"Television dramas that rely on forensic science to solve crimes are affecting the administration of justice" and a new phrase has entered the criminological lexicon: the “CSI effect” after shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”
It has been defined as
- “the phenomenon in which jurors hold unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence and investigation techniques, and have an increased interest in the discipline of forensic science.”
The most obvious symptom of the CSI effect is that jurors think they have a thorough understanding of science they have seen presented on television, when they do not.
See the article "The CSI Effect"
Information on Durnal's paper Crime scene investigation (as seen on TV)
- A mysterious green ooze is injected into a brightly illuminated and humming machine; 10 s later, a printout containing a complete biography of the substance is at the fingertips of an attractive young investigator who exclaims “we found it!” We have all seen this event occur countless times on any and all of the three CSI dramas, Cold Cases, Crossing Jordans, and many more. With this new style of “infotainment” (Surette, 2007 ), comes an increasingly blurred line between the hard facts of reality and the soft, quick solutions of entertainment. With these advances in technology, how can crime rates be anything but plummeting as would-be criminals cringe at the idea of leaving the smallest speck of themselves at a crime scene? Surely there are very few serious crimes that go unpunished in today's world of high-tech, fast-paced gadgetry. Science and technology have come a great distance since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first described the first famous forensic scientist (Sherlock Holmes), but still have light-years to go.
- The CSI effect, as presented today is a far-reaching phenomenon in our criminal justice system. It both positively and negatively affects nearly all parts and pieces of the criminal process beginning with the time a crime is discovered to the day a suspect is sentenced. It is not the fault of the media that these types of effects occur. At no time has CBS or NBC, or ABC purported these television dramas to be a 100% accurate reflection of true life crime labs. It is in fact our society that likes to envision that sexy, smart, omniscient person that will be working on our side, should some false accusations arise. The CSI effect is very real. It may not influence every juror one way or another, but it most certainly has influence on the criminal justice system as a whole.
NOTE: Ref (13) in abstract refers to : R. Surette, Media, Crime, and Criminal Justice: Images and Realities, 3rd ed.,
Thomson-Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 2007