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Reality TV tackles the death penalty

Cameras follow a jury as they deliberate whether or not to give the penalty for a double-murder case.
/ Source: Reuters

Television viewers will get a grim new take on reality TV next week with a documentary showing a jury’s deliberations in a death penalty case that eventually saw the man spared from execution.

For the ABC News series “In The Jury Room,” cameras were given permission to shoot in an Ohio jury room in the case of Mark Ducic, who was charged with a double murder that carried a possible death sentence.

“What I like to do is take people places they’ve never been before,” said producer Michael Bicks. “And people have never been taken into a jury room for a capital murder case.”

The program, shown in hour-long segments on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, follows the Ducic case over a three-month period from pretrial preparations through the trial and the verdict handed down in June.

Prosecutors are shown meeting with an informant who wore a concealed microphone to get Ducic to incriminate himself, and the defense lawyer is shown in talks with Ducic, whose life in solitary confinement is shown in chilling vignettes.

Jury room footage reveals the pressures, emotions and frustrations felt by jurors.

“We’re very hopeful that this will be another positive step forward in increasing the public understanding of the process, thereby building further public trust and confidence,” said Supreme Court of Ohio spokesman Chris Davey.

Davey added that the court already provides gavel-to-gavel coverage of all its proceedings live on the Internet. TV cameras have been allowed into jury rooms, but never before in a murder case that could result in the death penalty.

“The greatest power we give a citizen in this democracy is to go in a jury room and decide whether someone is going to live and die,” said Bicks, who two years ago produced a documentary TV series, “State v.,” which took cameras into jury rooms in Arizona murder cases.

“We have no overarching point except that it’s a good thing to open up the system,” said Bicks. “With the death penalty, you have to be extremely careful to play it down the middle.

“It’s such a polarizing issue. Hopefully people on both sides of the issue can look at this and walk away with something.”