Justice Faces a Screen Test

New TV shows are invading the courts in search of real-life drama. But will they threaten fair trials in the process?

Roger Ligon, a maintenance worker in Stamford, Conn., was on trial for manslaughter, charged with killing a man after a parking dispute. He pleaded not guilty, blaming the act on post-traumatic stress disorder -- the psychological residue of his combat experience in Vietnam.

The lawyers who argued the Ligon case had another sort of stress to deal with, arising from the crush of TV cameras that descended on the courtroom. Local stations covered the trial extensively. So did a soon-to-be-launched cable channel devoted entirely to judicial proceedings. A CBS crew was there too, roaming the hallways and offices as well as...

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