an outspoken champion of their innocence. Jackson produced a documentary which introduced new evidence. Vedder was even present in the courtroom when the men entered an “Alford Plea” and were granted their release from prison after serving 18 years.
More recently, documentary series’ like Netflix’s Making a Murderer and the podcast Serial have sparked public outrage about the justice system and the subject of the first season of Serial was granted a new trial last month. Serial has already covered additional cases, and a sequel to the Netflix series is in the works while a rival documentary, Convicting a Murderer, promises to present the other side of defendant Steven Avery’s story.
Want to know more about famous cases that made it to Hollywood? Stay tuned for the sequel to this post, coming next week. (LE)