CSI Effect: Part 3

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The way a trial unfolds now is influenced by the television shows jurors believe to be true. It can complicate the job of a prosecutor or even cost them a conviction.

"The CSI effect is something we address now in all jury trials. Usually no less than five minutes into it we have to address the fact that everybody and their brother watches CSI."

Warren County Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron says understanding the impact the CSI Effect has on juries is something prosecutors across the country are coming to terms with. Shows like "CSI" are fictional portrayals of crime scene investigations, but some viewers have a hard time separating the facts from fiction.

"Unfortunately jurors believe we have crime scene processors that pull up in $60,000 SUV's and can wave a couple of Q-Tips in the air and go 'Hey, Jimmy did it.'"

Prosecutors are having to combat the CSI Effect through training and through dealing with juries. Because the misconceptions jurors have when it comes to CSI can jeopardize a case.

"Many times we'll hear stories where afterwards a juror will go couldn't you have done some test that just doesn't exist.'"

He says forensic evidence is only used in a minute percentage of cases. Cohron doesn't dispute the strides made in forensic science, but he says the shows are an exaggeration of real life techniques, especially when it comes to the rapid discovery of evidence.

"It doesn't matter what type of trial you're at. Be it murder, rape, drug, robbery cases. You always run into the fact the juror may have the misconception that Q-Tips and spray bottles can automatically tell you who the defendant is and what his social security number and address was."

Cohron says the days of walking into a courtroom with just testimony are over. He now goes to the scene of a crime and observes the investigation firsthand.

"The reason for that, is to assist the officers in any legal issues that might come up. Also at trial it's invaluable to be able to set the scene for a jury."

He says that allows prosecutors to better explain what happened at the scene and along with video and power point presentations hopefully convince a jury how a real crime scene investigation is handled.

"You've got to be able to not only put your case on. But put it on in a way our TV generation, they want bells and whistles."

There are some indications that criminals are using the CSI Effect to their advantage by cleaning up behind them at crime scenes. But Cohron says he believes technology and training will stay ahead of criminals. He says city and state police are staying current on the testing methods available and do a great job analyzing crime scenes in our area.