The concern with the ‘CSI Effect’

For every criminal case the prosecution and the criminal defense must use the available evidence to demonstrate their case. These days some prosecutors believe that a certain crime show may be making their job more difficult, CSI. Some prosecutors think that the crime show CSI has created a new expectation among jury members. The new expectation is that tests that use high technology should be used to convict defendants. The new trend is referred to as the CSI Effect.

One coroner from Nevada whose office was the basis for CSI says the show has brought benefits and problems to the death investigation process. The benefit is that the public knows more about the death investigation process and the negative aspect is that the public believes a crime can be solved within the time of a television show or that people expect to get a DNA test back in 20 minutes. Prosecutors and legal experts worry that juries are confusing the reality of crime investigations with the fiction they see on television.

But, one judge from Michigan does not put much stock in the CSI Effect. All of the information on the subject he found was not empirical research and was based on the opinions of attorneys. The judge conducted his own investigation on the CSI Effect by conducting a study that surveyed people called for jury duty. The judge and his team interviewed over 2,000 potential jurors on their television preferences and what their expectations were regarding the criminal justice system. The judge concluded jurors expect the use of high technology, but the expectation comes from the use of technology in their everyday lives and not from the television they watch. The judge says placing responsibility on a television show is too simplistic.

Source: NPR, “Is the ‘CSI Effect’ influencing courtrooms?” Arun Rath, 2/6/11

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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