CSI Effect Essay

Total Length: 2080 words ( 7 double-spaced pages)

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Television and film script writers have gained from crime and courtroom proceedings for many years. The use of the courtroom as a drama channel has significantly changed in the recent years among media options. The use of the courtroom as the basic source of drama action among these media houses has increased and changed focus from sheer creative imagination to real life cases. Indeed, many courtroom dramas today are based on real life cases. There is an increasing thin line between reality and drama. TV shows such as American Justice, 48 hours Mystery and Dateline NBC present dramas that are based on real life cases, with heavy editing and incorporating narration for the dramatic effect, of the original details but the storyline is retained. Irrespective of the nature; whether the courtroom dramas are pure fiction or edited versions of the real, most courtroom dramas today make use of new science and technology to deal with crime incidents. Indeed, Crime Scene Investigation is touted as the most impressive TV show. Indeed, according to a rating done in 2006, forensic drama shows drew over 1000 million viewers (Cole & Dioso-Villa, 2007). This discussion seeks to establish the effect of CSI on criminal justice system. The paper reviews previous literature on the subject.


According to a survey that was recently conducted, most jurors today expect more forensic evidence in crime cases as a result of the TV program: Crime Scene Investigation. Indeed, many jurors also believe that CSI has made the conviction process all the more harder (Hughes & Magers, 2007). In the summary of the analysis of 318 magazine and newspaper articles focusing on the effects of CSI, up to 8.5% made reference to quotes associated with a judge. Justice Scalia is reported to have mentioned the TV in a view, Judge Emeritus of D.C CCA and co-chair of NRC committee for the improvement of forensic science and Judge Harry Edwards have all mentioned the phenomenon several times on separate occasions (Cole & Dioso-Villa, 2007; Shelton, Barak and Kim, 2011).

A state court judge, Donald Shelton, who is the Chief Judge of Washtenaw County Trial Court in the state of Michigan, is a member of a prominent team of experts conducting research on the CSI effect (Cole & Dioso-Villa, 2007). According to Allegheny County judge for common pleas, Judge J. Zottola, the expectations of jurors of criminal prosecution have been changed by the TV shows. Another judge says that jurors now expect crime scenes to be full of evidence. Michael Toomin of the Chicago Criminal Court points out that CSI effect can no longer be dismissed as a mere TV drama, the effect is out there. However, some Judicial experts such as Judge Lombardi of Prince George's County say that claims of CSI effect are myths (Cole & Dioso-Villa, 2007).
One of the judges summarized by stating that some trials over the past several years have seen defendants take advantage of the CSI effect by questioning witnesses about tests that were not conducted and arguing in the closing arguments that failing to run such tests provides reasonable doubt. They are strategically taking advantage of a different set of proof threshold that some jurors come into the courtroom aware of in the recent days. One cannot ignore the effect of CSI. Although it doesn't mean that the court finds existence of CSI effect on its rulings, it points that the possibility of its effect cannot be wished away (State v. Cooke, 2007).

The above claims are serious. If they are true, they cast aspersion on the ability of the courts to dispense justice fairly. Judges are, therefore expected to take the lead to remedy the situation because they are the court administrators and producers of trial in the judicial system. Such measures may be grave and even controversial because they may challenge some valued and established practices of the system of trial by jury in the American Justice system. Judges may change these practices with utmost caution.

The effect of CSI on the Criminal Justice System

Even though CSI is portrayed as a well documented phenomenon, there is little concrete evidence of the actual effect of CSI on the criminal justice system (Cole & Dioso-Villa, 2007). These accounts are based on comments associated with various officers of the judiciary. A review done on socio literature shows a different story. Scholars in the legal spheres characterize CSI effect as a speculation and add that the effect on defendants is more plausible as far as the claims are concerned; although it is not frequently mentioned by the media.

i. Anecdotes

The coverage of CSI by media is heavily dependent on anecdotes. The acquittal of Robert Blake in Baretta of murder charges, where Steve Cooley, the attorney for the defendant, referred to the jury as unbelievably stupid is the anecdote of the highest profile (Keller, 2005). In the drama, the prosecution present evidence based on motive and opportunity to commit the crime but there was little forensic evidence. In fact, Blake tested negative on gunshot residue. This flew in the face of the plaintiff's assertion that he, indeed, fired at and killed his wife. Several lover profile cases exist in which jurors acquitted defendants for lack of sufficient forensic evidence (Shelton, 2009; Imwinkelried, 2004). Such expressions by the media are inspired by interviews with jurors and prosecutors who were of the view….....

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Cole, Simon A. & Dioso-Villa, Rachel. (2007). CSI and Its Effects: Media, Juries, and the Burden of Proof, 41 NEW ENG. L. REV. 435, 435-69.

Hughes, Thomas. & Magers, Megan. (2007). The Perceived Impact of Crime Scene Investigation Shows on the Administration of Justice, 14 J. CRIM. JUST. & POP. CULT. 259

Imwinkelried, Edward J. (2004). "The Relative Priority That Should Be Assigned to Trial Stage DNA Issues," in Lazer, D. (ed.), DNA ANDTHECRIMINALJUSTICESYSTEM: THE TECHNOLOGY OF JUSTICE, 91,92-93.

Keller, Julie. (2005). D.A.: Blake Jury "Incredibly Stupid," E. Online. Retrieved from http://www.eonline.com/news/49519/d-a-blake-jury-incredibly-stupid on September 13, 2016

Kim, Young S., Barak, Gregg & Shelton, Donald E. (2009). Examining the CSI-Effect in the Cases of Circumstantial Evidence and Eyewitness Testimony: Multivariate and Path Analyses, J. CRIM JUST. 452.

Moriarty, J.C. & Saks, M.J. (2005). Forensic Science: Grand Goals, Tragic Flaws, and Judicial Gatekeeping, JUDGES'J., 16, 17.

Newhouse, M. (2005). Real-life investigators indict "CSI" for perjury, PITTSBURGH TRIB.-REV., Apr. 13.

Podlas, Kimberlianne. (2007). The "CSI Effect" and Other Forensic Fictions, LOY. L.A. ENT. L. REV. 87.

Shelton, Donald E., Barak, Gregg and Kim, Young S. (2011). Studying Juror Expectations for Scientific Evidence: A New Model for Looking at the CSI Myth. Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association

Shelton. Donald E. (2009). Twenty-First Century Forensic Science Challenges for Trial Judges in Criminal Cases: Where the "Polybutadiene" Meets the "Bitumen." Widener Law Journal Vol. 18 Iss. 2.

State v. Cooke, 914 A.2d 1078, 1088 (Del. Super. Ct. 2007).

Watkins, Michael J. (2004). Forensics in the Media: Have Attorneys Reacted to the Growing Popularity of Forensic Crime Dramas? Thesis, Florida State University.

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