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Ohio Crime and the “CSI Effect”

It’s no surprise that crime shows are the most popular television shows to watch these days. The ratings for crime dramas like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: NY and CSI: Miami are through the roof and have generated a tremendous amount of interest in forensic science and its use
to solve crimes.

As criminal defense attorneys in Ohio, we know that one benefit of this phenomenon is that today’s jurors are more knowledgeable and interested in the cases they sit on especially when there is a lot of juicy evidence to sort through. However, there is a down side to glamorizing forensic science. When people come to unrealistic expectations on the forensic science process and the role it plays in solving a crime they are victims of what is called the crime scene investigation effect.

What is the CSI Effect?

Scientists and academics have coined the phrase “crime scene investigation effect” or “CSI effect,” to mean that popular television shows that glamorize the use of forensic science to solve crimes have painted a much distorted view on the reliability and capability of science. The producers of these shows need to get the alleged culprit convicted before the show ends. Unfortunately, science doesn’t work that fast. In fact, in certain situations, it can take forensic labs weeks if not months to analyze and provide results to a submission. Television crime dramas usually have the lab reports when the show returns from commercial breaks. Additionally, the shows don’t account for human or technical errors, which do occur.

Can Too Much Information Be Dangerous?

The CSI Effect has a huge impact on jurors for they are hungry to see evidence and inquire why every piece of evidence isn’t sent to the forensic lab for analysis. They often don’t understand that not every bit of evidence needs to be scrutinized by a lab. Prosecutors could have a hard time winning their case if there is not a lot of scientific evidence to present to the jurors. In response to this, before making their jury selections, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys have begun asking potential jurors which television shows they watch.

Although these types of television shows are fascinating and informative you must watch them with a grain of salt. Bear in mind, that although some of the cases might be based on true cases, they are fiction and should be viewed as such. Real life forensic labs
don’t have extravagantly high-tech forensic equipment that provides rapid results and the crimes are not solved in less than 60 minutes, including commercials.

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