“CSI Effect” Causing More Juries To Acquit

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With a perfectly powdered yet furrowed brow, the sexy crime scene investigator arrives at a Las Vegas apartment and finds a dead man, recounts the Baltimore Sun. Minutes later, she spies a tiny shard of glass in the pant cuff of the victim’s brother, matches it to shattered glass in the apartment, and quickly proves the evil brother to be the murderer. Case solved in an hour, minus commercials.

As “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and similar programs have topped America’s most-watched lists, lawyers say jurors increasingly expect to encounter in the courtroom what they’ve seen on television – DNA, fingerprints or other irrefutable scientific evidence of guilt. In Baltimore, lawyers have attributed several recent surprising acquittals to what they call the CSI effect. “Jurors are so influenced by television to the point that it makes it nearly impossible for us,” said Baltimore’s Deputy State’s Attorney Haven H. Kodeck. “I tell everyone, ‘If you watch CSI, please put it out of your mind,'” he said. “People expect us to produce what TV produces, and that’s just not reality.” Fewer than 10 percent of the homicide cases in the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office involve fingerprint or DNA evidence. Baltimore chief prosecutor Patricia Jessamy, a National District Attorneys Association board member, said the trend is nationwide. “Everybody is complaining about it,” Jessamy said. “It’s become a standing joke.” When CSI, set in Las Vegas, first aired in 2000, she asked Las Vegas District Attorney Stuart Bell about high-tech forensic techniques she had seen on the show. “I said, ‘Do you have all that stuff out there?'” she said. “He laughed and said, ‘Are you kidding? It’s killing us, too.'”


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