March 18, 2005

Blame "CSI."

Maybe the acquittal of Robert Blake is not just about celebrities and the fancy lawyers they can afford. Maybe jurors in all sorts of cases have come to expect the kind of neatly packaged, conclusive evidence provided by the stories told on the TV show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
Across the country, prosecutors say juries are demanding more from them. In the Blake case, jurors said Thursday that they wanted more-convincing evidence, such as conclusive gunshot residue on Blake's hands, or a fingerprint on the murder weapon, or more precision from casual eyewitnesses about Blake's actions around the time Bakley was shot to death in a parked car in Studio City.

"There is no doubt that there's increasing expectation by jurors of [the evidence] they're going to see," said Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and member of the board of directors of the National District Attorneys Assn. "Prosecutors across the country are very concerned about this."

Marquis found it disturbing that Blake jurors "seemed very dismissive of circumstantial evidence," he said. "Well, guess what? In most cases … you don't have physical evidence."...

Cecilia Maldonado was among the majority of jurors who felt from the beginning that the state had not proved its case. The 45-year-old Granada Hills legal secretary said she would have liked more of the kind of evidence she has seen in the cases on "CSI."

"I just expected so much more," she said, acknowledging that such television crime shows did create "a higher expectation" for her.

UPDATE: A reader writes:
I had jury duty on Thursday. During voir dire, the prosecutor specifically asked us if we watched CSI, and whether we understood that it was just a TV show, that in real life investigators don't find a ten-year old cigarette butt, wave it in front of a scanner, and have a magic screen pop up instantaneously with a photograph and complete dossier of the perpetrator. Everbody laughed, but we paid attention to his point, about which he was deadly serious.

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