Copyright (c) 2007 New England School of Law
New England Law Review
SYMPOSIUM: THE CSI EFFECT: THE TRUE EFFECT OF CRIME SCENE TELEVISION ON THE JUSTICE SYSTEM: THE CSI EFFECT: ITS IMPACT AND POTENTIAL CONCERNS
41 New Eng. L. Rev. 471
CRAIG M. COOLEY*
A unique situation exists in the United States regarding forensic science. At one end of the spectrum, forensic science is deeply embraced by television viewers who religiously watch forensic science crime dramas such as CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and Crossing Jordan. 1 According to news reports, due to the media's distorted imagery of forensic science, faithful viewers naively believe that forensic evidence and examiners can quickly solve even the most complex crimes. 2 More specifically, this segment of American society has come to believe or blindly assume three broad themes regarding the forensic science community: (1) crime labs are pristine scientific sanctuaries, which always have the most up-to-date forensic technology; (2) crime labs only employ the most skilled and imaginative "scientists" who make few, if any, errors; and (3) forensic scientists are actually practicing and engaging in legitimate science. On the other end of the spectrum, forensic science is presently viewed with an unprecedented level of skepticism and angst by criminal justice actors, such as defense attorneys, 3 judges, 4 academic scientists, 5 and even forensic scientists. 6 As developed in more detail below, this cynicism and caution is a by-product of several factors that have considerably weakened the forensic science community's foundation and credibility. Moreover, the criminal justice professionals, who work in the trenches on a daily basis, have only recently learned that the three abovementioned assumptions do not accurately reflect today's forensic science community. 7
The current asymmetry between television viewers ...
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