Define the CSI effect.
The CSI Effect is the claim or complaint offered by some people/lawyers that due to the
popularity of the TV show CSI, the public, and therefore jurors, now expect if not require an
inordinate, sometimes unattainable, amount of forensic evidence in order to convict (or acquit,
depending on the circumstances).
It has also had an effect on the police force as well. According
to the article, police “now collect more pieces of physical evidence than ever before.”
What evidence is there for or against the CSI effect?
There is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence for the CSI effect.
One such instance was described in
the article about jurors complaining “that a bloody coat had not been tested for DNA, even
though such tests were unnecessary” or when the “testimony from two eyewitnesses was
trumped by a lack of physical evidence” in a murder trial in Baltimore.
There have been studies
done, however they do not substantiate the CSI effect.
The article says, “the first study of the
CSI effect … concluded that the chances of, and reasoning for, acquittals were the same for
viewers as for prospective jurors who did not watch the show—she saw no CSI
This shows that while there is some convincing anecdotal evidence, there is no scientific
proof for the CSI effect.
The scenarios played-out on CSI do not approach reality.
Name two ways in which CSI
and reality do not agree.
One way in which CSI and reality differ is when forensic evidence is used and needed.
tests can be expensive and unnecessary, they are often forgone as a cost-saving and time-saving
The National District Attorney Association says, “Jurors now expect us to have a DNA
test for just about every case. They expect us to have the most advanced technology possible, and
they expect it to look like it does on television.”
A judge also remarked, “TV had taught jurors
about DNA tests but not about when they should be used.”
They are also prohibited by time
often, making it difficult to produce the expected results.
The article states, “television shows
incorrectly portray forensic scientists as having ample time for every case; several TV detectives,
technicians and scientists often devote their full attention to one investigation. In reality,
individual scientists will have many cases assigned to them. Most forensics labs find backlogs to
be a major problem.”
Another way in which CSI and reality differ is in regards to the amount of physical evidence
found at a real crime scene.
Jurors expect a vast amount of accessible forensic evidence in every
case, even when this simply isn’t possible.
The article even state that in order to counter this
assumption, “they have put so-called negative evidence witnesses on the stand to alert jurors to