To the extent that critics claim that the direct effect of watching CSI or other crime-related television programs is to make jurors more likely to acquit guilty defendants, the results of this study do not confirm that any such “CSI effect” exists. The results show that specifically watching CSI or a similar show did not have a causative impact on juror demands for scientific evidence as a condition of a guilty verdict in most criminal case scenarios. Additionally, a significant percentage of all respondent jurors, regardless of whether they specifically watched CSI or its ilk, have high expectations that the prosecutor will present some scientific evidence in virtually every criminal case. And those expectations do translate into demands for scientific evidence as a condition of guilt in some case scenarios, particularly where the charge is serious and particularly where the other evidence of guilt is circumstantial.Sounds right to me. That was my instinct when I reacted to complaints about the "C.S.I. effect" two years ago:
Rather than any direct “CSI effect” from watching certain types of television programs, this article suggests that these juror expectations of and demands for scientific evidence are the result of broader changes in popular culture related to advancements in both technology and information distribution. Those broad and pervasive changes in technology lead jurors to expect that the prosecutor will obtain and present the scientific evidence that technology has made possible. These increased expectations and demands of jurors therefore could be more accurately referred to as the “tech effect.”
The criminal justice system must adapt to the “tech effect” rather than fight against it. The constitutional stature of juries in our system is based on the principle that individual judgments of guilt or innocence, like issues of other governmental representation, should be made by ordinary citizens. It is not only appropriate but constitutionally expected that those jurors and their verdicts will reflect the changes that have occurred in popular culture. To adapt, law enforcement officials will have to commit additional resources to obtaining scientific evidence in many more situations. In the meantime, the law must become better at explaining to jurors why such evidence is not forthcoming.
[I]t seems to me that "C.S.I." would tend to sharpen a viewer's perception and attention to logical reasoning. I'm not that sympathetic to prosecutors' whining that they can't rely on jurors' fuzzy thinking anymore. Defense lawyers have always complained about the way jurors were dazzled by science and would defer to expertise. So what if everyone thinks he's an expert too now? That's an incentive for prosecutors to do their work well. The imperfection of real-life evidence is just one more thing they will have to get through to the C.S.I.-sharpened minds of the jurors.