Call For Forensics Overhaul Linked To "CSI" Effect
February 19, 2009
Millions of people watch CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation every week. But forensic evidence isn't nearly as ironclad as it appears on television. In fact, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's crime labs need a total overhaul.
According to the report, CSI viewers are part of the problem.
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prosecutorx @ 2/19/2009 10:39 PM
The "CSI effect" is real. I've seen it it my own murder prosecutions. During voir dire (i.e., jury selection), jurors often refer to their expectations with regard to scientific evidence. The National Institute of Justice study confirmed my own experience. The CSI effect does exist.
But, it can be overcome. The comment from Barry Scheck--that scientific evidence has proven the innocence of those convicted of crime--is almost completely false. Scheck claims that innocent people have been executed. That claim has been proven to be false. [See The Journal of the Institute for the Advancement of Criminal Justice--Summer 2008). There is no credible evidence that any innocent person has been executed.
There is some evidence that some convicted criminals were innocent of crimes (for which they were not sentenced to death). Mostly, crimes such as rape where there was DNA evidence. But those are few and far between.
Do not accept the liberal wisdom. It's complete hogwash.
bwillison @ 2/20/2009 8:22 AM
The CSI effect, people expecting real life to be like TV, is real, but that is not the real concern about this report. Yes, many labs lack resources and could improve procedures we need to be sure the cure is not worse than the problem. As a retired LEO and a Criminal Justice Professor I see three major concerns with the NAS tone and suggestions. 1) They cite lack of National standards and uniformity. This is also true of our court system and a foundation of our Federalist form of government. The Federal Gov. should not set standards for State Courts. To learn more read and study the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. 2) NAS says labs should be independent of law enforcement and prosecutors but under supervision of a scientific organization like the NAS. 3) This is perhaps the biggest issue - the burden of proof required. In criminal law guilt must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt". Science requires things be proven to a "scientific certainty". These are entirely different standards. Again this is as it should be. Changing the standard of proof from beyond a reasonable doubt to scientific certainty would have a devastating effect on our ability to hold criminals accountable and protect the public.
Law is not science – nor should it be. The NAS should help establish and publish voluntary testing standards and procedures. The Feds should provide funding for lab equipment and training, but leave the oversight to each State and do not mess with the legal standards. States are independent for a purpose and the trend to Federalize everything is harmful to the strength of our nation.
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