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CSI Effect: Does It Really Exist?

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 259 Dated: March 2008 Pages: 1-6
Donald E. Shelton
Date Published
March 2008
6 pages
This study tested the validity of the common belief that juror expectations for the persuasiveness of forensic evidence presented at trial and their demand for it being present as a condition for conviction is linked to their having watched law-related television shows that focus on such evidence in solving crimes.
The study found that although viewers of such television shows had higher expectations for scientific evidence than jurors who did not view such programs, these expectations had little, if any, influence on the respondents' propensity to convict defendants. Still, it is important for judges and lawyers to appreciate that juror expectations for forensic evidence have a bearing on the kinds of evidence they associate with certainty of a defendant's guilt. This fact should influence jury instructions given by the judge and information given to jurors about how evidence presented or that is unavailable bears upon the strength of a case. It is inevitable that recent advances in forensic technology bearing upon evidence collection and analysis will find their way into television scripts that are influenced by dramatic impact and time constraints. This requires that court personnel give attention to correcting any unrealistic expectations television-viewing jurors may have. For this study, 1,027 randomly summoned jurors in Ann Arbor, MI, completed a written questionnaire in June, July, and August 2006. The survey asked questions about seven types of cases and the types of evidence prospective jurors expected to see for each offense type, with a list of evidence types provided for selection. They were then asked the verdict they would render under 13 case scenarios of evidence presentation for each type of case. In addition to demographic information, participants were asked about the television programs they watched, how often, and how "real" they believed the programs to be. 1 figure and 2 notes