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Olivia Bjerkeset Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1103 November 7, 2012 The CSI Effect: Television possibly making us experts since 2000?

Ask any American, age twelve or older with cable access, what CSI is. I bet you nine times out of ten you’ll get a response that at least leads towards understanding that the show has something to do with criminal investigations. In the past few decades it has become quite aware that Americans love CSI. Hell, we love anything that has to do with science, forensics, psychology or cops and robbers; throw in an attractive detective who connects to a victim on a personal level and you’ll see the television ratings soar.(Agreed!) The reason for this sudden fascination you ask? I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that I have noticed that whenever an adult inquires about my interest in forensic psychology the first thing I hear is “Oh! Like CSI?” My immediate reaction is always “No! Of course not like CSI! If I wanted to base a career off of CSI I’d tell you I’m interested in television production. And I’m not, I’m interested in forensic psychology. That’s kind of why I told you I’m interested in forensic psychology…” However, I was raised by polite parents who instilled manners into my stubborn sassy mouth so I know better than to respond with that dialogue. Instead, I always smile and nod, “Yes, just like CSI.” So, after years of repeating this conversation you might think I caught on to something, and I did. One day it just hit me, all of these people are familiar with CSI and they all understand the basic concepts of the show; they understand that when I say I’m interested in forensic psychology that that is something somewhat covered by CSI. These people aren’t clueless about

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forensics; television is just all they know on the subject. Curious, I did some research, and boy did I hit the jackpot. I wasn’t the only person running into this problem, professionals have been dealing with it for years, and it even has a name: The CSI Effect. An exact definition of The CSI Effect is rather hard to come across but University of North Carolina at Greensboro Psychology Professor Kimberlianne Podlas does an excellent job at merging together several common factors associated with The CSI Effect. It may be that The Effect A) creates unreal expectations for the jury which in turn makes it extremely difficult for the prosecution to make a conviction, B) it heightens the bar of expected scientific evidence to unreasonable levels, or C) it may be referring to the general increased interest in forensic science (Barak). (Awesome intro. It feels very personal and welcoming for readers to read and we can automatically understand your passion and interest in it. The only thing I would do is find a way to split this paragraph up. The beginning was a great intro but towards the end you finally got into your info; maybe just split it into two!) Once aware that I wasn’t the only person who had knowledge of this event I decided to do some more research and what I found I wasn’t exactly expecting: some professionals don’t believe that The CSI Effect even exists. WHAT?! This is news to me because even my teenage self was able to catch signs of The Effect. Therefore, I will continue forward in my research with an open mind. I am not on a quest to convince anyone of the reality of The CSI Effect; I myself am just exploring the ropes and taking notes of each side. Shall you join me on this adventure? I’m warning you to buckle up, it could be a bumpy ride. The Numbers The popularity of forensic television programs has greatly increased over the years, weekly ratings from Nielsen give a glimpse: In 2005, six out of ten shows on television were

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crime dramas and by 2007 CSI was ranked the number one show for several weeks and its spinoff, CSI: Miami, was ranked number one around the world. The television show even poked fun at itself in the episode ‘I Like to Watch’ when the main character on CSI, Gil Grissom, was followed around by a documentary film crew and Grissom declared, “There are too many forensic shows on TV (Ramsland).” According to 2006 Nielsen ratings: 30 million people watched CSI on one night, 70 million people watched either CSI or one of its two spinoffs (CSI: Miami, CSI: NY), 40 million people watched Without A Trace and Cold Case, and a total of 5 out of 10 television programs all week were centered around the importance of scientific evidence in criminal cases, which together amounted to more than 100 million viewers. Now think, how many of those people most likely reported for jury duty the next day (Shelton)? (Great stats; it really grabs the reader’s attention and shows there is validity in what you say. But I was a little overwhelmed. Try some commentary in between the stats so readers don’t get lost or confused.) TV v Real Life With CSI as one of the highest rated shows on television, along with Desperate Housewives and Dancing with the Stars (no need to put other tv shows in unless they directly connect with your topic), it is important that we clear up any obvious differences between the television show and reality. Clatsop County, Oregon District Attorney John Marquis is very vocal in his opinions on the differences between CSI and the work he does every day for a living. Marquis often refers to the characters on CSI as attractive men and women in miniskirts. Concerned about the unrealistic expectations CSI may create evidence wise, Marquis is fast to point out that in real life crime is messy and although some of the tests on CSI may exist in real life, in reality those tests aren’t nearly as foolproof as they appear to be on TV. For example, in a

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CSI episode a gas chromatograph is shown, which is indeed an actual instrument used to detect drugs, however on the episode it is shown in the back of a van which Marquis is disgusted by. According to him, the machine costs somewhere between $60,000 and $80,000 and would never be installed in a vehicle because it would have to be recalibrated every single time it hit a bump in the road. If that wasn’t enough to fuel his fire, Marquis was even more repulsed by a further scene in the same episode where investigators use a probe to swab for drugs and the probe turns a beautiful bright blue and begins to glow. Marquis says that you are able to swab for drugs but unlike on the show it does not take seconds for a result, it can take weeks and the result isn’t something reminiscent of a glow stick, it looks much more just like a smudge on a probe (McKay). (Add some personal comments here. Did you believe it worked like that? Are you surprised by the info?) The Conversation There are more than just two sides to The CSI Effect, it is much bigger than just does it exist, does it not?(whether it exists or not) If one chooses to say that The CSI Effect does not exist, they must back up their claim with evidence. And if one claims that The CSI Effect does indeed exist, they must specify how The CSI Effect affects real life and whether or not it’s doing so in a positive or negative way. It is known that most professionals agree that The CSI Effect is quite real, their opinions mainly differ on the impact of The Effect. Some agree that The CSI Effect causes unnecessary workloads while others say that by creating a national and even global interest on the subject it has proposed that life may begin to imitate television and we may eventually start to see some of the technology we see on CSI appearing in real life labs (McKay). Survey Says…

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Most of the research done on The CSI Effect has been conducted in the form of a survey. Surveys can be helpful in determining patterns but as any psychology student knows, correlation is not causation. Washtenaw County, Michigan Circuit Court Judge and Eastern Michigan University Criminology Professor, Donald E. Shelton, has put more research into The CSI Effect than anyone else. Shelton, along with fellow staff members of Eastern Michigan University’s Criminology Department, Gregg Barak and Kim S. Young, conducted extensive research on The CSI Effect by questioning potential jurors (Barak). Shelton’s sample population was asked what type(s) of evidence: DNA evidence, fingerprint evidence, ballistics evidence, circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony, victim testimony, or in general scientific evidence of any kind, they expected to find in these various types of cases: Murder or attempted murder, physical assault, rape or sexual misconduct, breaking and entering, theft, crime involving a firearm, and every criminal case. Shelton’s study came back with these statistics: 46% of potential jurors expected to see scientific evidence of some kind in every criminal case, 22% expected to see DNA evidence in every criminal case, 36% expected to see fingerprint evidence in every criminal case, and 32% expected to see ballistic or other firearm evidence in every criminal case. Other statistics Shelton uncovered seemed to reveal that jurors expected not basic scientific evidence but particular (relevant) types of evidence for particular cases. For example, jurors expected to see DNA evidence in more serious offenses such as murder or attempted murder (46%) and rape (73%). Jurors also expect fingerprint evidence in breaking and entering cases (71%), crimes involving a gun (66%), and any general theft case (59%) (Shelton). Knowing what types of evidence jurors expect in different types of cases is important but in order to prove or disprove The CSI Effect, we must know the television viewing habits of

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those jurors. Shelton and his colleagues found that 45% of the potential jurors interviewed are avid Law & Order viewers and 42% are avid CSI watchers. Those who watch these shows are more likely to watch others as well. And these people that do watch crime TV are also more likely to expect evidence in court, but relevant evidence. It’s these same viewers that are also more likely to convict a defendant in court without scientific evidence if there is either witness or victim testimony present. It is because of these findings that Shelton does not believe The CSI Effect exists (Shelton). Shelton believes that as times are changing (technology advances) so are people, and that what people except evidence wise in a courtroom has more to do with the new blackberry they have in their pocket and less to do with what they view at night. (Good point; this seems like a very strong point to state but it was a lot of info at once. Maybe try to summarize it some more, to make it more understandable) Shelton is not the only one to have conducted successful research. Andrew P. Thomas, Chief Prosecutor for Maricopa County, Arizona, works at an office that prosecutes approximately 40,000 felonies a year with a mere staff of 300 prosecutors. In June 2005, 102 of Thomas’ attorneys, with trial experience, were surveyed on The CSI Effect. 38% of those questioned believed that at least one of their trials resulted in a hung jury or an acquittal because of a lack of forensic evidence, even when the prosecution thought they has a bullet proof case based on eyewitness testimony. In about 40% of those cases, prosecutors noted that jurors asked about: mitochondrial DNA, latent prints, trace evidence, or ballistics, despite that these terms were never thrown around in the courtroom. 74% of the 102 prosecutors survey said that after talking to the jury it was apparent that the jury expected to be confronted with some type of scientific evidence (Thomas). Doesn’t this go against everything Shelton just proposed? I’m reading this and I’m confused how two professionals in the criminal justice field can both run

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well-thought out tests, both of which point to the existence of The CSI Effect (one just showcases the positive aspects of the effect whereas the other, not so much), and still argue about the existence of it. Obviously, television IS impacting the minds’ of jurors. Optimistic Vibes John Marquis hits the nail on the head with his claim that the study of forensics is growing. Marquis constantly attends career fairs and has noticed a spike in interest in law and criminal justice in the past decade, thanks no doubt to The CSI Effect. Marquis is impressed with this turnout and notes it’s just one of many positive outcomes of The Effect (McKay). Mike Murphy, Coroner for Clark County, Nevada (his office was the model for the original CSI lab), agrees that CSI is doing great things for forensic science and death investigators. In the past no one knew and frankly didn’t really care, about what forensic scientists and coroners do every day. CSI has changed this with its growing fascination (Rath). Heck, the popularity of the show brought attention to the fact that real life labs are out of date and then, just like that, Los Angeles County received a brand new$102 million forensic center which they’d been in need of for years (McKay). (Great perspective switch: we see the bad but also the good). CSI Susan Riseling, Chief of Police for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, holds views similar to Marquis’ on the matter of The CSI Effect, although Riseling is more frustrated with the ‘test everything mindset’ that CSI has created. According to her, you might collect 35 samples of DNA at a crime scene but due to time and resources only end up being able to test 12 of those samples. Dan Krane, CEO and DNA specialist at Forensic Bioinformatics in Fairborn, Ohio, concurs and says that 50% to 75% of all forensic samples that are taken from crime scenes

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never get processed. Reasons again include: cost, time, degradation, contamination, and small sample sizes. The more tests juries demand be run, the more cases begin to pile up (McKay). Tom R. Tyler, a psychology and law professor at NYU, believes that CSI’s success has to do with the fact that the show delivers a sense of certainty; typically at the end of every episode we know whodunit and the punishment that they await. Tyler even points towards vigilantes as an example of this; the public often discards the need of evidence for vigilantes because of the strong desire to see justice play out (Tyler). As CSI continues to prompt spinoff after spinoff and earn titles such as ‘The Most Popular TV Show in the World,’ the fans continue to roll in. Anthony Zuiker, creator of the CSI franchise puts his two cents in: Our job really is to make great television, first and foremost. And so, we have to, quote, ‘sex it up.’ I think Americans know that DNA doesn’t come back in 20 minutes. I think Americans know that there’s not some magical computer that you press and the guy’s face pops up and where he lives. You think America knows that the time sheet when you’re doing an hour of television has to be fudged a bit. Americans know that, they’re smart. I’ve done my job. You know, we’ve launched three shows that cater to 73.8 million people a week and is a global phenomenon and the largest television franchise in history- we hoped that the show would raise awareness and get more funding into crime labs so people felt safe in their communities. And we’re still hoping that the government will catch up. (McKay)

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Zuiker makes a valid argument. The producers of CSI created the show to A) make a profit, B) to entertain, and C) to inform people of the world of forensics. CSI has accomplished all of this. Now, is it up to the government to catch up? Indeed it is. The CSI Effect appears to be a very real thing. While Donald Shelton handled his research well, to me it only proved that there is a CSI Effect. The affect of it varies from person to person; some people are able to sort fact from fiction whereas others become caught up in the glitz of TV crime. Now, it is up to lawyers and judges to inform jurors of The CSI Effect and the bias it can create. However, it can play a positive role as shown in Shelton’s study where avid crime watchers made decisions on evidence based on its relevance. And of course, there’s the beauty that forensic science is now a growing industry. Young people are excited to study it and colleges are adapting their programs for it. And in cases like the one in California, much needed renovations are now happening in crime labs just because of newfound knowledge. Good or bad, it seems that The CSI Effect will follow us for decades. Awesome paper, Olivia! It definitely connects with a lot of readers, since most people have watched a forensic TV Drama before. You’ve got a very welcoming and personal touch to the essay which helps keep readers entertained. My only suggestion is more commentary. You’ve got a lot of strong and relevant sources (that’s your strongest point) but sometimes it just seems like a lot of information and not as much commentary to go with it. It was great info, but it can be overwhelming if we don’t get some breaks in there. We go from a lot of personal touch in the intro to just fact after fact, which might not hold the reader’s attention as well. But it was very well written and really fun to read; I hope I’m not on any jury anytime soon because I know I watch too much Bones and Lie To Me.

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Works Cited (Work cited page is always separate) Barak Gregg, Shelton Donald E, and Young S., Kim. "Examining The “CSI-Effect” In The Cases Of Circumstantial Evidence And Eyewitness Testimony: Multivariate And Path Analyses." Journal Of Criminal Justice 37.(n.d.): 452-460. ScienceDirect. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. McKay, Jim. "Forensic Evidence Demands Rise as TV Crime Dramas Influence Juries." Government Technology. N.p., 7 Feb. 2008. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. Ramsland, Katherine. The C.S.I. Effect. New York: Berkley Trade, 2006. Print.” Rath, Arun. "Is the 'CSI Effect' Influencing Courtrooms?" NPR: National Public Radio. N.p., 6 Feb. 2011. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. Shelton, Donald E. "The 'CSI Effect': Does It Really Exist?" National Institute of Justice .259 (2008): 1-6. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. Thomas, Andrew P. "The CSI Effect: Fact or Fiction." The Yale Law Journal Pocket Part 115(2006): 70-72. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. Tyler, Tom R. "Is the CSI Effect Good Science?" The Yale Law Journal. N.p., 31 Jan. 2006. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.