WASHINGTON – A Prince George’s County, Md., jury would not convict a man accused of stabbing his girlfriend to death because a half-eaten hamburger, recovered from the crime scene and assumed to have been his, was not tested for DNA.
In Washington, a jury deadlocked recently in the trial of a woman accused of stabbing another woman because fingerprints on the weapon did not belong to the suspect.
Prosecutors say jurors are telling them they expect forensic evidence in criminal cases, just like on their favorite television shows, including CSI: Crime Scene Investigators.
In real life, forensic evidence is not collected at every crime scene, either because criminals clean up after themselves or because of a shortage of resources.
Yet, increasingly, jurors are reluctant to convict someone without it, a phenomenon the criminal justice community is calling the “CSI effect.”
“There is an increased and unrealistic expectation that every crime scene will yield plentiful forensic evidence,” said Alexandria, Va., Commonwealth’s Attorney Randolph Sengel.
You know, I really do hope I’m never called on a jury in a case like this. I’d hate to be the one that has to sit there and agree with the prosecutor that, “I know you watch CSI, and it makes for good drama… but real forensics just isn’t like that!” One of my biggest peeves is how some of the stuff they show is outside the realm of possibility; a good example is taking a blurry or low-resolution photograph and turning it into a crystal-clear image. For that matter, I kinda know how the crime lab people feel; I’d end up watching movies or TV shows that feature such feats as using a laptop to hack into anything without a network connection or the like, and thinking, “It’s NOT LIKE THAT!”
It’s called artistic license, folks. The sooner you realize that, the better off we’ll all be.
*going back to my not-so-glamourous job sitting behind a desk, working with a Mac that can’t hack into an alien computer system and give it a virus no matter how much of a genius I might be…*