The CSI Effect

Entertainment media is a major part of American culture, specifically television entertainment. Studies have been conducted in order to determine the ways in which television influences our thinking, and one such theory resulting from the research was developed in the 1960’s and labelled “cultivation”. Cultivation “affirmed that people who are avid television viewers tend to accept the content distributed through the television media and embrace the material as factual reality.”[1] The idea that people will unquestionably accept what they watch on television to be fact may be overreaching, however, it does seem clear that media- whether it be entertainment television, social media, the news, the radio- all play a role in influencing their audiences’ understanding and perception of the topics being portrayed. This idea of cultivation displays itself in Americans’ perceptions of crimes as determined by their viewing of crime-based entertainment.

The topic of crime remains extremely popular in the entertainment business, reflected by television viewer ratings; “Eight crime dramas, including CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its sibling programs, made it into the top 20 shows last October. On one Thursday that month, 27 percent of all American televisions that were turned on were turned to CSI.”[2] The popularity of crime shows among the American public has been explained by Time as, “a specific manifestation of its more general fixation on violence and calamity.”[3] Additionally, they claim that people are intrigued by crime because, “it triggers the most basic and powerful emotion in all of us-fear.”[4] Regardless of why people are interested in crime television shows, the reality is that Americans are watching them with consistency. Though watching television can be considered a harmless and passive activity, when viewing television’s influence through the lens of cultivation it is clear that Americans use crime-based entertainment media as their source of information on the investigative processes following a crime.

According to an article written by Kristina Ericksen, the CSI Effect is a phenomenon discovered by prosecutors that illustrates how crime shows, like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, alters jurors’ courtroom expectations.[5] In turn, this makes it more difficult to convict the defendants with solid evidence. Ever since these crime shows have become popular, judges have wanted more and more evidence to convict someone, even when the truth behind the fingerprints is right in front of them. Because these television programs have been widely shown around the world, the CSI Effect has influenced American jurors to expect more forensic evidence to convict defendants of crimes.

Forensic science is any science that is used in the legal system that applies to civil proceedings and criminal cases. Forensic scientists work with the investigators at the crime scene to collect evidence and traces to help determine more information from the crime scene. Although strict procedures must be followed during real-life crime scene investigations, television programs don’t usually show the realistic steps of the investigation process. These crime scene investigations programs often shape the public’s expectations of what a true crime scene investigation looks like.[6]

According to the Microbiology Society, forensic scientists must follow strict procedures when collecting evidence such as bodily fluids, trace materials, fiber identification, toxicology, and fingerprints.[7] The first step of any crime scene investigation is to ensure the safety of the scene and mark off any hazardous areas that can influence the collection of specimens. Forensic scientists need to outline the area of investigation to ensure that no evidence is destroyed by medical, fire or coroner respondents. The second and most important step of any crime scene investigation is to establish security of the scene to ensure that everyone that enters the scene is documented. This helps investigators know exactly who has stepped foot on the crime scene that could have obstructed or collected evidence. The next important step in the crime scene investigation procedure is to plan, communicate and coordinate with all persons investigating the crime scene. Investigators want to generate an initial hypothesis of the crime to help the crime scene team expect what evidence to look for. This ensures that no evidence is looked-over and missed while collecting data, and allows the team to call in backup if a more specialized resource is required to gather evidence.

Before collecting any evidence, the team needs to walk through the crime scene and document any initial observations they notice; position of furniture, areas of interest, smells, and the temperature; these observations are typically photographed and documented on paper for future references. This step guarantees that every detail of the crime scene is documented in case something was to be obstructed during the collection of evidence. Once the scene becomes safe and the walkthrough has been completed, the following initiative is to collect the evidence from the crime scene. Proper procedures must be followed while containing the evidence found at the scene so that it can be tested in the future. Investigators also take more photographs of the evidence and sketch diagrams that would provide more information of the evidence collected. As a control step, investigators will run through the crime scene one final time to ensure that all useful data has been properly collected from the crime scene. The final step of any crime scene investigation is to create an inventory log of all evidence collected during the investigation process. This documentation will follow the crime all the way into the courtroom until someone has been convicted. All information from this log ensures that the evidence collected at the crime scene is accounted for.[8]

Once every step of the procedure has been completed, forensic scientists can then use this evidence to help convict the defendant involved. This information is most important in any criminal case because it provides hard evidence to convict the guilty.

Many current crime scene investigation television programs falsely demonstrate the proper legal procedures of real crime scene investigations. These programs often show investigators quickly running through crime scenes and improperly collecting evidence. This gives jurors a false idea of how the investigation process actually works. Many jurors today expect DNA evidence from every crime scene using top-notch technology that has not actually been developed.[9] The CSI Effect has caused jurors to expect more hard evidence than needed to convict someone.

An image depicting a crime scene investigation that took place on CSI Miami: Crime Scene Investigation. This photograph illustrates the false procedures that take place on television programs. 

There are several effects of using fiction television as a basis for understanding real-life processes following a crime, a main one being peoples’ misunderstanding of the forensic procedures. The danger of viewers’ act of interchanging fiction with fact is the unrealistic expectations that are placed on the criminal justice system, as well as the data processing of forensic evidence. Crime television programs have been identified as the culprits for giving, “the impression that forensic laboratories are fully staffed with highly trained personnel, stocked with a full complement of state-of-the-art instrumentation and rolling in the resources to close every case in a timely fashion.”[10] The interpretation of forensic science given by crime television shows is not all that accurate, as in reality there are not enough employees to keep up with the increasing demands being placed on labs for data analysis.

An additional effect of using crime-based entertainment as a basis of understanding the forensic and legal investigative processes is the previously defined phenomenon, the CSI effect, which is “the belief that television crime shows are affecting decisions made in the courtrooms from jurors.”[11] According to the CSI effect, jurors are imposing unrealistic expectations on crime scene evidence in order to prosecute a crime; thus, the aforementioned increasing demand for data analysis from forensic labs can be attributed to this phenomenon. One such example of the increasing demand for crime scene evidence occured in Virginia, where “in 1989 Virginia labs processed only a few dozen cases. The number of cases being submitted this year has ballooned into the thousands.”[12] This increasing demand for forensic evidence ties to the legal proceedings following a crime, as jurors assume that evidence is the unarguable proof of a defendant’s guilt.

The influence of the CSI effect was studied as it impacted New York State prosecutors, and there appeared to be a relationship between jurors’ increased demand for forensic evidence and their likelihood of persecuting the individual on trial. As stated by the study, “In some instances, legal employees had to practice ‘defensive investigations’ using forensic evidence, not because it was involved in the case, but rather to satisfy the intrigue of the jury.”[13] According to the research study- despite consistent debate about whether the CSI effect is real- prosecutors are changing their tactic in the courtroom in order to account for the jurors misconceptions about the investigative crime procedures. Another aspect of the study states, “I have found jurors now expect more evidence than they did before. They want to see DNA testing in every case. They expect police officers to fingerprint every square inch of a crime scene. In a way, it feels as though our burden of proof is raised; non-forensic evidence must be much stronger in the absence of forensic evidence”[14] Thus, not only are forensic analysts facing more pressure, but prosecutors have to alter their arguments in order to convince jurors of the defendant’s guilt when facing a lack of crime scene evidence as well.

Though forensic evidence is not always necessary in order to justifiably deem an individual to be guilty (such as by eyewitness testimony), it arguably goes further in convincing a jury of guilt. Crime’s ever present influence and intrigue among the American public can be summarized by the statement, “Crime remains an unfortunate, yet integrated part of American culture, not as hopelessly interwoven as the media would have use believe, but regardless, a part of life (or at least the evening news).”[15] Regardless of the degree to which the CSI effect truly explains entertainment television’s impact, the influence of television on the public’s understanding of crime remains inevitable; the extent to which the legal and forensic processes change based on the cultural influences of entertainment media will be determined as they occur.

Ethics is a huge part of crime scene investigations, and law enforcement officers going through these processes are expected to investigate the case with ethics and morals in their minds. Police and forensic specialists are obliged to preserve the integrity of their investigations. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences provides no guidelines for crime scene ethics or retention of items from former crime scenes.[16] Without these guidelines, there are no rules that regulate whether or not someone can keep, remove, or sell anything found during a crime scene investigation.

Ethics is a huge part of crime scene investigations, and law enforcement officers going through these processes are expected to investigate the case with ethics and morals in their minds. Ethics can be defined as the “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity”.[17] Police and forensic specialists are obliged to preserve the integrity of their investigations. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences provides no guidelines for crime scene ethics or retention of items from former crime scenes.[18] Without these guidelines, there are no rules that regulate whether or not someone can keep, remove, or sell anything found during a crime scene investigation which is why it is so important to use ethics in your practices.

What exactly does ethics mean for a Crime Scene Officer (CSO)? As a CSO it is your role first and foremost to help the public and to understand that you are called to a crime scene because something is wrong. Never “jump the gun” on a case because you cannot force evident to fit someone’s ideas. Go into each case unbiased, and let the evidence speak for itself. Officers must be aware that they are not able to let their personal feelings interrupt objective, critical, and reflective consideration of the case.[19] It is important to approach each scene with the attitude that you’re there to help the victim(s), assume that each case is going to a jury trial, act professionally, take the time to process each scene, and ultimately solve the case.[20] There is also a set of directions on how to process each scene professionally. It starts with stressing the importance of documenting everything thoroughly using photography, videography, diagrams, and sketches. Then, it is important to record all information about evidence that is found on the Evidence Custody Sheet. You should list each piece of evidence with its item number, what was done with it, where it was found, etc. and the item number must correspond with the number found on the photograph of the item and the number entered on any evidence collection bag. When appropriate, you must swab and collect evidence in that way. One of the most important things to remember as a CSO is to not ignore evidence because you do not think that it can be processed,  recognize your limits. Dick Warrington, a crime scene consultant, stressed that “It’s far better to call in fingerprint or other experts than to lose evidence because of your pride”.[21]

A large part of ethics is being morally right which brings out the idea of whether or not evidence from crime scenes should be released to the public before court. A conversation between Katherine Biber, a law professor, and Peter Doyle, a researcher of crime scene photographs, joined a conversation about the ethics at crime scenes.[22] The biggest reason why evidence should not be released to the public, especially before court, is because people will start to question and try to get involved with the investigation even though they should not. This is especially due to the theory of the “CSI Effect”. After watching a couple of CSI shows, the public thinks that they can solve the crime and their interference can actually do more harm than good. Crime scene photos also are a big part of being able to properly, and ethically, solve a case due to its authenticity. Some of the ethical rules behind crime scenes is to not touch or interfere with anything and leave it exactly how it is. A lot of times pictures can be confusing because it becomes difficult to realize what exactly you’re looking for. In response to this statement, Peter Doyle said “I’m so good at unpacking them, decoding them- you can see how they manipulate us, you can see the mythic underpinnings”.[23] Many people in the public if photographs were released would attempt to make a bigger deal of something than it needed to be rather than letting the professionals who are trained to look at these photographs figure it out for themselves.

Crime scene photos and other evidence being released to the problem also brings out the ethical problem in the “CSI Effect”. Reality and fiction have begun to blur with crime magazine TV shows like 48 Hour Mystery, American Justice, and Dateline NBC.[24] These shows portray actual cases, but extensively edit the content for a dramatic effect. Also, crime fiction TV drama shows like Law and Order, Criminal Minds, CSI promote plots that are “ripped from the headlines”. It has been proven that watching shows like this cause jurors to wrongfully acquit guilty defendants when no scientific evidence has been presented. Donald Shelton, a felony trial judge for the past 17 years, recalls that he once heard a juror complain that the prosecution had not done a thorough job because “they didn’t even dust the lawn for fingerprints”. These shows have caused a rise in the unreasonable expectations for evidence that is presented during a trial. Many jurors compare cases that they are in trial for to ones that they hear about and watch on TV. Some statistics that support how the “CSI Effect” is real in court cases are as follows: 46% of jurors expect to see some kind of scientific evidence in every criminal case, 22% expect to see DNA evidence in every criminal case, 36% expect to see fingerprint evidence in every criminal case, 32% expect to see ballistic or other firearms lab evidence in every criminal case.[25]

 

Bria Bryant

Kayla Bortoff

Lauren Meyer

[1] Erickson, Elizabeth. Perceptions of the CSI-Effect by New York State Prosecutors and Forensic Science Requests at Trial. Northcentral University: Proquest Dissertations Publishing, 2015. http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1759209998?accountid=14244.

[2] Houck, Max M. “CSI: Reality.” Scientific American 295, no. 1 (July 2006): 84–89. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26068885. (pg. 85)

[3] Bonn, Scott . “Why We Are Drawn to True Crime Shows.” Time. TIME, January 8, 2016. http://time.com/4172673/true-crime-allure/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kristina Ericksen, 7 Ways the CSI Effect is Altering Our Courtrooms, (2017). Retrieved from: https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/justice-studies/blog/ways-csi-effect-is-altering-our-courtrooms/

[6] Michael Roberts, How the CSI Effect Influences American Jurors, (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/csi-effect-1669447

[7] Lorna Dawson/ Chris Gannicliffe, Managing the Myths, CSI Effect in Forensic Science, (2017). Retrieved from: https://microbiologysociety.org/publication/past-issues/microbiology-in-popular-culture/article/managing-the-myths-the-csi-effect-in-forensic-science.html

[8] National Forensic Science Technology Center, A Simplified Guide to Crime Scene Investigation, (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.forensicsciencesimplified.org/csi/how.html

[9] Donald Shelton, The ‘CSI Effect’: Does It Really Exist?, (2008). Retrieved from: https://www.nij.gov/journals/259/pages/csi-effect.aspx

[10] Houck, Max M. “CSI: Reality.” Scientific American 295, no. 1 (July 2006): 84–89. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26068885.

[11] “The CSI Effect.” Crime Museum. Crime Museum, 2017. https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/forensic-investigation/the-csi-effect/.

[12] Houck, Max M. “CSI: Reality.” Scientific American 295, no. 1 (July 2006): 84–89. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26068885.

[13] Erickson, Elizabeth. Perceptions of the CSI-Effect by New York State Prosecutors and Forensic Science Requests at Trial. Northcentral University: Proquest Dissertations Publishing, 2015. http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1759209998?accountid=14244.

[14] Ibid, 25.

[15] Durnal, Evan W. Crime Scene Investigation (as Seen on TV). University of Central Missouri: Forensic Science International, 2010. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.02.015.

[16] Rogers, Tracy L. “Crime Scene Ethics: Souvenirs, Teaching Material, and Artifacts.” Journal of Forensic Sciences49, no. 2 (April 2004): 1-5. Accessed April 8, 2019. doi:10.1520/jfs2003287.

[17] “Ethic.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethic.

[18] Rogers, Tracy L. “Crime Scene Ethics: Souvenirs, Teaching Material, and Artifacts.” Journal of Forensic Sciences49, no. 2 (April 2004): 1-5. Accessed April 8, 2019. doi:10.1520/jfs2003287.

[19] McCartney, Steve, and Rick Parent. Ethics in Law Enforcement. April 17, 2015. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://opentextbc.ca/ethicsinlawenforcement/chapter/4-4-ethical-issues-during-an-investigation/.

[20] Warrington, Dick. “Ethics at the Crime Scene.” Forensic Magazine. June 14, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://www.forensicmag.com/article/2015/09/ethics-crime-scene.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Biber, K., Doyle, P., & Rossmanith, K. (2013). PERVING AT CRIME SCENES: Authenticity, ethics, aesthetics: A conversation. Griffith Law Review, 22(3), 804-814. Retrieved from http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1549242682?accountid=14244

[23] Ibid.

[24] Shelton, Donald E. “The CSI Effect: Does It Really Exist?” PsycEXTRA Dataset, 2008. Accessed April 8, 2019. doi:10.1037/e444972008-001.

[25] Ibid.

26 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this article because I am very interested in crime TV and an avid watcher. I feel like I will now watch with a new lens and perspective after reading this post. There seem to be many inaccuracies with what is portrayed on TV as a simple procedure. I learned a lot from this post and am very happy to have this new knowledge.

  2. This was a very interesting and insightful approach to investigating how mainstream television shows can actually impact the processes which they falsely mimic. This topic is especially interesting as I recently had a lecture on forensic psychology which discussed the false ideas surrounding criminal profiling. After reading your paper, it is likely that these false ideas come from the depictions of criminal profilers in popular crime shows such as Criminal Minds. Often, people have the idea that criminal profilers are an extremely valuable resource for the FBI. However, this is actually a somewhat rare profession as it has been revealed to be severely inaccurate. Research has proven that a profiler’s profile of a criminal may only be correct about 3% of the entire profile. One thing that I was somewhat unsure about in your paper was how researcher’s know that it is the CSI Effect which leads jurors to want more evidence before convicting a defendant and not the rage of media at the discovery of a false conviction?

  3. This article frustrated me, which is a compliment to your writing. I was frustrated with jurors who think they know more than professionals, and your detailed writing made that clear. I am glad that you walked the reader through the real-life steps of a forensic analyst because it can be juxtaposed with the knowledge of how the process is presented on crime shows. I also really enjoyed how you weighed in the ethical issues of the topic along with the ethical issues of forensic analysis itself. I would have liked to hear more about the differences the CSI Effect has between different groups and cultures, and how places that might not have CSI could have similar results from other shows. Thank you for a great article.

  4. You provide a lot of good information about how a crime scene investigation is suppose to be in reality and how the CSI effect can negatively impact our criminal justice system. However, when reading this it raised an important question for me. Is this increase demand of expectations and evidence caused by the CSI effect solely a bad thing, or are there positive things about it too? Given the current climate shouldn’t we be asking more of our criminal justice system in the sense of thoroughly investigating crimes and processing evidence in a strict and ethical way? I also wonder if, even despite the potential inaccuracies of crime shows such as CSI, they don’t offer the public a glimpse into something that is commonly unknown to them. Thus allowing the public the chance to have an open dialogue about potential issues regarding crime scene investigation and the criminal justice system as a whole.

    As a fan of the CSI trilogy, I wanted to note that the picture you shared, you said it took place on CSI Miami. However, in the photo are Ted Danson and George Eads, both of whom only appeared (minus crossover episodes) on the original CSI, which took place in Las Vegas.

  5. I enjoyed your article; I think you did an amazing job with writing and integrating all the different perspectives. I found this interesting, as I used to watch Bones and was addicted to Criminal Minds for a couple of years. I can completely understand and see your point. It is often difficult to remember that movies and TV Shows are fake, even though they may have some aspects of reality. In these criminal shows, the process is often sped up and made to be exciting to maintain the viewers’ attention. It can definitely shape the public’s view on forensic evidence and criminal investigation because, in most cases, it is the only type of exposure they have to those processes. However, I never thought about these shows affecting the opinions of jurors; this can be very dangerous when the public believe they know more/better than the professionals. I wonder how criminal professionals and the media will try to address this problem in the future. Maybe they can show a movie/documentary of the actual process with a simulation, or maybe they can create a more realistic crime fiction TV shows.

  6. Wow, very interesting topic. I love to watch all the CSI episodes, especially SVU and I had never heard of the CSI effect. Your writing flowed very well and was easy to follow, and you integrated all perspectives nicely. There were a few grammatical errors I picked up on (such as “evident” instead of “evidence”, and a repeated paragraph), but overall great job! I like how you created your own code of ethics for Crime Scene Officers, as it shocked me there were no guidelines for crime scene ethics. I also question how no steps have been taken to reverse the CSI affect, or if there will be any in the future. How can we educate jurors to the correct standards? Or maybe how can we more accurately portray crime scene investigations in media? These are important questions we need to consider to erase the effects of the CSI affect on our legal system. But I did find one of the previous comments fascination: is it necessarily always a bad thing?

  7. Right from the start I was intrigued by this article, mainly in the fact that the theory mentioned in the first paragraph is one I find myself unknowingly slipping into. While watching TV I find that I sometimes have to tell myself that what is being presented is not always the complete story nor entirely fact based. The disparity brought up in the article between jurors’ expectations of evidence and true incriminating evidence is interesting however I am not convinced that it is due solely to the theory of cultivation. I believe jurors come into the courtroom thinking evidence would be more like that seen in CSI because that show is their only experience with the courtroom. The jurors do not have to believe that CSI shows only true evidence to form a mental schema or assumption of what a courtroom would be like, rather CSI could augment the imagination. To play devil’s advocate, someone who does not agree with the CSI Effect could argue that if a person is guilty, the incriminating evidence should speak for itself as it does so often in the TV show.

    The scientific portion of this article was extremely interesting! I have always been intrigued by the methods involved in forensic science and this section does a great job detailing exactly what crime scene investigators do when collecting evidence. The second paragraph of the ethics section was very confusing to read. It seems as though the paragraph is taken straight from a handbook on how to be a CSO rather than synthesizing the information and presenting just the ethics of the job.

  8. I liked how you guys exposed the gullibility and how impressionable Americans are when it comes to what they see on TV or media in general. Many people just easily accept what they see as fact without looking more into the sources and its credibility.

    I’d also like to point out that two of your paragraphs essentially said the same thing which may have been an overlooked mistake. They are the ones that starts with “Ethics is a huge part of crime scene investigations…”

    Based on how this post, it seems like the problem is that because of crime shows, Americans assumed that heavy evidence such as DNA evidence is more common than it is when pertaining to a crime scene. This assumption results in the demand for hard, biological evidence before the conviction of someone when it comes to a crime. I think that it would be good if you stated a solution to the problem. One solution to the problem could be to dispose the idea of being able to find DNA evidence at every crime scene. Jurors, prior to trial, could be informed of the CSI effect which could aid in the prevention of any bias when considering the case.

  9. Nicole Salazar

    April 24, 2019 at 1:03 am

    I believe a lot of us relate to the article with the” CSI effect”, which I did not know existed but definitely have felt the repercussions. I am an avid fan of CSI:Special Victims Unit, Dexter, The Act, television and Youtube specials on famous cases. I have caught myself criticizing the officials and professionals who have been trained and work in the field from prior knowledge I have learned in a drama series. Hollywood will always glam and make events more interesting by excluding the boring parts and your post did a great job at providing examples of those things. I figured the process for obtaining evidence was a lengthy one but I did not know the specific steps and precise everything and everyone had to be to not obstruct evidence.

  10. I really enjoyed reading about how television impacts people’s perspectives on violence and crime. It also was surprising to hear that these television dramas have also impacted our justice system. Certain studies have suggested that shows depicting heightened levels of crime and violence have impacted the behaviors of society, especially young children when they are prematurely exposed to violent forms of entertainment. Because many of these shows have normalized violent behaviors, do you think these shows have contributed to increased levels of aggression and violence among teenagers? Also, why do you think the Academy of Forensic Sciences provides no guidelines for ethics? This was surprising to hear as one would expect there to be strict regulations and rules about the processing and future use of materials found during investigations. With the expanding culture of criminal investigation entertainment, I think it is important for producers to emphasize the message that the events that occur on television are not representative of real life events. I personally love to watch crime investigation shows, and by reading this article it is easy to see how the scenarios in these television dramas can alter the judgement of jurors as they have preconceived expectations about what kind of evidence is and is not incriminating.

  11. Rebecca Burton

    April 24, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your article! I’ve always been fascinated and a fan of CSI shows. However, even though I have been a fan for a while, I have often doubted the procedures presented in these shows. One major thing I have noticed is that they get DNA results back extremely fast in comparison to the real world. Even though I have always doubted the procedures shown in these CSI shows, I had never thought about these false perceptions influence jurors in real court cases! It is really disheartening to see how much these CSI shows negatively influence the opinions and beliefs of jurors and make criminal court cases harder to convict real criminals. Your post did a great job of defining and explaining all of the aspects of this issue as well as showing the importance and relevance of this problem!

  12. This article is really interesting in how it describes how procedural television is warping our view of how the justice system works, making forensics the key to conviction. The effect is resulting indirectly from Americans’ consumption of television which tends to be dramatized for entertainment purposes. However, if this is directly affecting criminal cases, should some kind of juror screening now be put in place to see how frequently potential jurors watch these shows and prevent them from serving? Would it even be possible to somehow screen this bias out? More than just the influence of television media it would be interesting to explore how other forms of social media and television are influencing the bias of court cases. As many cases are discussed publicly it would be interesting to study if the rise on watching real court cases on tv impacts how people view the legal system. This seems to be very much an American phenomenon so it would be interesting to see how a country with a very similar culture like England is impacted by crime shows if at all. I know very little about their justice system but if they have jurors are they similarly impacted by watching crime shows?

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed your post on the CSI Effect. As someone who watches a lot of crimes shows with my mom, I never really thought about how these shows can impact how the public, especially jurors, think about crime scenes. As I was reading this, it forced me to think about my own opinions regarding DNA evidence and that I too hold these beliefs that DNA should be shown at every crime scene. While I’ve always understood these shows as fake, I never realized just how much they influenced my judgment on the justice system until now. An additional perspective this post could take could potentially be to look out how other cultures view their justice system, especially those with less crime television shows. Do other countries have this higher burden of proof? Another interesting thing I think you could look into is how this affects minorities in the United States. I know that there are many crime shows like NCIS which tend to look more at terrorism and how there always seems to be an act of terror that the squad can squash. I wonder if these shows have influenced the way many American people look at people from other countries around the world, particularly southwest Asia. If more of the public wants to get involved in crime scenes, I wonder if these shows could potentially lead to higher rates of stereotyping people from this part of the world.
    While the topics are completely different, I see some similarities between your post and mine about how ghost hunting shows have impacted how we think of ghosts in the United States. In your post, you talk about how the CSI Effect has made an increase in the burden of proof, and a similar thing has happened with the rise in ghost hunting shows. These shows often give us clear “proof” that ghosts exist and as a result, more people are believing in ghosts in spirits. Great job on your post!

  14. I took a forensic science class in high school. Even though I was educated in the extensive processes of crime scene investigations, I recently found that I also fell victim to the CSI Effect. In my psychology class, we were discussing different careers in psychology. Of course, a common profession that comes to mind behavior analyst, due to the hit show Criminal Minds. Although this is a fictional show, many people, including myself, thought that profiling was an effective way to catch criminals. I came to find out in my psychology class that profiling is mostly inaccurate and ineffective. Now, of course, I am more educated, and know that profiling is not exactly an effective science.

    Why do the judges want more evidence, if the jurors are the ones that decide if one is guilty or innocent? Is it to further ensure that the jurors will convict those who are guilty? What power, if any, does the judge have in overpowering the verdict of the jury? Since these crime shows are global, are other countries also seeing a rise in the CSI effect?

    The blog post is a little contradictory because it states that the crime scene will collect “hard evidence” to convict the guilty. If this is hard evidence- like DNA or even fingerprints- why does the jury not believe it? From my knowledge, a lot of crime TV shows convict perpetrators on the basis of either of these specimens. Not all evidence is considered “hard evidence,” as some evidence is direct, and others are circumstantial. Direct evidence means that the evidence alone is enough to convict the individual. An example of this would be video footage, or even an audio recording. An example of circumstantial evidence is a shoe print in the mud. Are juries and judges wanted more direct evidence, or is there not enough circumstantial evidence to support the direct evidence? Is it a little bit of both?

    I felt like the procedure discussed in the beginning was just a less specific procedure explanation than was explained in the ethics section of the blog post. What are some precautions that can be taken for jurors to have more realistic expectations of a trial? Would a crash course be beneficial?

  15. Such an interesting topic! Thank you for such an intriguing article. I was first drawn to your topic because of the way it meshes modern death with media representation. I was fascinated to learn the power of media in cases of trials by jury and the way media can so greatly obscure fair trials. For my article, we discussed the role of media representation in police killings, also finding the media to be a powerful distributor and influencer. However, in our case, we often found that media played the role of amplifying true realities and in the case of The CSI Effect, media obscured reality and justice.

  16. I enjoyed reading this article! I decided to read it because I did not know what the CSI effect was, and it honestly reminded me of CSI and crime shows that I enjoy watching. The CSI effect is really interesting to me and it makes a lot of sense. There are so many television shows that involve crime and forensic science. These TV programs make intricate plot lines that are interesting to the viewer, a lot of which is not something we see every day in actual court rooms. I found it interesting that jurors are now wanting more forensic evidence even though as stated in the article “finger prints don’t lie.” Although crime and forensic science tv shows are fun to watch and interesting to the viewer, we can’t compare the plot lines to actual crime investigations, as tv shows are often exaggerated to be more interesting and attention grabbing to the viewer.

  17. I personally love crime dramas like Criminal Minds and crime based movies. They are so interesting to me to see all the forensic evidence and the psychologies of the killers. I had no idea that it actually makes a difference in courts. Does the jury not convict people as often when there is low forensic evidence? Are there statistics on this? There are statistics on the end of the post that say how often people expect this evidence but does this effect the conviction rates? If it does, there should be a jury screening process for this. They already ask questions to limit who is on the jury based on biases, they could add questions about CSI type shows to lessen the CSI effect in courts. I always knew they didn’t handle scenes correctly on TV shows, and it was interesting and kind of sad to see that so many people are unable to separate real crime from dramatic TV crime and know they aren’t as easily solved.

  18. Being a person who loves watching crime shows like Criminal Minds, Bones, and Law and Order, I was definitely interested in learning about the implications that these shows can have subconsciously that I was not aware of previously. It didn’t occur to me that these shows actually have affected the criminal justice system that we have in place today, and it is sad that these shows have caused jurors to undermine the professionals and their work. I think that these shows could definitely spread awareness for the forensic science field, but that they often misrepresent the forensic investigation system as one that is clearcut and easily resolved, rather than complex. In my pod’s post on the Medicolegal Death Investigations, we actually opened our posting speaking about the misrepresentation of the field of medicolegal death and forensic studies through the media, and I thought it was interesting that both our posts took separate approaches. I appreciated that this post really dove into the complex procedures and standards of care that are done in an investigation, while mine dealt more broadly with the structure and parts of the system. There was a lot of cohesivity and overlap which was very insightful!

  19. Alejandra Fernandez-Borunda

    April 24, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    I really liked this post because I am also victim of watching a lot of crime TV. It is to the point where it is pretty much all I watch on TV. I had never considered the impact this could have on potentially influencing me if I do jury duty. Though now there is also a trend in true crime podcasts, so I wonder if this could potentially counterbalance the misconceptions of crime TV or make it worse. In true crime podcast, they reveal more of the real process of how the police work but those that speak in the podcast are usually not licensed reporters or involved in law enforcement. Do you think this could help improve the misconceptions? Or maybe educating the jury before a trial might have a bigger impact?

  20. a. I am guilty of cultivation and I watch a bunch of crime shows. I’m aware that crime shows are way for us Americans to be informed of what goes on in an actual criminal investigation. I feel like the crime shows give a decent amount information when it comes to protocol of a crime scene. It’s almost possible to include every aspect that goes on in a criminal investigation, because somethings are occurring simultaneously. One of my favorite crime shows would have to be “How to Get Away with Murder,” because it shows you a brief clip of what happens in the very last episode and the entire season gives clues and investigates how they reached the final point.

  21. This article appealed to me a lot because I absolutely love to watch CSI and other crime shows! Despite this fact, I have never actually read any literature on the topic so this was a very unique approach to the world of crime and entertainment. After reading this post, I will definitely think differently about how I view these shows and keep these facts in mind. Great work!

  22. I was very intrigued by this article as I too, have an obsessive fascination with crime shows. This fascination, which is obviously globally shared, reminds me of how while death is feared it is also captivating. Any curious person has an inquiry into things that are hard to understand. For example, the public has recently been obsessed with serial killers such as Ted Bundy – and the media has been able to profit on this fascination. The people fascinated by serial killers do not want to become one (hopefully) they simply want to understand how in the world someone could gain pleasure from killing someone.

    I was intrigued by the scientific part of this article that explained how a crime scene should be kept and how officials need to meticulously record the details of the crime scene. It seems to be, [at least in documentaries that I have watched], that when those rules are not followed to the smallest detail, the officials are scrutinized and immediately sought as suspects into why those rules were not followed… could it be to obstruct the evidence, or to plant new evidence?

  23. I found this post very intriguing because I enjoy watching crime shows such as Psych. I never thought to contemplate how these shows would influence the public. Watching these shows causes many jurors to require more evidence to convict someone or causes professionals to have more difficultly conducting their job due to increased public interference. I was interested to know about these and numerous other facts; however, I inquire how could crime shows be modified in order to better portray an accurate crime scene. This could reduce the effect of CSI on the general public making it easier for many people to perform their job. It would be interesting to add another perspective perhaps regarding someone who watches crime shows and then had to participate in court in reality. It would be captivating to discover how he or she felt towards their expectation of the court from the CSI shows versus the how the actual court operated. Overall, this post was very informative and interesting.

  24. This post displays how, as in other posts such as “Media Representation & Police Killings of African Americans” and “Mass Murders in Schools”, the media is an incredibly influential component of the perception of a topic. Media determines how an issue or concept is seen. In this case, media has a negative impact on court cases, overall damaging the justice system. People’s expectations have been skewed due to the dramatics of crime investigation television shows, and despite taking a forensic science class in high school, I also picture tv shows when considering a crime investigation. However, how do you address the reality of crime investigations without ruining the shows? Could the jury possibly undergo a quick forensic science information session before entering the court? This would be difficult to implement, however. Although not exactly under the topic of the CSI Effect, but certainly related, I was also curious about another aspect of crimes being committed in tv shows. Is it possible that the techniques for criminal activity used in the shows are educating criminals? This could include ways of disposing possible evidence, locations where it is more difficult to detect crimes, etc.

  25. The media is a big factory of misconceptions. People are influenced by what they watch because of how realistic it is to them. This article did a great job emphasizing the issue that this has become. Not only does it make the prosecutors job harder, the jury are now misinformed, and how can a misinformed, semi-biased jury seem capable of convicting a man? It doesn’t seem plausible. The media has too much influence over the people.

  26. Considering that I have fallen victim to crime shows in the past, I found the CSI effect read to be so interesting. To think that crime television shows could have a real-life impact in the courtroom is distressing. I enjoyed reading about the actual steps a forensic scientist would take and comparing that to the shows I watch, and I had no idea there was a Crime Scene Officer before reading. This post made me wonder why we do not educate jurors coming in to the reality of forensics and what is considered proper evidence. Seeing the numbers of what jurors expect, such as 46% of jurors expecting to see some kind of scientific evidence in every trial makes me think that a few quick classes or modules before the case is presented would alleviate that confusion.

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