Truth or Lies: Local News on Trial

Court TV leads off its Trial Story theme week with a look at a libel trial, spun as a fashionable indictment of the news media. In 1991, Sylvester Turner, a black, Harvard-educated lawyer, was running for mayor of Houston. As he gained in the polls, closing in on the good ol' boy incumbent, local ABC affiliate KTRK aired a report that Turner was involved in a multimillion-dollar insurance con. The story, researched and reported by Wayne Dolcefino, an award-winning investigative journo, crushed Turner's bid for mayor. Turner worked overtime denying the allegations, and eventually sued the station and Dolcefino for libel.

With:
Gregg Jarrett

The Court TV team’s p.o.v. is an exploration of the power of the media, and even though Dolcefino’s facts seem in order, archive tapes of courtroom testimony present a damning case against KTRK. The hour is constructed well, as law-junkie viewers will be kept in suspense until Dolcefino takes the stand. His abrasive, arrogant testimony, and his verbal abuse of the plaintiff’s attorney, embody the arrogance of some sectors of the media that public opinion polls decry.

For trial-watchers, docu is fairly compelling, but a little lightweight. It’s never explained what the jurors must look for in reaching a judgment, and the complexities of libel law are not explained.

Next three installments deal with the Joan Collins-Random House suit, DNA in a rape case and a wrongful death suit vs. New York Hospital. This last case, in which Libby Zion died after being given a “deadly dose” of medicine, has been written about and covered by many news outlets, including “60 Minutes,” so it will be interesting to see if Court TV can add anything to the saga.

Truth or Lies: Local News on Trial

Mon. (30), 10-11 p.m., Court TV

Production: Taped and filmed in Houston by Court TV. Executive producer, Erik Sorenson. Senior producer, Carolyn Kresky; producer/writer, Bob Weiner; editor, Andrew Cassano.

Cast: Gregg Jarrett

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