Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The CSI Effect

[NEWS] This weekend the Seattle Times ran an AP story about the "CSI Effect" -- worries that the popularity of shows like "CSI" and "Law & Order" affect jurors. Linda Deutsch, TV distorting jurors' expectationst?, Jan. 15.

Which side benefits the most — prosecutors or defense attorneys — is debatable. While "Law & Order" glamorizes prosecutors, "CSI" can set standards for the infallibility of forensic evidence that prosecutors can't often meet, a science-solves-all formula that millions of viewers may bring to jury service.
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"The expectations of jurors are more elevated," said Elissa Mayo, assistant lab director for the California Attorney General's Bureau of Forensic Services. "They think that we have all the space-age equipment that they see on TV and before you come back from the commercial break you have the results."

For a sampling of other stories, see Bibliography of Resources Related to the CSI Effect, prepared for a program at last summer's ABA meeting, "CSI Meets the Courts: The Brave New World of Forensic Technology."

While at the ABA site, I found that the ABA awarded its "Silver Gavel" to the Chicago Tribune for a special series called "Forensics Under the Microscope." The reporters told the ABA:
As we were reporting the series, other newspapers were reporting on prosecutors’ complaints of a so-called “CSI effect,” that is, jurors acquitting defendants for lack of precise forensic evidence. In fact, our reporting showed the more systemic problem is that prosecutors are using unproven forensic evidence and testimony and that jurors are readily accepting it. We hope that readers — be they prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges or potential jurors — will be better informed when they enter the courtroom.

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