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Copyright (c) 2006 Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal

Article: "The CSI Effect": Exposing the Media Myth

Winter, 2006

16 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 429


Dr. Kimberlianne Podlas*


Almost since the advent of television, legal scholars and practitioners alike have contemplated the impact of law-oriented entertainment programming, such as Perry Mason, LA Law, and The People's Court, on the public. 1 Even the Supreme Court 2 and the American Bar Association 3 have acknowledged that television impacts the public's perception of the legal system. Consequently, in the last decade, scholars have begun investigating the impact of pop cultural representations of law, such as dramatic and "reality" shows, on the public. 4

CBS's top-rated drama C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation 5 is the most recent television program to interest the public as well as the Bar. National popular press stories, beginning with a 2004 USA Today report 6 and culminating with the U.S. News & World Report's spring cover story, "The CSI Effect, How TV is Driving Jury Verdicts All Across America," 7 charge that the popular drama is causing a "CSI Effect." If these stories are to be believed, CSI is altering the way in which jurors assess criminal trial evidence, thus impacting the administration of justice. Although there is some surface appeal and anecdotal evidence to support such claims, 8 there is, as of yet, no empirical evidence to substantiate them. 9 Nevertheless, if CSI contributes to the pop cultural landscape that shapes perceptions of the legal process or if it impacts juror decision-making, "The CSI Effect" merits serious investigation.

Consequently, this study attempts to amass the first empirical evidence of whether a "CSI ...
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