Should Judges Worry About the "CSI Effect"?
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These days it still seems like everyone is talking about the "CSI effect." Attorneys seem to talk about it all the time. The 258 different articles using the term between 2002 and 2008 that we found through a LexisNexis search are undoubtedly only the tip of the iceberg of media mentions of this supposed phenomenon. Even academics are writing about it--already a handful of books, several dissertations in progress, and numerous scholarly journal articles detail the topic. Judges are no exception to this phenomenon. A recent survey shows that most judges believe the television program Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) has increased jurors' expectations for forensic evidence, and many judges believe CSI has made it more difficult to convict defendants. 1 In an analysis of 318 newspaper and magazine articles discussing the CSI effect, 27 (8.5%) quoted a judge. 2 Justice Scalia mentioned the phenomenon in an opinion. 3 Judge Harry Edwards, Chief Judge Emeritus of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Co-Chair of a recent National Research Council (NRC) Committee on improving forensic science, has mentioned the phenomenon a number of times in his speeches about the committee's work. 4 One member of one the most prominent teams of scholars doing empirical research on the CSI effect is a state court judge: Donald Shelton, Chief Judge of the Washtenaw County Trial Court in Michigan. 5 Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Common Pleas Judge John Zottola says, "Jurors' expectations of criminal prosecutions have been altered by these shows.
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