Creative research paper about the effects crime shows have on the real justice system.
|The ‘CSI Effect’|
March 9, 2005
Today I got a phone call from the Washington County Court House. They want me to serve on the jury in an upcoming homicide trial. The trial is more than a month away, but they are beginning to perform background checks on potential jurors. Since I don’t know the defendant or the victim and don’t know much about the murder, I stand a good chance of sitting in the jury box. I am hoping that being a fan of CSI will come in handy. I have learned a lot about the criminal justice system and forensic science from watching the show.
March 11, 2005
I was watching CSI last night when I realized that real-life trials were probably different than the trials and hearings shown on the show. It makes sense. You have to expect Hollywood to be different. They need to draw people in.
I want to be ready when I walk into that jury box. I think I will look on the Internet for any information about how the show affects the viewers. This might be an interesting topic.
March 12, 2005
I found it. It’s called the ‘CSI Effect’. Caroline Hempel talked to Robert J. Martin, a criminalist. He says that there are many differences between his experiences in the field of forensics and CSI. He says that “it can take days to fingerprint a scene, months to process a single DNA sample.” (Boston Globe Magazine on-line) On CSI, they run into the lab with a DNA sample, hand it to Greg Sanders, the analyst, and five minutes later a machine spits out a piece of paper with graphs and information about the sample. It is impossible to solve a crime as fast as Gil Grissom- the head investigator on
CSI- and his team does. Gil expects a report on his desk by the end of the day. In reality this can take months. (Hempel) On CSI, “the same five people do everything.’ However, real crime labs have up to 40 people working one case. (Martin)
I have found this information fascinating.
I never realized how different these two worlds are. Though on CSI there are five people doing everything with the help of few other specialists, in real-life there are many different jobs. There are many specialties like anthropologists, artists or sculptors, accountants, ballistics experts, botanists, chemists or trace experts, dactyloscopists, entomologists, geologists, geographical profilers, linguists, mental health experts, ondontologists, and serologists. (Ramsland 17-18)
I am going to continue this research tomorrow.
March 13, 2005
When CSI fans serve on juries, they tend to expect too much out of the trial. They expect the physical evidence that they see on television. This is impossible. (Mascal) Christine Mascal says, “People are fascinated with that show. So if you have physical evidence, the show may work to your advantage. They expect it. CSI fans think everything’s possible.”
‘The technology is real, but the results are Hollywood.’ (Montgomery Street) Many prosecutors have to spend time educating the jury about the tests that are or aren’t
done in an investigation. This could raise prosecution costs dramatically. (Entertainment News)
I am starting to think that I might not be a good juror, especially in a case as serious as the one coming up. Maybe I will be ready for reality by then. I hope so.
March 15, 2005
Today I received a memo from the prosecutor, Luke Finette. It came with a four- question survey. They are hoping that the surveys will make the jury selection a faster process.
Here is the memo and survey which I have already filled out.
To: Hugh Lane
From: Luke Finette
Date: March 12, 2005
RE: Jury Selection
As you know, the trial you have been asked to serve at is a homicide case. The defendant, Zachary Smith, age 27, allegedly beat his neighbor to death with a hammer. Because of the seriousness of this case, we will be asking many questions during the selection process. I have enclosed a survey of some of the short answer questions. By filling out this survey, you will be making the jury selection process go a lot faster and make it easier for all of us. Thank you for giving up time for our community. I will see you on April 12, 2005 for the first day of jury selection.
1. Have you ever served on a jury before? No
2. Have you ever served on a jury in a homicide case? No
3. Do you know the defendant? No
4. Did you know the victim? No
5. Do you watch the television show, CSI? Yes
Seeing these questions did not surprise me after reading those Internet articles. I hope that Mr. Finette finds me suitable as a juror even though I watch CSI. I will not allow my judgments to be affected by Hollywood.
March 16, 2005
Crime scene investigators have also been thrown into the mix. “Crime scene investigators can’t worry about whatever “CSI”- inspired expectations jurors might hold. Their job is to pull together the best evidence they can with the tools and manpower at their disposal.” (Todd Kleffman) This problem affects everyone in the forensic and criminal justice world. I find it very interesting that one television show can do so much.
I am going to continue researching to see if I can some more information. I am going to the library tomorrow. I saw a website about a book that looks like it may have some good information- and also some cool facts about the show. The Forensic Science of CSI is written by Kathryn Ramsland. She has been working in the forensic field for many years and has experience. The book gives a run-down of all the components of the investigation process, explanations about the many different specialties in the field, and even has the backgrounds of many well-known criminalists. She also includes real-life cases as examples and talks about how the technology helped solve them. This book might be interesting to read, even if it doesn’t help me with my research.
March 17, 2005
St. Patrick’s Day is not a good day for researching. The book was very interesting but it did not tell me anything that I haven’t already found. The interesting stuff really has nothing to do with my research. I am going to look over sources that I have already found and look for the smaller details.
I am going to be ready for that jury selection process. I think that I am more understanding of real-life verses Hollywood now. Mr. Smith is going to have a fair trial.
April 12, 2005
Today was the first day of the jury selection process. I got to the courthouse at 8:00 A.M. armed with the knowledge of differences between life and Hollywood. While I waited for the selection to begin at 9:00, I thought about my research. I found something new last night. Someone surveyed 53 high school students- all freshmen- asking them if they watch law shows on television and how often, if they had ever watched a trial, live or on television, if they noticed a difference between the shows and the trials, if they thought television depicted real-life, and if they had learned anything while watching the television shows. 27 out of the 53 watched CSI. The other choices were Law and Order, Judging Amy, NCIS, Numbers, and other. Many watched these shows regularly- every episode or every other episode. Forty-one students had watched a trial either on television or in real-life. Most noticed a difference and said that they didn’t think that Hollywood depicted reality. Forty-five have learned something from watching these television shows. (‘CSI Effect’ Survey)
It makes sense that Hollywood largely affects teenagers. Teenagers look up to Hollywood. The stars are heroes to some kids.
With about ten minutes to go until the official selection process began, the prosecutor, Luke Finette, who was in charge of the selection that day, came out of the court room and said that it was time to begin. The twelve of us walked in and sat in the jury box. The judge, the defending lawyer, Zachary Smith, Mr. Finette, and eight or nine people that I didn’t yet know were in the courtroom already.
The process started out with the judge, the lawyer, and the Mr. Finette taking turns informing us on the case. Mr. Smith was accused of beating his neighbor, John Deere, to death with a hammer on November 17, 2004. They had been friends. That fact made this case controversial. Some people said that Mr. Smith couldn’t have done it- he wasn’t the kind to hurt anyone, especially not a friend. Then there are other people saying that Mr. Smith was angry at the victim for some reason and he got carried away. There is a possibility that Mr. Smith suffers from anger management issues. But who really knows until the testimonies begin?
We were told not to talk about this case at all outside the courtroom. We were not allowed to talk among other jury members. The only time we could talk outside the courtroom would be when we were in the jury room discussing the verdict.
Then the questions began. The prosecutor, Mr. Finette, would call someone’s name and that person would stand up. Mr. Finette would ask a few questions and then move on to the next person.
When my turn came he the normal ‘Do you know the suspect… the victim?’ and ‘What do you know about the case other than what we told you?’ Then he asked if I was a fan of CSI. I was ready for this. I said that I was a fan, but also that I knew not to expect what is shown on CSI in this trial. I wasn’t the only juror to answer yes to this question. However, I was the only on to extend that answer and talk about what I did and didn’t expect from this trial.
I think that I impressed Mr. Finette with that answer. At first, when he heard me say yes, he looked disappointed. He had already heard that same answer from at least three of the seven potential jurors that he had talked to. But when I kept talking he looked kind of excited. I really hope that I made a good impression.
April 14, 2005
I was picked to be on the jury. The trial started today.
April 30, 2005
Today was the last day of the trial. The testimonies were long and kind of dull so I am not going to record them here. However, I will go over what happened in the deliberation room.
As soon as we all sat down around the long, oak table in the deliberation room, one of the women- her name was Helen- said that she was kind of confused throughout the trial because it was different than CSI. I asked her to explain. She said that she was a fan of CSI and was confused during the trial because they didn’t use the same kind of evidence that they use on the show. Some of the other jurors said that they were big fans too and that they were also kind of surprised. I decided to explain what I had found about the ‘CSI Effect’. They were amazed to hear about all of the differences.
It turned out well. I am glad to have had this experience. I learned a lot from my research and I will always keep the differences in mind.
Franzen, Robin. “’CSI’ Effect on Potential Jurors has some Prosecutors Worried.”
Entertainment News. 19 December 2002.
Hempel, Carlene. “TV’s Whodunit Effect.” The Boston Globe Magazine. 9 February
Kleffman, Todd. “TV MYTH VS. REALITY; City Lawmen fight TV stereo types.”
The Montgomery Advertiser. 24 February 2003.
M., Bridget. “The CSI Effect Survey.” 14 March 2005.
Ramsland, Katherine. The Forensic Science of CSI. New York: The Berkeley
Publishing Group, 2001.