The First 48: Realistic Portrait of Homicide Investigations

The First 48 is one of the most realistic reality shows on television. The homicide detectives on the show race against the clock, to solve cases in the first 48 hours, after the crime has been committed.

It makes sense to act swiftly, before the suspect or suspects can find a hiding place from the homicide detectives or leave town. Another reason is that the perpetrators of the crime if there are more than one suspect are likely, to concoct a story so that if questioned by the detectives their stories will be the same.

Complaints About Predominantly Black Suspects

There has been some criticism of the show, for showing cases with mostly black criminals as the suspects. They probably could do a better job on that score, since the show has many more cases with black suspects.

Once the filming begins the show is not going to stop filming, because they find out a suspect is black.

One Suspect Fan of Show

One suspect in a show I watched yesterday looked into the camera and said he was a fan of the show and then said “Hello America”.

You would think a criminal that watches the show would ask for a lawyer from the start of the interrogation, since the detectives are able to obtain confessions if given the chance.

Suspects Forget About Miranda Rights

It is almost like the suspects have forgotten their Miranda rights which say:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.

However, suspect after suspect will forget about the Miranda rights and forget the part about anything they say could be used against them. Instead they freely give information about a crime

The detectives are smart to not even mention attorneys during the interrogation. You can tell on the show that when a suspect asks for an attorney, that the detectives hate to see a suspect ask for an attorney.

If they are not allowed to ask any more questions, then the suspect is more or less useless to them, because the suspect’s attorney will  tell them to not talk to anyone about the case. They then have to try to find other evidence or witnesses, if the case is not strong enough to take to court.

One suspect on a recent show tired of being yelled at by the detectives and told them he is through and that they can yell at his lawyer.

Pit One Suspect Against Another

Sometimes the homicide detectives on the  will pit one suspect against another, by telling the suspect they are interviewing, that the other suspect or suspects have already told them the truth and that the suspect will find it is to their benefit to tell the truth.

On one show a suspect was being interviewed and says he only knocked on the door of the crime scene house. Later on it was revealed he was the shooter, while he portrayed himself  as an innocent bystander, when first interviewed.

More Than One Crime Scene

Most of the shows have more than one crime being investigated, but some shows do only have one crime investigated. Some of the same detectives will be seen on many shows.

The shows are centered on metropolitan areas like Cincinnati, Memphis, Miami, Houston and other large cities.


The First 48 to me is a realistic look at how a homicide investigation is conducted. It shows how leads and tips that are called in, are followed up.

A witness in a homicide case told the detectives where the marijuana was thrown out off an interstate. Traffic was stopped on that side of the interstate, till they could search for the marijuana, but eventually the detectives called off the search.

Then when that witness is questioned again, he reveals that the marijuana was thrown in a garbage can in the neighborhood, where the crime was committed, so the interstate was closed down for nothing and the witness wound up being a suspect and was charged with murder.

Some people may think the show reveals too much about how homicide detectives solve cases and question suspects. A criminal watching the show may learn what not to do, by watching the detectives question suspects. The detectives tell the suspects to tell the truth, but if they do tell the truth they are only incriminating themselves and helping the detectives solve the case.

Anyone watching this show should be forewarned, that it can be very habit-forming, because these are real cases, that are shown from the crime scene till they are charged with murder in most shows.


Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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