Ever heard of the 'CSI Effect'?
It is the term used to describe that way in which public
perception has been influenced by the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science
on crime television shows such as CSI:Crime Scene Investigation and CSI:Miami.
popularity of crime dramas and the use of DNA forensics on TV has
generated a lot of interest in forensic science, but has also created
unrealistic expectations of forensics. More than this – researchers now say it
has influenced jurors. Now, that’s really serious!
|CSI: Crime Scene Investigation|
|Taken at CSI Portsmouth|
So what are the implications of the CSI effect in court? Research in the US has come up with the following:
i) It can induce jurors to believe they have expertise regarding forensic evidence and therefore increased expectation of forensic investigators. Jurors can conclude that if certain evidence is not found or is proved to be negative – then the defendant is not guilty. Many US prosecutors say this accounts for an increase in acquittals. In research involving 102 prosecutors in Arizona, in 2005, 38 percent said they had lost a case due to the CSI effect.
ii) Legal professionals have had to change their behaviour in order to accommodate the perceived changes in jurors’ attitudes – such as giving cautionary instructions. 72 percent of the (above) Arizona prosecutors said that they believed jurors were unduly influenced by fictional CSI details. As a result, prosecutors have started to ask jurors about their TV viewing habits and to educate them in police procedures.
iii) More students are enrolling on forensic science programmes as they regard it as a 'glamorous' career.
iv) The general public tends to think that CSI-style programmes are instructing criminals on how to destroy evidence and cover their tracks.
1. That evidence of a person’s DNA at the crime scene proves guilt. Here’s an example: A party is held at a celebrity’s home with caterers. Two weeks later, the house is burgled. The suspicion is that one of the caterers had cased the home during their visit, but DNA does not show when it was left and so there is no way of knowing whether the caterer left it during the party or during the burglary. It takes old‐fashioned detective work to determine guilt.
2. Television shows depict scientists determining if DNA came from saliva, tears, cremated remains, or sweat. In fact, DNA is just DNA. There is also no scientific process that determines the DNA’s source. Moreover, scientists cannot draw DNA from cremated remains. Cremation heats the body at temperatures that reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit or above, destroying all sources of DNA.
3. While a TV crime lab is filled with chatter, a real DNA lab is silent. Experts in a DNA laboratory are gowned up in lab coats, gloves and face shields. There is no talking in the lab unless it is case specific. Even speaking over the evidence can contaminate the DNA. There is also no eating or drinking (or banter!) while conducting tests.
Thanks to Timothy Kupferschmid, executive director of Sorenson Forensics for details of misconceptions. See more at: http://www.sorensonforensics.com/forensics-lab-forensic-dna-testing/dna-forensics-lab-news-forensic-lab-development/the-csi-effect-myths-versus-truths#sthash.kOzxeaxC.dpuf
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.