The CSI Effect

The CSI Effect

May 25, 2020

Anyone who has spent some time around courts in recent years, is likely to have heard attorneys, judges, and even jurors refer to the, 'The CSI Effect'.  Dramas which focus on forensic investigation in criminal cases have led to there being a large number of people in jury pools who expect to presented with extensive forensic evidence.  This in turn raises the standard of proof for public prosecutors.  Circumstantial evidence may not be given as much importance as its should.  The CSI Effect can also lead to higher expectations for forensic techniques. 

 

A study has been conducted on the CSI Effect by a police officer with a bachelor's degree in Justice Studies.  John Alldrege, The "CSI Effect" and Its Potential Impact on Juror Decisions, 3 Themis: Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science 6 (2015), available at http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/themis/vol3/iss1/6 .  Alldredge notes that visual presentations on forensic evidence can help correct misleading impressions about its value, and points out attorneys may try to weed out jurors influenced by television dramas centered around forensic evidence during voir dire.   Attorneys are also more likely to request unnecessary crime lab tests. 

 

Allredge cites a study that jurors who watch a lot of television are less likely to reach a guilty verdict in criminal cases.  R.M. Hayes-Smith, L.M. Levett, Jury’s still out: How television and crime show viewing influences jurors’ evaluations of evidence, 7(1) Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice 29-46 (2011).  Generally, the CSI Effect leads to a pro-defense bias.  The same study also conducted a survey which indicated that most jurors had no knowledge of the CSI Effect, but those that did would make sure that they were not influenced by it.  

 

Another study found that people who frequently watch television drams where the use of forensic evidence is showcased place less probative value on circumstantial evidence.  Y.S. Kim, G. Barak, & D.E. Shelton, D.E., Examining the“CSI-effect” in the cases of circumstantial evidence and eyewitness testimony: Multivariate and path analyses. 37(5) Journal of Criminal Justice 452 (2009).

 

Multimedia presentations may help educate jurors who are 'visual learners' that forensic evidence is not infallible.   

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