CSI Effect On Juries

CSI Effect: Are Crime Fiction Television Shows Creating Skewed Perceptions?

The impact of crime scene and forensic investigation shows:

Are popular crime fiction series causing juries to expect and demand unrealistic, scientific evidence? 

Let's Give the average layperson some credit:

None of us truly believe that crimes are solved in an hour. Who really believes that DNA results always produce a match & do so within a day or two? But,  television shows such as C.S.I., Bones,Dexter, Law & Order, and one of my personal favorites, Criminal Minds, just to name a few of the many, have given jurors a knowledge of science and evidence that they didn't possess years ago. Juries are no longer content to condemn a man to life in prison or lethal injection, based solely on the word of one eye witness.

Where's the science? They are screaming.
Reminds me of that commercial, Where's The Beef?
 Circumstantial  evidence is no longer given the same weight because of the CSI effect. Juries want DNA, fingerprints, and magical paint, fiber, glass, soil matches that unequivocally point to the accused. That want that and more.

Unfortunately, shows like C.S.I have changed public perception. People now believe that the CSI techs can look at the top of a shoe and remove a speck of sand or mud and within hours match it to a certain beach or lake. This is not often true.

On the flip side, law enforcement is now armed with an arsenal of newer and more sophisticated  weapons. Weapons like social media, computer checks, smart phones, GPS devices -- all aid the police in apprehending suspects and prosecutors in convicting them.

One of the most damaging effects of the crime fiction frenzy and non fiction shows such as 48 Hours, Lies and Motives, Cold Case, The New Detectives, Forensic Files and others docudramas is that they are providing criminals with an education and a tour of how forensic investigations work. It may be entertainment for you and me, but the  bad guys hit the jackpot with the overwhelming number of crime scene and forensic criminal investigation shows available today. For the bad guys this is their criminal college and they are getting advanced  degrees in the thwarting police investigations. If we are binge watching these shows, don't you think criminals are, also? They are gaining valuable and useful techniques. The bad guys are becoming more adept at hiding the evidence or making sure less or no evidence is left behind. Now, you rarely come across a criminal who doesn't wear gloves. They've learned to wear gloves not just when firing a weapon, but also when loading a weapon. Rapist are now wearing condoms. Criminals are perfecting their goal of not leaving genetic evidence behind. Some criminals shave all of their body hair, reducing the chance of leaving evidence at the crime scene. And for the more extreme, the bad guys cut off hands, bash in dental work and set their victims  on fire to destroy evidence. More and more bad guys are mutilating bodies as a means of countering forensic evidence.

Today's Crime Fiction Mystery Challenge will give you a taste of the real world. You probably expected to be inundated with fresh new evince, DNA results from the semen, ballistics reports, etc. But, just as in real life, today is a day in the ever so frustrating holding pattern. We continue to wait for the crime lab, and forensics to process the evidence. Our detective must resort to old fashion detective work.


He continues interviewing witness. He has located the occupant of the garage apartment who shared valuable information: Martha had retained an attorney and intended to file for divorce. Now Thomas has motive. Are you beginning to doubt that Martha committed suicide? Why? But wasn't the gun found in her hand. Well, that's not always indicative of suicide, in fact isn't it more likely the gun would have landed elsewhere ? And what about the GSW on her hands?

Detective Coker realizes he must now check for financial reasons the husband might want his wife dead. Where should he begin? Her lawyer? Life insurance policies? Detective Coker will hit the streets and look for possible motives. All the while hoping that maybe tomorrow will be his lucky day and he will get something conclusive back from the crime lab. Didn't one of the nurses who worked with Martha hint at a drug problem? He will head over to the Medical Examiners office and see if there is a preliminary toxicology report to conform or deny this allegation.

Prosecutors must constantly remind jurors not to get caught up in the glamour of crime scene investigations as portrayed on television. As stated in this youtube clip, they don't drive hummers. Another blatant falsity, CSI techs do not go out and actively search for suspects and apprehend them. They don't brandish weapons. They visit the scene and collect evidence or the evidence is transferred to them and they analyze it with the technology currently available.

Watch this interesting youtbe clip on the CSI Effect. 


What's your verdict? If you were sitting on a jury, judging a person's life, would you require scientific evidence before convicting or could you convict based on the  testimony of witnesses who heard or saw the crime? What would it take to convince you of a person's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?


Today's Clue -Cancer

For a recap on the facts of this mystery, the evidence, witnesses, and potential clues and leads thus far, please click on my Legal Fiction page at the top in the navigation bar.

How are you doing with the challenge? Visiting a lot of blogs. As soon as this passport nightmare is over (tonight or tomorrow) I plan to binge blog hop and read as many post as I can.



8 comments:

  1. Oh this is SO true! Are we also making criminals more careful? At this point, will a jury convict someone for being stupid? "Of course you were gonna get caught! You didn't even wear gloves and a mask. We're insulted. MAXIMUM PENALTY!"

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  2. Good point. I didn't think about the criminals gaining information from those shows. The dumb ones will still get caught, but the smart ones will prepare.

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  3. Didn't think about it quite like this, Melissa, but you're right.

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  4. Hi Melissa - I hope things worked out for your daughter. I had sort of thought about Criminals etc watching and learning ... so much info out there ...


    I thought juries were given some advice by the judge ... and how much pre- trial insight is there .. I'd be sceptical all along the way ...


    Fascinating read this .. I probably need to re-read anon .. cheers Hilary

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  5. I hadn't thought about this, you have such a good point. It made me think of Serial and my own expectations of the prosecution and defense based on crime shows I've seen. What a thoughtful post.


    Stopping by from Pam's Unconventional Alliance, best of luck in the challenge!

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  6. I had never thought about this. It's so true, though. I actually served on a jury a couple years back, and maybe it did help that I don't really watch these kinds of shows, because I didn't have any expectations of instant crime solving. I was all about the testimony/circumstances/presented evidence. My favorite CSI-type lie: you can enhance a grainy CCTV image with magical computer technology, which will zoom in on the culprit and show you a crystal clear image of his face.

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  7. As unpopular as the notion is, I would rather lose a few guilty in the net than ever send an innocent person to jail, so I'm glad juries are becoming harder to sway.

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