Since its premiere in 2000, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has been one of television’s most popular shows (Smith). Following closely behind the program in terms of ratings were, and still are, shows like Law and Order: SVU, Bones and NCIS, which during the week of September 30, 2013 was the number 1 show in the country according to Nielsen ratings (Neilsen). Viewers are entertained by these fictional shows, absorbing information as if they portray what happens in real life. On any given day viewers can see reruns of these fictional dramas or they can watch the biographically accurate crime shows like Southern Fried Homicide or The First 48, that feature true stories, but often omit parts of the process involved in solving the case and the trial verdicts (Shelton). Forensic science ties directly into our criminal just system because it deals with the evidence and artifacts created during the commission of a crime. Forensic science and crime based shows on television today seemingly portray our criminal system, but viewers don’t seem to connect that these shows are still a works of fiction
and that sometimes their methods used to solve crimes are far from accurate (Mancini). CSI, Bones, NCIS and other crime dramas have created an explosion in people’s interest in forensic science.
While these shows are very entertaining, they paint highly unrealistic views of how a crime lab and criminal justice system works (Harriss). The methods displayed on these shows are observed by viewers as what would seemingly take place in real life, creating a problem when it comes to the courtroom. This problem is known as the CSI effect, a phenomenon where a juror’s decisions to either convict or acquit a defendant depends heavily on the presence or absence of scientific or forensic evidence. But at this point the existence of the CSI effect has not been proven, but is thought to exist based on hearsay and personal accounts of lawyers and judges (Trask). So if the CSI effect does exist, knowing these shows are fiction why are jurors expressing the desire for more forensic evidence? If the CSI Effect doesn’t exist, what is causing jurors to expect more forensic evidence during trials?
The Opening Statements
In America the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Guilt or innocence is proven by the facts laid out by the prosecution and defense lawyers in a criminal or civil trial. In order to convict an accused party, the prosecution has to prove the offenders guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; in this case a reasonable doubt is anything that makes the person deciding the defendants fate take a second guess. Someone who has been educated in forensic science by watching shows like CSI may second-guess the prosecution more often than not if there is a lack of forensic evidence. Not considering forensic evidence isn’t always necessary to convict and at times is rather difficult to uncover. In his article “CSI: Reality” forensic science expert, Dr. Max Houck, says...