Jones 1Heather JonesMrs. LesterAdvanced Composition6 October 2011 CSI Effect and Its Impact on Jurors Nearly 26.6 million television viewers watched "CSI" during the 2004-2005 season,where it was television’s number one show (Collins). People who tend to view shows thatinvolve drama and crime are more likely to have a higher expectation for forensic evidence in thecourtroom. Television shows like “CSI” make it harder to get convictions because of the lack ofobserved evidence. What is the “CSI Effect” and how has it affected jurors’ decisions in thecourtroom? The “CSI Effect” is thought to be one of the most serious issues that exist in thecourtroom today. An American criminologist, Monica Robbers, identifies the “CSI Effect” as aphenomenon where jurors embrace unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence, along withinvestigation techniques, and have an increased interest in the discipline of forensic science.Jurors think crime scene investigations can be done so easily because television shows make itseem as if evidence and DNA can be matched within a day. When a juror is picked for a trial heor she is going to look for all the fancy equipment and evidence that they see on television in thecourtroom. William Harris states, “Collecting and analyzing DNA evidence tops the list of thelabs forensic toolkit, and its ubiquity in shows like "CSI" and "Cold Case" has increased publicawareness to the point that many jurors in real-world courtrooms expect to see DNA evidence
Jones 2presented -- whether a case calls for it or not”. When television programs show all types ofevidence and types of lab equipment used, jurors then expect to see that same exact vision or asimilar one of everything in the court room. Prosecutors really have a hard time proving a casewhen jurors come in to a case expecting to see what they have seen on television, but it justdoesn’t work that way. Having the mindset of expecting to see the evidence or equipment caneasily cause the jury to acquit a case. The NPR states that the people who have a highexpectation for forensic evidence are frequent viewers of crime or drama television shows(Rath).When the jury is picked and there are people in that jury who are frequent viewers ofthose type of shows, the “CSI” effect is already in their head and they look for certain evidenceto prove the defendant did do the crime, but if that evidence isn’t there, then they automaticallysay the person did not commit the crime in which they are being charged with. Jurors usually saysomeone is guilty if the evidence is there, but sometimes the evidence just isn’t enough toconvict. The “CSI” effect is one of those things that really defines whether or not jurors knowwhat to look for in a realistic situation and how their decisions can impact others in thecourtroom. The courtrooms as well as jurors’ decisions have been majorly impacted by the “CSI”effect. Certain kinds of evidence are not evidence and prosecutors among the nation are spendingmuch of their time today explaining that to jurors (Durnal).Some jurors watch the televisionsshows full of crime and drama, and when it comes to solving cases on those shows, manytechnological devices are used, and when jurors see that on television they automatically expectto see it realistically in the courtroom. For example, if certain high technological tests are notdone within the case like they see on television jurors automatically think there is nothingmatching this person to a crime. It is much harder for prosecutors to win convictions when
Jones 3scientific evidence is absent or irrelevant (Willing).Prosecutors’ jobs have been much hardersince the outcome of the “CSI” effect because they have to spend time explaining the differencebetween evidence that is relevant and the evidence that is irrelevant to the case. Jurors alreadyknow what they are looking for when they are picked for jury duty and in that case if they do notsee the forensic evidence they want, they are easily able to acquit the case and do not hesitate onconvictions. The believed idea that criminal science is fast, infallible, and always gets its man isan unrealistic idea of what criminal science can deliver (Willing). When jurors come in with thisirrational mindset of how the courtroom really works, they are confused and probably do notknow what to think or do when actual evidence is shown to them. Jurors honestly do not knowthat it can take awhile before actually catching the suspect of a crime, but with television showscatching their man within an hour; jurors think it is the same thing in reality. The “CSI” effecthas caused many problems in the courtroom because it has brought unethical ideas into a placewhere someone’s life is on the line and we still have no found a final solution to fix that. To this day there are no solutions that have completely fixed the “CSI” effect. As a startto fixing this problem the NAS committee claims that the United States should standardize testsand certify forensic experts (Reagan).I think this would be a great idea because I think that someforensic scientist do not know how to make it come across that the evidence they have found doindeed mean that a certain person did commit a crime. The scientists have not been clear about ifa person’s evidence is there they did do it. Another fix the NAS thinks should be done is callingfor a separation between police work and science in the crime scene investigation, whiletechnicians are trained and only supervise the labs. (Temple-Raston) This fix would keepeverything separated to where the police would do the police work and the forensic scientistswould deal with the evidence themselves. Doing this would help keep all evidence together and
Jones 4prohibit the contamination and misplacing of evidence. Donald Shelton, a chief judge ofWashtenaw County, Michigan, thinks that surveying people before they were selected for juryduty was the best way to maybe dish out some people who could potentially be very familiarwith the “CSI” effect. I think taking people that do not watch much crime or drama shows wouldmake the best jurors because they would not really know what to look for and sometimes thatcan be a good thing, but at others it can be bad. These people who do not watch the televisionsshows like “CSI” have a better chance at giving someone a much more fair trial than of someonewho is a frequent viewer. Many solutions to this day are still being made, but we will probablynever know if one of those will be chosen and used in the courtroom forever. The outlook for the “CSI” effect tends to be ruining our court system because it is almostas if evidence has not been found the defendant should be automatically freed. The debate of the“CSI” effect will most likely continue on because the shows do not seem to be going anywhereanytime soon (Farley). It will take a very long time for this effect to go away because there are somany viewers all of which age from very young to very old. The jurors will not change whatthey think should be in the courtroom unless television changes as well. Courts are starting torely on genetic analysis, where DNA has already freed about 232 wrong convicted among thenation (Szustek).It seems as if the future for the courtroom will be all dependent on DNAbecause that seems to be the thing that really ties somebody to a crime. Now days DNA isbecoming more popular in solving cases because it is one thing that can assure police andforensic scientists that a person did commit the crime. Since jurors are expecting too muchscientific evidence; judges are beginning to issue instructions to warn them about what to reallyexpect (Rath). This is a good for the court room because it will allow jurors to go in with an openmindset, instead of a mindset of evidence or no evidence. If there is evidence then the jurors will
Jones 5say the person is guilty. Many experts in the legal field believe that jurors could potentially bemixing fact with fiction and that lawyers should be able to strike out multiple jurors based ontheir television habits. When did we ever think that something like the “CSI effect” could be the determiningpoint of whether or not someone goes to jail? The need for forensic evidence now days is soimportant that many criminals can be walking free it is absent in a trial. Not only is the “CSI”effect hurting defendants, it is also making it very hard for prosecutors to prepare a strong case.The only solution to this may be to just survey out the jurors that have a frequent televisionviewing of crime and drama shows. The “CSI” effect will probably never go away because thedrama and crime shows will still be there. When the shows do eventually go away we may see anend to the “CSI” effect.