American Judges Association
Date of this Version
Court Review, Volume 47, Issues 1-2, 8-18
After a jury acquittal, the prosecutor explains the loss to the assembled media by saying that the jurors demanded too much of the government. They “wrongfully” acquitted the defendant only because the television show Crime Scene Investigation (“CSI”), or one of its many spin-offs and copycats, overly influenced them. According to the prosecutor, the jurors could not separate reality from fiction when they did not see the same kinds of advanced scientific evidence during the trial that is commonly depicted on their television screens. This fictional scenario is played out in many criminal cases. The news media quickly coined the term “CSI effect” to refer to these common prosecutorial anecdotal complaints, and it has been repeated and republished since CSI first aired nine years ago. The popular media has almost universally accepted the prosecutor’s explanation for such jury acquittals as true and has helped to construct the CSI effect as a serious problem for the criminal justice system and a threat to the sanctity of the jury system.
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