Is “CSI” Making Police, Prosecutors Do Unnecessary Work?


Television shows like the CBS drama “CSI” make solving crimes look easy, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They have created an unrealistic expectation of what forensic science can do, said Max Houck, director of the Forensic Science Initiative research office at West Virginia University. Houck spoke yesterday on the “CSI Effect” at a conference for law enforcement officials and lawyers.

Police processing crime scenes now over-collect evidence, and prosecutors order unnecessary tests to make sure that every eventuality is covered, he said. Defense attorneys demand perfect science all the time. “Part of what gets us irritated by ‘CSI,’ they think the truth doesn’t equal good drama,” he said. “They think they have to ‘sex up’ the story lines.” Houck concedes that, “No one wants to watch someone stare through a microscope for six hours.” Said Pittsburgh police detective Joe Meyers: “What we need to find is a solution in the courtroom — how to tell a jury the difference between what’s TV and what’s reality.” Houck said that as a result of the television exposure, the number of forensic science programs across the nation is soaring.


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