Little evidence for 'CSI effect' in trial outcomes

29 OCTOBER 2010

Viewing television shows based on crime scene investigations is unlikely to negatively influence jurors and court case outcomes, according to researchers at CSU who say there is little evidence for the existence of so-called 'CSI effects' in court trials.

Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty from the CSU AGSP in ManlyViewing television shows based on crime scene investigations (CSI) is unlikely to negatively influence jurors and court case outcomes, according to researchers at Charles Sturt University (CSU) who say there is little evidence for the existence of so-called ‘CSI effects’ in court trials.
 
Writing in the August 2010 issue of InPsych*, Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty and Ms Hielkje Verbrugge, researchers at the CSU Australian Graduate School of Policing in Manly and the School of Psychology in Bathurst, say that at least six different CSI effects have been identified which supposedly have the potential to influence judges, lawyers, forensic scientists, jurors, witnesses, defendants and members of the public.
 
“This has serious implications for the rights of defendants and the victims of crime,” Professor Goodman-Delahunty said.
 
“Frequent CSI viewing does increase jurors’ expectations of forensic evidence in the real-world courtroom. However, we found no objective evidence from studies in either the United States or Australia that supports claims that jury verdicts in trials are influenced by frequent viewing of CSI-type television shows.
 
“The existence of CSI effects remains uncertain, despite publicity to the contrary.
 
“Part of the problem is that forensic testing in TV crime shows is often just a plausible fabrication, rather than an accurate depiction. The forensic procedures are portrayed as too glamorous, streamlined and racy, giving rise to concerns about potential CSI effects.”
 
Professor Goodman-Delahunty argues that until there is more compelling evidence of CSI effects, ‘there is no reason to modify court procedures or to dispense with juries in criminal cases involving forensic scientific evidence or a lack of it’.
 
“The current evidence indicates that jurors are able to distinguish between media portrayals of simulated CSI-type evidence and reality, and are not unduly swayed by the former in reaching a verdict,” she said.
 
“The criminal justice system must continue to operate on evidence-based policy-making and should not be compromised by popular entertainment and media-generated speculation and misconceptions.”

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