Do you feel that television crime dramas like CSI and Law & Order influence juror expectations regarding the need to see forensic evidence presented? Why or why not?
In a sense, it is pointless to ask what an individual thinks about the putative CSI Effect because no individual can actually know whether the effect exists without carrying out really carefully-made studies. A person who has only been on, for example, one or two juries (or fewer) cannot possibly have an informed opinion about this issue.
My own view is that it seems very plausible that a CSI Effect should exist. Most people form their ideas of what major trials are like by watching shows like CSI on television. They have no meaningful exposure to these trials other than TV shows. This means that the shows should have a great deal of impact on what they expect to happen in a trial. Since the TV shows constantly show investigators who find incontrovertible DNA or other physical evidence of guilt, it makes sense that jurors would expect that there should be evidence like that in every case where a defendant is guilty. Thus, it seems logical to think that a CSI Effect should exist.
However, it is not clear that the effect actually does exist. People have done studies looking for such an effect and have had a hard time actually finding it. They argue that people’s expectations are affected as much by other things, like their general awareness of DNA and other scientific advances, as they are by CSI and similar shows.
It does make sense to me that a CSI Effect should exist. However, I see no reason to substitute my own judgment for that of people who have actually done studies on the issue. Therefore, I believe that there may be such an effect but we do not know for certain at this point whether it actually exists.