Now Channel 4 is set to merge the two in a groundbreaking five-part series called The Trial: A Murder in the Family, described by the channel as a “thrilling hybrid of drama and documentary”.
Screened over five days, the fictional trial will focus on the murder of a woman found strangled, and the defendant – her estranged husband. The deceased, who is shown in flashbacks, as well as the accused and some of the witnesses, are actors, but everyone else is the real deal, including the judge, prosecution, defence, 12 jury members, police officers and eyewitnesses.
The film-makers collaborated with legal adviser David Etherington QC and screenwriter Sarah Quintrell. Together, they formed a narrative which, it’s hoped, will offer legal precision, emotional pull and enough ambiguity to allow plenty of exploration and discussion.
Once the trial is over, viewers will be able to see what actually happened in a dramatised insert, indicating whether the jury came to the correct decision.
The Trial: Murder in the Family, Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm