A&E Crime Show Makes Millions, Ruins Lives: Report

'The First 48' pressures detectives to put people away, and fast

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 2, 2014 8:46 AM CST

(Newser) The First 48 is a hot reality show about police trying to crack cases—mostly murders—in the crucial first two days of any investigation. But the show also pressures detectives to act quickly, and in two cases suspects served long jail terms before judges learned there was no real evidence against them, the Houston Press reports. What's more, the show never apologized and kept airing the episodes without any changes (except mentioning at the end that charges were dropped). The freed suspects—who are black, urban, and poor, like most on the show—didn't find that life got any easier with their episodes re-running on A&E. "Just imagine the image they made out of me," said a suspect who was freed after three years in jail. "Even when I walk places I've never been, people know me from The First 48 without really knowing what happened."

Take the case of 21-year-old Taiwan Smart, accused of murdering his two Miami roommates. According to the Press, police sexed up a circumstantial case against him by misrepresenting witnesses and lying about evidence. Smart spent 19 months in jail before a fellow inmate boasted about committing the murders himself, and Smart was freed. But with the show still airing, he struggles to find an apartment or a good job, and lives with his family in a cramped motel room. So he's filed a civil lawsuit against the city that accuses police of "closing the book on the crime within 48 hours to captivate the public." But The First 48's producer stands firm: "This is the face of urban violence," he tells the Miami Herald. "Keeping it out there in the public consciousness is important. It’s so easy to forget what’s happening." Click for the full Press article.

A still from the show The First 48.
A still from the show "The First 48."   (aetv.com)
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