Friday, March 10, 2006

Another "CSI Effect" - Prosecutors Say TV-Savvy Criminals Benefit From 'CSI Effect', Nat'l L.J., Feb. 17, 2006.

District attorneys across the nation are grumbling about a new kind of 'CSI effect' that makes their jobs tougher.

Not only are juries requiring more sophisticated scientific evidence linking defendants to crimes, but suspects have learned how to destroy that evidence by watching the CBS 'crime scene investigation' TV shows, according to prosecutors. Techniques such as bleaching away DNA, scrubbing away fingerprints -- even those on a neck limp from strangulation -- and torching bodies and crimes scenes top the list.

Like the other "CSI Effect," this one can hurt the defense as well as the prosecution. One defense lawyer noted that "when a crime scene has been cleansed and a jury still rightly expects hard evidence linking a defendant to the crime, prosecutors turn to pseudoscience."
"The net 'CSI' effect was that whoever cleaned up the crime scene opened the door to the admission of junk science that could point the finger at almost anyone," he said.
One man who allegedly used latex gloves and removed bedding after two rape murders had listed watching CSI as a hobby when he filled out a parole form. The prosecutor believed that the suspect "taught himself to be a proficient killer, skilled at leaving little evidence." This seems plausible -- but I'm reminded of Prof. Anderson's article about the admissibility of criminal defendants' taste in entertainment.

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