Ideally, forensic scientists would test every fiber, every drop of blood they find at a crime scene. But if they did, it would be all they did, says the Anchorage Daily News. A DNA case can take up to 60 days to close because of the screening, extraction and replication process — a far cry from TV-land testing. Still, television-educated jurors are increasingly demanding impeccable evidence before they’ll lock someone up. It’s the so-called “CSI” effect — juries that are overly reliant on physical evidence, thinking state-of-the-art science offers investigators nearly magical abilities to solve any crime. “The ‘CSI’ effect is a real phenomenon in the courtroom,” said Anchorage District Attorney Adrienne Bachman. “(A jury’s) expectations might be too high in a given case — that’s certainly a possibility — but that’s something that prosecutors have to face head-on. We can’t ignore it or avoid it.”
Alaska officials want to expand their state crime lab, but even if they do, prosecutors will still have to battle jurors’ perception that all cases hang on physical evidence. Jurors always seem to want to see DNA, said DNA analyst Jessica Hogan, even though in many cases it’s not needed. And if it’s not a necessity, getting a DNA match is too expensive and time-consuming to warrant. “Not finding DNA doesn’t prove that something didn’t happen,” Hogan said.