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The CSI Effect


Oil Pastels drawing of Superior court Judge Harold M. Mulvey, court reporters and clerks, and jurors probably including foreman Robert L. Gaythier, as well as Frank J. Dilger and Jennie Jesilavich. 1971. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr


The CSI effect posits that exposure to television programs that portray forensic science (e.g., CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) can change the way jurors evaluate forensic evidence. We review (1) the theory behind the CSI effect; (2) the perception of the effect among legal actors; (3) the academic treatment of the effect; and, (4) how courts have dealt with the effect. We demonstrate that while legal actors do see the CSI effect as a serious issue, there is virtually no empirical evidence suggesting it is a real phenomenon. Moreover, many of the remedies employed by courts may do no more than introduce bias into juror decision-making or even trigger the CSI effect when it would not normally occur. We end with suggestions for the proper treatment of the CSI effect in courts and directions for future scholarly work.

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