The CSI Effect
39 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2020
Date Written: March 21, 2016
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. The most commonly researched hypothesis under the CSI Effect suggests that shows like CSI depict an unrealistically high standard of forensic science and thus unreasonably inflate the expectations of jurors. Jurors are thus more likely to vote to acquit, and prosecutors face higher burden of proof. 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 (i.e., the self-fulfilling prophesy). We end with suggestions for the proper treatment of the CSI Effect in courts, and directions for future scholarly work.
Keywords: CSI Effect, Evidence, Forensic evidence, Media, Juries, Psychology and law
JEL Classification: K10, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation