Monday, November 26, 2007

Real Life "CSI" Effects

I ran across a great article, here, in the News Virginian about the adverse effect shows like CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) have upon the real-life criminal justice system. Writing for the paper, Rob Seal states:
As crime shows focused on cutting-edge forensic investigative techniques have spread throughout the prime-time television landscape, prosecutors and defense lawyers have started to take note and respond.

During jury selection in high-profile criminal trials, it’s now commonplace for lawyers to ask potential jurors whether they watch a lot of TV police shows. The fear is that forensic crime-show connoisseurs selected for a jury could bring an unrealistic set of expectations to a real-life trial.

"It’s even got a name. They call it the ‘CSI effect,’" said Charlottesville defense lawyer Rhonda Quagliana.
I agree that TV shows have an effect upon potential jury pools. However, I believe the prosecutors have more to fear from "crime-show connoisseurs" than do the informed Texas criminal defense attorney.

I regularly hear prosecutors ask potential jurors whether they watch crime shows like CSI. But I also regularly hear able defense lawyers ask the jury, "where's the DNA?" And many times it works! Yes, it is sometimes used as a ploy to divert a jury's attention. But on other occasions it's a reasonable and reliable component of the "things not done" defense.

I don't mind if jurors reporting for duty come with an unrealistic set of expectations regarding forensic technology. It is easier to explain away DNA evidence from the defense side, than to explain to a demanding jury why the police did not test for the substance in the first place. Consequently, the majority of times the "CSI effect" is an advantage for the defender.

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