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The “CSI Effect” on Jurors

How the CSI Effect May Affect You

Jurors are tasked with determining whether or not a defendant is guilty, but are they reliable? As a refresher, a jury is a group of people from various sectors of a community that are summonsed and sworn to make decisions based on facts presented at a trial. In other words, jurors are “fact-finders” who base their decisions on legally admissible evidence in court.

Juries have a big responsibility in court, as defendants’ freedom, futures, and livelihoods depend on jury verdicts. Like all humans, however, jurors aren’t perfect and can be subject to biases based on their experiences in life.

The widely-popular television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation may be the culprit of these biases. Why?

The “CSI Effect” has been examined by experts, scholars, and legal professionals for years. While there are many definitions and interpretations of it, the CSI Effect is generally described as a phenomenon where “television educated” jurors are more likely to exonerate or acquit someone because procedures and techniques they saw in fictional television shows were not used in the case, according to Dr. Paul Clements of Drexel University. A peer-reviewed article by John Alldredge of San Jose State University mentions that research has shown the CSI Effect has a “possible pro-defense bias, in that jurors are less likely to convict without the presence of some sort of forensic evidence.”

Since forensic evidence is not always required nor available in every criminal case, however, jurors may be misled into thinking that a criminal defendant is innocent or guilty. Typically, CSI episodes depict crimes getting processed, analyzed, and solved in a short period of time, and most of these crimes involve some type of forensic investigation. In the real world, crimes aren’t solved that quickly nor do they always require forensic examinations and, thus, forensic evidence in court.

Dr. Clements further explains other interpretations of the CSI Effect, suggesting that “Greater public awareness of forensic science has also increased the demand for forensic evidence in police investigations, inflating workloads for crime laboratories. He references one case study where a juror justified why they didn’t vote for conviction, saying that the prosecution didn’t do a thorough job because “they didn’t even dust the lawn for fingerprints.”

Dr. Clements cites another case study in which a district attorney stated, “Jurors now expect us to have a DNA test for just about every case. They expect us to have the most advanced technology possible, and they expect it to look like it does on television."

Reducing the CSI Effect on Your Case

Our Milwaukee criminal defense attorney is well-aware of the potential biases, such as the CSI Effect, that could impact the outcome of your case. We understand that jurors are people and people aren’t perfect, but with so much at stake in your life, we will not turn a blind eye to the factors that could determine whether you’re innocent or guilty. You can count on us to anticipate the risks in your jury trial and mitigate them to the best of our abilities to help you receive the fair trial to which you are entitled.

Schedule your free consultation online or by calling (414) 882-8382 to learn more!