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Carol Jimenez
Ms. Caruso
UWRT 1103
12 April 2016
The CSI Effect
In the ongoing discussion about forensic science and its impact on the criminal justice
system, I realized that it was important to focus on the societal impact, which, in turn, displays an
affect on the criminal justice system as well. How? Because of the release of shows about forensic
science and crime, such as CSI. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a popular American crime
drama that initially aired on the primetime network CBS on October 6th, 2000 (Ley, Jankowski,
Brewer 51). This show unrealistically depicts how crimes are solved through the use of advanced
forensic technology that can readily determine whether or not a suspect is guilty of committing the
crime. It presents the “good guys,” or the protagonists, as the forensic scientists instead of the law
enforcement officials. This crime fighting show reels in approximately 30 million people on just
one night and 70 million people have watched at least one of the other three CSI shows (Shelton
2008). While this show is entertaining and constantly keeps its viewers on the edge of their seats,
CSI has created an extremely problematic phenomenon, which has been called the “CSI effect”
and no viewer is immune.
The term “CSI effect” made its debut in 2002 in Time magazine and was illustrated as, “a
growing public expectation that police labs can do everything television labs can” (Cole, DiosoVilla 1339). Due to the show’s vast audience, it has engendered excessively high expectations of
the capabilities of forensic science for not only the general public, but, more specifically, jurors,

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which is why I decided to make them the focal point of the comic strip. This shows that people
carry what they watch on television with them and that something as small as watching a show
about crime could easily shape the opinions of those viewing it. The people that serve on the jury
are being accused of holding forensic evidence to the highest esteem and without it, it is likely to
result in an acquittal of the defendant or a hung jury (Cole, Dioso-Villa 1340). Donald E. Shelton
claims he once “head a juror complain that the prosecution had not done a thorough job because
‘they didn’t even dust the lawn for fingerprints’” (Shelton 2008). That claim exemplifies what I’m
conveying in my comic strip, the jurors’ ridiculous requests and expectations of the prosecution to
provide forensic evidence and experts. It is no secret that media strongly influences all of us in
some way, but the media portrayal of the criminal justice system forms our opinions concerning
crime and law in such a manner that it could possibly significantly affect jury deliberations and
even the verdict itself.
On the other hand, it can be argued that the criminal justice system is truly failing us if
these assumed objective jurors are so easily swayed by a fictitious primetime crime drama (Ley,
Jankowski, Brewer 51). This is why it is debated whether or not the CSI effect even exists. In fact,
there was a study conducted to see just how important scientific evidence is to jurors. 46% of
potential jurors reported that they would expect scientific evidence in a case of attempted murder
or murder and the expectation rate for rape cases was 73% (Shelton 2008). This shows that they
only expect evidence in cases of more violent crimes. Based on the findings of the study, if the
victim or other witnesses testified, jurors were more inclined to find the defendant guilty even
without forensic evidence (Shelton 2008). Contrary to media portrayal of the CSI effect, this study
conveys that expectation of evidence does not translate into whether or not the jury will convict.
It is clear that the conductor of this study is biased in attempting to prove that blaming CSI and

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shows alike is simplistic. While there is a lack of hard evidence, many still believe that this is a
real problem and it does exist. This issue has become so prevalent in recent years that even real
forensic scientists are speaking out, going as far as claiming that CSI is poisoning our jury pools
(Cole, Dioso-Villa 1342). It has also been argued that this famous television franchise is close to
be deemed as jury tampering (Cole, Dioso-Villa 1342). The FBI also got involved by producing a
video discussing the CSI effect and its “real-life impact on justice” and demanded that CBS added
a disclaimer on the show declaring that it was fiction (Cole, Dioso-Villa 1340).
As I continued to delve deeper into this topic, I wanted to find a way to effectively get my
point across to a wide variety of people. I decided to make a one-slide comic strip, like I’ve seen
on Facebook before – they are easy to read and explicitly get the point across. Facebook seemed
to be the most reasonable social media platform to use because I would be reaching an audience
of all ages, from adolescents to the silver population because they all use Facebook to some extent.
This comic strip would be shared by people that agree with it and it would be shown on their
friends’ timelines. It is important to note that if people don’t agree with it, they can also share it
and post a dissenting opinion, which is exactly the purpose of posting it on social media – the
conversation would keep going.
The intended audience would have a clear understanding of the idea I am trying to convey
– that no matter how many other factors go into determining whether or not someone is guilty,
modern jurors require the standard of proof due to the CSI shows that depict forensic evidence as
the best way to convict someone. While this is a serious issue, I decided to present the jurors in an
exaggerated, satirical manner, which is more likely to catch the attention of my audience and cause
them to share it with their Facebook friends. Even though most people consider Facebook to be

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“outdated,” many posts that start on Facebook, or any other social media platform for that matter,
circulate on other types of social media, so it would be reaching an even broader range of people.
While the debate on this issue will surely persist, I think it is important that people are
educated about the CSI effect, whether it exists or not. I, personally, found myself to be under this
show’s spell. While girls my age were watching Zoey 101 and Hannah Montana, my attention was
captivated by fictional shows about law and crime and I truly believed that was how things actually
functioned in real life – it was even the reason that I decided I wanted to be a district attorney at
the mere age of thirteen. I was so fascinated by the forensic world, but little did I know it was
nothing like that in real life. Even though this is a personal anecdote, I know I’m not the only one.
I want this comic strip to spark the curiosity of those that come across it and for people to look
further into this topic. This phenomenon has a major societal impact, it alters how we view the
criminal justice system as well as our expectations of forensics. I want for this conversation to
create more informed CSI viewers and potential jurors as well as more informed members of
society.

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Works Cited
Cole, Simon A., and Rachel Dioso-Villa. “INVESTIGATING THE ‘CSI EFFECT’ EFFECT:
MEDIA AND LITIGATION CRISIS IN CRIMINAL LAW.” Diss. Leland Stanford,
2009. Standard Law Review 61.6 (2009): 1335-373. Web. 29 Mar, 2016.
<http://www98.giffith.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/handle/10072/40333/71825
1.pdf?sequence=1>.
“Is The ‘CSI Effect’ Influencing Courtrooms?” NPR. NPR, 5 Feb. 2011. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.
<http://www.npr.org/2011/02/06/133497696/is-the-csi-effect-influencing-courtrooms>.
Ley, Barbara L., Natalie Jankowski, and Paul R. Brewer. "Investigating CSI: Portrayals of DNA
Testing on a Forensic Crime Show and Their Potential Effects." Sage Journals. N.p., 27
May 2010. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://pus.sagepub.com/content/21/1/51.full.pdf+html>.
Shelton, Donald E. "The 'CSI Effect': Does It Really Exist?" National Institute of Justice.
National Institute of Justice, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
<http://www.nij.gov/journals/259/pages/csi-effect.aspx>.