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CSI Effect and the Legal Community

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1 CSI Effect and the Legal Community
Presented by Hon. Benjamin Zvenia, Dr PH, JD Associate Dean American Heritage University of So. Cal. – School of Law, San Bernardino, CA

2 Fact or Fiction? Material to be covered:
The Myth and Reality of the CSI Effect Studying Juror expectations for Scientific Evidence Should Judges worry about the “CSI Effect”?

3 What comes to mind when the term CSI is mentioned?

4 This?

5 Or

6 Or

7 What about, show on FOX called Bones?

8 What about? One of the 1st Forensic shows, Quincy ME

9 Though, this maybe the 1st

10 The Professor …

11 Or, is this what you think?

12 Maybe this?

13 So, what is the CSI Effect?
Its been loosely defined as the altered expectations of jurors based upon what they have seen on TV shows such as CSI or other related programs.

14 Fact to note: The number of forensically themed TV shows and popular entertainment has exploded over the last decade and shows such as Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and its related spin-offs are among the most popular shows in North America. CSI is in the top ten and CSI Miami was #1 in 2005.

15 TV viewing for Fall 2009 NCIS 24,967,000 viewers
NCIS – LA 17,255, “ CSI 16,342, “ Criminal Minds 15,085, “ CSI Miami 14,292, “ CSI NY 14,180,000

16 How has this affected us?
1. Public’s perception or understanding 2. Actual PD or SO response & evidence gathering 3. Jury’s perception or understanding 4. DA’s/AG’s & Defense Counsel’s role 5. Court’s perception or understanding

17 Does the CSI Effect exist???
▪ Yes! ▪ No! ▪ Maybe!

18 Then, why are journals and articles being written in response to court case decisions where forensic evidence was an issue?

19 Periodicals include: Law enforcement trade journals like Law Officer by Excelsior Publishing and Canadian Journal Police and Security Services Law Review Journals like New England Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal, and other law schools.

20 Periodicals (cont’d):
Bar Organization Journals like ABA, FBA, and other minority bars like NBA, NNABA, etc. Judicial Publications like AJA and related judicial organizations or programs like Science for Judges Program through Brooklyn Law School.


22 Science for Judges Program

23 What is the CSI Effect or Myth?
Typically, media reports of the CSI effect includes references to an undesired effect exhibited during jury trials, which results from jurors’ reactions to the presence or absence of “appropriate” scientific evidence as trial exhibits”. See, Tom R. Tyler, Viewing CSI and the Threshold of Guilt: Managing Truth and Justice in Reality and Fiction, 115 Yale L.J (2006) ; Kimberlianne Podlas,” The CSI Effect”: Exposing the Media Myth, 16 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 429 (2006).

24 What does this boil down to?
Essentially, the argument is that watching CSI (or other similar programs) causes jurors to have unrealistic expectations about the quantity, quality and availability of scientific evidence. See, Steven M. Smith, Marc W. Patry & Veronica Stinson, But what is the CSI Effect?: How Crime Dramas Influence People’s Beliefs about Forensic Evidence, 5 Can. J. Police & Security Services, 187 (2007).

25 Notable tidbits + The CSI effect was raised in the acquittal of actor Robert Blake in the murder of his wife. The L.A. district attorney called the jurors "incredibly stupid," but jurors noted that the former Baretta star was accused of shooting his wife with an old Nazi-era pistol that spewed gunshot residue. Blake's skin and clothes, a juror told U.S. News , had "not one particle.“

26 Notable tidbits (cont’d)
Defense attorneys, predictably, are capitalizing on the popularity of shows like CSI, seizing on an absence of forensic evidence, even in cases where there's no apparent reason for its use. In a Peoria case, jurors acquitted a man accused of stabbing his estranged girlfriend because police didn't test her bloody bedsheets for DNA. The man went back to prison on a parole violation and stabbed his ex again when he got out--this time fatally.

27 Notable tidbits (cont’d)
More and more, police and prosecutors are waking up to the need to cater to a jury's heightened expectations. That means more visual cues, ie., PowerPoint & video presentations, and new emphasis during testimony on why certain types of evidence haven't been presented. If there are no fingerprints in evidence, more prosecutors are asking investigators to explain why, lest jurors take their absence as cause for doubt.

28 CSI & cases gone wrong At trial, many juries tend to believe forensic experts and the evidence they provide – even when they shouldn’t. Case in point --- Sandra Anderson and her specially trained forensic dog, Eagle.

29 Anderson & Eagle case Dubbed a canine Sherlock Holmes, Eagle and his trainer were the darlings of prosecutors and police across the country. They appeared on TV's Unsolved Mysteries and headlined forensic science seminars. The dog seemed to have a bionic nose, finding hidden traces of blood evidence, which Anderson duly corroborated in court.

30 Anderson & Eagle case (Cont’d)
In one case, Eagle's million-dollar nose gave police enough for a search warrant after he found damning evidence in the house of a biochemist suspected of murdering his wife. Plymouth, Mich., Police Lt. Wayne Carroll declared at the time: "Before we brought that dog down there, we were on thin ice." Anderson and Eagle, however, were frauds. After she admitted planting blood on a hacksaw blade during the investigation of the suspect, Azizul Islam, he was granted a new trial last year.

31 Anderson & Eagle case (Cont’d)
It was one of several cases in which Anderson faked evidence. She is now serving a 21-month prison term after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and making false statements. Lawyers & forensic experts say Anderson is just one of the more bizarre cases of forensic specialists lying under oath, misreading test results, or overstating evidence.

32 Zain matter One of the most infamous charlatans worked his magic just down the road from the West Virginia State Police lab. Fred Zain, who died in 2002, was a forensics star, a lab chemist who testified for prosecutors in hundreds of cases in West Virginia and Texas, sending some men to death row. No one ever bothered to look at his credentials--including the fact that he had failed organic chemistry--or review his test results.

33 Zain matter (Cont’d) When two lab workers complained that they had seen Zain record results from a blank test plate, they were ignored. Zain was undone when DNA test results performed on Glen Woodall--serving a prison term of 203 to 335 years—proved that he could not have committed two sexual assaults for which he'd been convicted.

34 Zain matter (Cont’d) Zain had told the jury that the assailant's blood types "were identical to Mr. Woodall's." After Woodall's conviction was overturned, in 1992, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ordered a full review of Zain's work.  Its conclusion? The convictions of more than 100 people were in doubt because of Zain's "long history of falsifying evidence in criminal prosecutions." Nine more men have since had their convictions overturned.

35 So, what does this all mean?
From the empirical study perspective --- That the CSI Effect is changing the way jurors are approach the process. They come in with different levels of familiarity with aspects of forensic science. Thomas, “The CSI Effect: Fact or Fiction”, Yale Law Review Pocket Part (2006).

36 Or, based on Empirical data --- No evidence of CSI Effect, it is law enforcement rationalizing losing verdicts. Podlas, “The ‘CSI Effect’ and Other Forensic Fictions”, Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review ( )




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