American Justice

Common Sense Media says

Docu looks at crime from a legal point of view.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Featured cases often deal with disturbing criminal social behavior. Criminals, victims, and others affected by the case are of diverse ages, sexual orientations, races, and ethnic backgrounds. The show also highlights the intricacies of the legal system, including laws that can be considered discriminatory.


Violent acts -- including sexual assaults, shootings, stabbings, and murder -- are described, often in great detail. Gang violence is also discussed. These events are never seen happening, but sometimes bloody crime scene photos are shown.


Criminal sexual behavior (including prostitution, pedophilia, and assault) is often explicitly discussed within the context of a criminal case, but the events are never seen or re-enacted.


Some accounts of past events and recordings of conversations held by alleged criminals include swearing, from "damn" and "hell" to "s--t" and "f--k" (the stronger words are bleeped).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcohol and drug abuse is sometimes detailed. Some cases deal with illegal drug transactions or drug-related gangs. Cigarette smoking is sometimes visible in file footage.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this somewhat dry documentary series focuses on criminal cases, most of which feature violent acts and/or sex crimes -- including mass murder, rape, and pedophilia. While the acts themselves are never shown, the discussions of the events are often graphic and explicit (and occasionally include bloody crime-scene photos). Expect some bleeped cursing and talk of drug and alcohol abuse as well.

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Kids say

What's the story?

Documentary series AMERICAN JUSTICE offers an insider's view of the U.S. justice system, focusing on the legal challenges presented by landmark, high-profile criminal cases -- from the Hillside Strangler to the Boston Archdiocese pedophile scandal. Narrated by journalist Bill Kurtis, the show chronicles both the events leading up to the crime and the ensuing trial (or trials), turning to survivors, victims' families, law enforcement officials, and reporters for interviews and information. On rare occasions, the perpetrators themselves offer their own insight into what took place.

Is it any good?


Unlike many crime-related documentaries, American Justice focuses on how criminal cases are handled by the various parts of the criminal justice system (including local, state, and federal branches). The series looks at each case from a legal perspective, offering explanations of some of the more challenging -- and often frustrating -- rulings based on the existing laws at the time. It also examines some of social implications of America's current laws, including the problems with trying youth offenders as adults and the racial and gender biases associated with the death penalty.

Also unlike other crime documentary series, American Justice doesn't use re-enactments to tell its stories. While crime scene photos are sometimes shown, interviews and trial footage are the primary information sources. As a result, the show is sometimes a bit dry, oversimplifying sophisticated legal processes. But it does successfully touch on moments in legal history that have changed the way lawmakers think about criminal justice and led to some fundamental changes in the legal system. The teens mostly likely to enjoy the show are those interested in pursuing careers in law or criminal justice.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the American justice system. Is it always just? Are there times that the system fails? How is the legal system usually portrayed in movies and TV shows? How accurate do you think that is? How do you think this show's featured cases are chosen? Why do you think one case would be chosen over another?

TV details

Cast:Bill Kurtis, McCracken Poston, Sonny Vellozzi
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD

This review of American Justice was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byThedude57447434 September 1, 2013

My thoughts

This show is based on solving crimes including murders like the Andrea Yates case the Jeffery dahmer case and the Waco case it's narrated and hosted by bill kurtis and its a terrific show


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