CSI effect on jurors
- January 28, 2016
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There are growing fears across Australia that Television shows and other Pop-Culture platforms are influencing juries to convict people wrongly.
The Effect Explained:
The CSI Effect is the idea that media outlets have negatively influenced potential jurors into an incorrect way of examining evidence in trials. The CSI Effect shows a chain reaction which starts with television programs such as CSI and NCIS and the images and storylines demonstrating DNA evidence as clear and accurate match to identifying hardened criminals in handcuffs. This translates into a popular perception that any and all DNA evidence is sufficient and conclusive in all trials to convict people. This can be explained as our ‘symbolic reality’ is most often created by the media, rather than our own experiences and as such, we often believe too much of what we view on screens. However, the reality is that DNA evidence and forensic pathology is highly uncertain and interpretative, with forensic professionals stating when examined in trials they often cannot give a definite answer to the questions presented.
So how real is the danger in Australian Courts?
At this stage, there is no concrete evidence as to the gravity the CSI effect has in our court rooms. A study undertaken by Judith Fordham in 2006 revealed jurors are disappointed with trials that do not produce DNA evidence because on TV this is nearly always a crucial aspect of criminal trials. However, the study also revealed when presented with DNA evidence jurors do make a genuine attempt to understand it, rather than use it as a catch all to determine guilt. However, Briody’s 2004 study found Queensland jurors were 23 times more likely to convict in a homicide case and 33 times more likely to convict in a sexual assault case where DNA evidence was adduced.
The issue is a complex one, and although more research needs to be done to determine the depth of the issue this may soon become pressing with each individual who is convicted in Victoria having their DNA taken and stored (and in some circumstances after their arrest).
 Fordham, J and Holmgren J.A , The CSI Effect and the Canadian and the Australian Jury, Journal of Forensic Sciences (Wiley-Blackwell), January 2011, accessed on 21 January, 2016.
 Briody, M, The Effects of DNA Evidence on Homicide Cases in Court, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, August 2004, accessed 21 January, 2016.