1.Considering the CSI effect on juries, do you think juries can come to the correct decision in criminal cases? 2.What implication might the CSI effect have in civil matters?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are recent cases that have baffled the public precisely because the verdict is attributed to the CSI effect. The CSI effect hypothesis comes from the cultivation theory. The latter argues that long exposure to TV "reality" and  TV programs, such as CSI, makes people conclude falsely about what to expect from the real world. 

The first case that comes to mind regarding cultivation theory and CSI effect is Casey Anthony's, where the woman was found not guilty for the murder of her daughter, Caylee. Although circumstantial evidence could have been used more effectively to show how the woman could have been an intellectual author, or even an accomplice in the murder, the prosecution and the defense are thought to have appealed to CSI effect so that the jury paid more attention to the actual evidence.

They did not do this wisely, at least the prosecution did not. The reason is that the actual clear evidence was scarce. As a result, an obviously negligent woman with potential narcissistic tendencies walked free.  The jurors who offered information to the media were clearly expecting hardcore evidence and high speed technology to prove whether Anthony did it or not. This being said, they were basically assuming that the evidence would materialize itself the way it occurs on TV shows. They did not look around at the surrounding evidence, the collateral evidence, and may have not even bothered considering the mother's strange behavior during the trial and after the murder.

The conclusion of this is that juries may not come to the correct decision in criminal cases because they expect the dynamics and interventions that miraculously occur in criminal TV dramas. The only way to counteract this tendency is to hope for a foreman who is not biased and who can objectively see through the loopholes. Yet, the current Jodi Arias case shows that even a seemingly objective jury foreman can also become biased at the end. This woman, who stabbed a man 27 times, slit his throat and then shot him for no apparent or valid reason got a hung jury during the death penalty sentencing phase. When the foreman was asked, he basically exposed himself as someone whose decision was not based on the obvious evidence that he saw, but on potential evidence that he assumed could have been presented. That is another very dangerous aspect of the CSI effect.

Since the CSI effect is about criminal cases, it may apply differently in civil matters but the expectations of the people may remain the same. For example, one of the common behaviors from CSI effect is the expectation of sophisticated evidence and futuristic technologies. This being said, then that means that the audience may not connect with the lawyer or the prosecutor if he or she does not produce enough visual or "colorful" evidence that would make the jury pay attention and stick to what they see. The want for something "bigger and better" can certainly affect a juror, or a judge with little skills. Therefore, the implication here is that the new generation of future jurors and judges in this country will be one exposed to instant gratification, showy visuals,  and extravagant displays of data. If that is taken away from them, they would have to go to the very basics of common sense and ethics to learn to judge what they see. All we can do is hope that such generation is being brought up with parental sensitivity and responsibility. Other than that, we will have empty shells sitting around jury rooms merely wanting to be entertained.