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Friday, September 16, 2011

Essay on CSI Effect - What is CSI Effect?

Crime Scene Investigation, which is also known as the CSI:  Las Vegas, is a crime drama television series in the United States that premiered on CBS last October 6, 2000.  It was created by Anthony E. Zuiker and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.  It shows the conduct of investigations by a team of forensic scientists who attempt to unravel the circumstances behind mysterious and puzzling deaths and crimes committed within Las Vegas,Nevada.

The television series was a success according Nielsen Ratings as it ranked number one in June 2005 with an average viewership of 16 million a night (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” p.1).   The season finale in 2004-2005 was also watched by over 40 million viewers earning it a distinction as one of the most watched television series in history (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” p.1).  Because of the monumental success of the CSI, CBS started to produce their own franchise Such as the CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, which are set in  Miami,Florida and New York City, respectively.

As the titles indicate, these shows portray the process of gathering and analyzing forensic evidence found in crime scenes in order to solve crimes.  According to Audrey Lee (2007), “CSI revolves around the Las Vegas Police Department’s Crime Scene Investigation team who use forensic techniques to met out justice on criminals.” Through the use of state of the art technologies and techniques, CSI has captured the heart and mind of the public.

Nevertheless, while the shows apparently claim to be based on science, they are far from being scientific.  From the standpoint of a real forensic scientist, the techniques and methods used in gathering and analyzing forensic evidence are based on fiction rather than true investigative forensic (Tom R. Tyler, p.1052).

Robert Willing stated that some of the science being shown on the screen is state of the art.  Laboratory technicians can lift DNA from cigarette butts, candy wrappers and spit.  However, there are some techniques which are fictional.  For instance, technicians do not pour caulk into knife wounds to make a cast of the weapon as it is not possible to use the same technique on soft tissue.  As of this time, there is also no technology that can determine the cologne from scents found on the clothing.

Despite the fictional representation of forensic science in the television series, CSI has become the center of attention for the mass media.  Particularly, the magazines and the newspapers say the television series as a CSI effect on the people who are its avid viewers and watchers.  Dr. Max Houck said that the CSI effect refers to the perception that the television series has created among its viewers about the infallibility of forensic science in solving crimes (Paul Rincon, 2005, p.1).  According to Paul Rincon, because of the success of CSI in television the people have developed an unrealistic expectation of forensic science.  He said these unrealistic expectations have an impact in the criminal justice system.  He said that one of the evidence of the CSI effect is the increase in the number of evidence being submitted to forensic labs for examination.  Dr. Houck adds that as of 2005 there was an estimated backlog of 200,000 to 300,000 DNA samples in US labs (Paul Rincon, 2005, p.1).

According to Dr. Patricia Mcfeeley, a forensic pathologist, the television series has affected the families of victims who have become dissatisfied with the process of criminal investigation (Paul Rincon, 2005, p.1).  Most of them compare the delivery of the toxicology results in the television series with the delivery in actual laboratories.  They get frustrated when they find out that the toxicology results actually take several months to complete.

In addition, Dr. Houck stated that the CSI has also affected the perception among jurors as they demand that every piece of evidence found in the crime scene to be tested in laboratories (Paul Rincon, 2005, p.1).  Dr. Houck explained that in real-life investigation not all evidence needs to be tested.

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