CSI EFFECT – PART 3: THE JUDGE

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This is Part 3 of our CSI Effect blog (see Introduction, Part 1 and Part 2.)

Of all the people involved in court proceedings, no one understands the truly detrimental role that the CSI Effect can have on a case more than the judge. Judges see everyday the affect these popular television shows have on their juries. Judges see jurors with preconceived expectations of dynamic, exciting court proceedings. When this expectation is not reflected in reality, it’s likely that the experience of being a jury member and the sometimes tedious nature of the presentation of evidence will lead to jury members who are bored and disinterested.

This in turn affects the way the jury processes the information that’s being presented to them, because if in fact they are disappointed that their experience is not resembling what’s been reinforced on TV, then they may jump to improper conclusions about how one side or the other may be hiding certain results or concealing evidence.

A judge requires jury members to be attentive and focused to ensure a fair trial. Therefore, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys should make sure to bring up the CSI Effect during jury selection. This entails asking potential jurors questions about their exposure to these television shows, as well as their knowledge of the criminal justice system, in order to properly gauge whether they have a good grasp of what’s real and what’s not.

Judges also know that in situations where scientific evidence or forensic audio or video evidence is presented, jurors tend to perk up and pay a bit more attention. However, as we discussed in our previous blog, the use of forensic evidence can backfire if it is not properly presented in an easy-to-understand way. If an expert witness gives unclear testimony and is not fully prepared for the cross examination, this will cause jurors to become confused and distrust the side giving the presentation.

The prevalence of forensic evidence in the courtroom will only continue to grow, and the popularity of television shows based on forensic science remains strong. Therefore, it’s important that judges stay cognizant of the jury issues that are a result of this phenomenon.

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