"Do you watch CSI?"My husband had jury duty on Tuesday. He made it into voire dire but not onto a jury. The question series about is something the ADA actually asked potential jurors. My husband says it caught him off guard, but the more he thought about it, the more it bothered him.
"Can you hold the District Attorney to the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, or will you hold him to some higher standard created because of shows like CSI, that doesn't really exist?"
To us, this question validates the science seen on CSI more than it deflects attention. I realize not every crime scene tech busts down doors and researches traces of Festuca longifolia (Fescue grass!). But in placing this question inside voire dire, it seems to me the legal community is recognizing the impossibility of their jobs: proving beyond a reasonable doubt.
A popular term has been created to refer to viewers' reliance on TV science: the CSI Effect. Click the link for more information, but the basic idea is that shows such as CSI (but not limited to) are "purported to skew public perceptions of real-world forensic science, as well as the behavior of criminal justice system actors." A scholarly article in ASU's Jurimetrics poses the hypothesis that CSI and its spinoffs affect trials either by (a) burdening the prosecution by creating greater expectations about forensic science than can be delivered or (b) burdening the defense by creating exaggerated faith in the capabilities and reliability of the forensic sciences."
reported on a local private school adding a criminal science degree because of the popularity created by television shows like CSI and Crossing Jordan.
The brief glimpse my husband gave me made me realize how much of my information does come from literature and television. My background is in journalism, so I do have exposure to police and legal procedures, but what am I really basing my plot theories on? How much firsthand knowledge do you have? Do you have sources you trust for help in scientific fields? How much of a role does The Law and police procedure play in your MS?
(I have mentioned it many times, but a great source for police information is Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland. He is a former detective who wrote this specifically for writers. Lee is now working on his own detective fiction and living right here in North Carolina. You can also find him in the dais at some mystery & writers' conventions.)