DA says evidence shown on TV might be violation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

DA says evidence shown on TV might be violation

A prosecutor urging Memphis police to stay away from reality TV shows like "The First 48" says evidence gathered in criminal investigations should be disclosed in court, not on television.

Publicly releasing information about interviews with crime suspects and potential witnesses, which is common on such shows, can interfere with criminal prosecutions and may violate state Supreme Court rules, prosecutor Bill Gibbons said in a letter to Memphis police.

Gibbons asked police director Larry Godwin not to renew a contract Memphis police have with "The First 48," a show on A&E cable TV that focuses on homicide investigations in several U.S. cities.

Gibbons wrote his letter to Godwin a week after "The First 48" broadcast a show on the murders of four adults and two children at a Memphis residence. Three other youngsters were critically wounded and apparently left for dead.

Jessie Dotson, a brother of one of the adult victims, is charged with the murders and is awaiting trial.

"The First 48" showed clips of Dotson's interrogation by police, including a tearful statement from him that he was responsible for the killings.

In his letter, Gibbons said police and prosecutors are generally not allowed under Supreme Court rules to talk publicly about evidence being gathered in criminal investigations, including the contents or even the existence of confessions.

Gibbons, the chief state prosecutor in Memphis, said members of his staff "are confronting numerous unnecessary pretrial and trial issues as a direct result of this show."

Tuesday, Gibbons did not want to comment on the letter.  Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton was equally quiet on the subject.

"I don't know anything about TV 48," he said. " I don't read about it.  Obviously I'm concerned about the crime rate in Memphis.  I think my job and Director Godwin's job is to make this city safer."

Under its Memphis contract, "The First 48" gets broad access to crime scenes and is allowed to show homicide detectives at work, even while interrogating suspects. The show's name comes from the contention that the first two days of a murder investigation likely will determine if it is successful.

"The First 48" has also featured homicide investigations in other cities, including Miami, Dallas, Detroit and Minneapolis.

Police director Godwin decided in May not to renew the contract with "The First 48," following complaints from city council members that the show makes Memphis look like it's overrun with crime.

Godwin said earlier this month, however, that he was reconsidering that decision because the show documents the effectiveness of his department's detectives.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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