We’ve all heard about the CSI Effect, but what about the CSI Infection? A recent paper out of Loyola University explores how the widespread fear of a very debatable CSI Effect in America’s courtrooms has set off a series of chain reactions that Ms. Lawson has dubbed a CSI Infection. If you wander around your office ready to make cheesy puns before removing your sunglasses or you have The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” set as your ringtone; then you may not want to click this link. It is a review of empirical studies on the CSI Effect that generally suggest it does not exist (or at least it cannot be demonstrated). However, if you need to cling to your guns and DNA testing, only read the anecdotal reports/media stories in the review and keep your rose-colored David Caruso Ray Bans on.
(Blogger’s Note: I have facilitated a focus group on a project exploring the “CSI Effect Phenomenon” and remain thoroughly unconvinced of its existence.)
As Felix Unger says, when you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME. Oftentimes, attorneys will let their assumptions about a large group of people (i.e. the jury pool) dominate their expectations of an individual’s behavior (i.e. the juror). This is faulty logic, as it tries to make comparisons between apples and rhinoceroses. (I believe oranges are too close to apples and actually would make a better comparison).
The CSI Infection is rooted in a mass assumption (without much support) by many in the legal community that most jurors are too dumb and/or emotional to truly realize that a crime drama is not real life. It has left many attorneys believing that TV has indeed rotted juors brains and made them too “soft-in-the-head” to effectively determine levels of proof or hear a case fairly. Honestly, is this likely?
Or, is the following scenario more likely?
1. Prosecutors choose which cases to take on. So, the attorneys are already weeding out many cases that have the weakest evidence (physical or otherwise).
2. The accused know if they did the crime and get to see the evidence against them. So, when the evidence is strong, criminals will often take a plea arrangement to avoid a harsh judge sentencing.
3. This leaves a collection of trials under the following circumstances:
a. The person didn’t do the crime (suggesting there should not be much strong physical evidence);
b. The person did the crime but sees weak evidence (suggesting they have a shot at an acquittal or dismissal).
c. The person did the crime and sees strong evidence, but decides to roll the dice anyway (explaining our high conviction rate).
This same rationale can be applied to many civil cases and settlements. Replace the word “prosecutor” with “plaintiff’s attorney” and “plea arrangement” with “settlement.”
While it is easy to blame the jurors, sometimes a weak case is just a weak case. Sometimes an attorney’s presentation of the evidence is poor and the jurors just “don’t get it.” Sometimes a jury is not very bright and gets it wrong. However, rarely (if ever) does the popularity of a crime-based television show create a substantial influence on a verdict. Unless, of course, the trial actually involves the TV show, actors or network. Then you might say it would be a case of the CBS Effect (cue The Who, put on sunglasses, cut to show opening credits).
(Blogger’s Note: I apologize for that last line. I’m not as good at cheesy puns as one might ass-u-me.)
Blogger: Matt McCusker