Crime-Show-Viewing Habits and Public Attitudes toward Forensic Evidence: The "Csi Effect" Revisited*

By Baskin, Deborah R.; Sommers, Ira B. | Justice System Journal, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Crime-Show-Viewing Habits and Public Attitudes toward Forensic Evidence: The "Csi Effect" Revisited*


Baskin, Deborah R., Sommers, Ira B., Justice System Journal


The present study assesses whether watching crime shows affects attitudes toward forensic evidence and whether these attitudes result in a predisposition toward conviction or acquittal in a criminal trial. Data came from a telephone survey of a random sample of 1,201 California registered voters. The results indicate that, independent of criminal justice experiences, sociodemographics, and other background characteristics, crime-show-viewing habits affect potential jurors' pretrial attitudes and predispositions regarding scientific evidence and various forms of testimony. However, pretrial attitudes do not affect respondents' beliefs about their willingness to convict/acquit based on the presence/absence of forensic evidence. Instead, crime show viewing has a direct effect on this belief.

During the past twenty years, forensic science has made tremendous strides in incorporating scientific breakthroughs into its practice (e.g., DNA typing, physical-evidence databases, increasingly advanced instrumentation). At the same time, the public has experienced greater exposure to the use of forensic evidence in the criminal justice process through the popular media. Television programs such as CSi, Forensic Files, Law and Order, and Without a Trace, among others, have large viewing audiences. Newspapers and television news shows report on well-publicized trials (e.g., OJ. Simpson, Robert Blake, Scott Peterson, Phil Spector), often commenting on the use (or absence) of forensic evidence. Awareness of the achievements of the Innocence Project and the employment of DNA typing in gaining death-row exonerations has increased, as have Internet blogs dedicated to forensic issues. Thus, the general public is treated to a daily barrage of "reality" and "fictional" accounts of forensic issues.

The proliferation of crime and justice topics throughout all forms of media has led some to suggest that a "CSI Effect" has taken hold of the public. It has been argued that watching television shows, such as CSI, has influenced the general public's attitudes, expectations, and decision making related to the use of scientific evidence in jury trials. The impact of the presumed CSI Effect has reverberated throughout various sectors of society, with attorneys reporting changes in trial strategies so as to counteract it (Watkins, 2004; Gather, 2004) and law journals devoting issues or running ads for seminars on this topic (such as seminars presented by the University of Wisconsin and the University of Maryland School of Law in 2006 and the Brooklyn Law School's "Science for Judges" seminars in 2003-07). The present study adds to a growing body of research that explores whether watching crime shows affects public attitudes towards forensic evidence and whether these attitudes result in a predisposition toward conviction or acquittal in a criminal trial.

REVIEW OF SELECTED LITERATURE

Only a handful of empirical studies have assessed the CSI Effect. One such study by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (2005) found overwhelming support for the Effect. The authors questioned prosecutors about their perceptions of jurors' attitudes. Prosecutors reported that jurors expected detailed forensic evidence and that jurors, in fact, penalized the state by acquitting defendants when such evidence was not available. Similarly, Watkins's survey of fifty-three attorneys in Florida (2004) also attributed jurors' exaggerated expectations concerning scientific evidence to watching crime shows. Arguing the difficulty of questioning jurors directly, Watkins assumed that lawyers' attitudes and television-viewing practices served as proxies for the general public and therefore, by extension, jurors. Watkins reported that Florida attorneys had even started modifying trial tactics to preempt what they felt were jurors' inflated expectations concerning the presentation of scientific evidence during criminal trials. Although prosecuting attorneys may be observing changes in juror attitudes, Watkins provided no evidence that these changes emanated from crime show viewing nor that they correlated with the choice of verdict. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Crime-Show-Viewing Habits and Public Attitudes toward Forensic Evidence: The "Csi Effect" Revisited*
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.