In our last post, we were talking about the “CSI Effect.” Prosecutors in North Carolina and around the country have complained for a while now that American jurors are so swept up in the high-tech world of television forensics that they expect real-life murder investigations to be just as flashy and complex. Without the fancy test results, jurors don’t believe prosecutors have done enough to warrant a conviction.
Realizing that proponents of the CSI Effect have relied mostly on anecdotal evidence, a judge led a research project that would, he hoped, provide some empirical evidence. He and his team surveyed potential jurors and made some interesting discoveries.
The first piece of analysis involved correlating what expectations respondents had for scientific evidence with the TV shows they watched. What the researchers found “did not support” the purported prevalence of the CSI Effect.
Jurors do expect to see scientific evidence in a murder trial. Those expectations aren’t based on their viewing habits, but, the survey found, on “the technology in their own pocket.” American jurors are more aware of advances than the CSI Effect gives them credit for, thanks to their latest gadget and its thousands of apps. The results showed that higher expectations for forensic evidence were held by respondents with more sophisticated tech devices.
Still, belief in the CSI Effect persists. In Massachusetts, for example, the undersecretary of forensic science and technology expressed his concern that the CSI Effect “raises the bar for forensic pathologists” who appear as expert witnesses.
Continued in our next post.
Source: National Public Radio, “Is the CSI Effect influencing courtrooms?” 02/07/11