April 27, 2009

More On the "CSI Effect"

Here's more on the "CSI Effect." Tamara Francita Lawson, St. Thomas University School of Law, has published Before the Verdict and Beyond the Verdict: The 'CSI Infection' within Modern Criminal Jury Trials. Here is the abstract.

In criminal law, the term CSI Effect commonly refers to the perceived impact that the CSI television show has on juror expectation and unexpected jury verdicts. This article coins a new phrase, CSI Infection, by focusing on the significant legal impact that the fear of CSI Infected Jurors has made upon the criminal justice system. The CSI Infection is the ubiquitous It factor that scholars cannot conclusively prove nor effectively explain away. Yet, practitioners overwhelmingly confirm Its impact in criminal jury trials; Its existence, Its true or perceived impact on acquittals and convictions, and how to define It permeates criminal trials. For example, litigators base their motions on It, and build their trial strategies around It, and the legal arguments of trial lawyers on both sides of the case have transformed. Specifically voir dire questions, jury instructions, as well as opening statements and closing arguments have been modified and correspondingly challenged on appeal - all because of the CSI Effect.

Moreover, the phenomenon has forced trial courts to address the evidentiary, procedural, and constitutional issues raised by prosecutors and defense attorneys who fear the perceived dangers that CSI Infected Jurors have upon the ultimate fairness of the jury trial process. Because of the CSI Effect, judges now issue rulings directed at Its operation in cases and give special jury instructions regarding Its role in jurors' decision making. Undoubtedly, the CSI Infection is creating a juridical migraine for trial courts around previously ordinary trial issues and there is no panacea to eradicate It. Notwithstanding Its presence, mandatory due process requirements remain. This article explores the cases, the experiences of litigators, the commentary of jurors, and, most significantly, the trial and appellate court rulings on important constitutional and procedural issues. Scrutinizing these legal issues before the verdict and beyond the verdict attempts to ensure that justice and fairness prevail over any improper prejudice or bias that may have infiltrated the American criminal justice system.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

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