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The CSI Effect: Juries’ Changing Expectations

26 Jun 2018  | Michael Clinton  | Houston Law Firm

CSI Effect

Perry Mason…Matlock…L.A. Law…Law & Order…Ally McBeal…Suits…Bosch. Lawyers in the courtroom and detectives on the hunt have long been stars of the screen. Trial by jury is one of the oldest forms of drama, and networks have never shied away from capitalizing on viewers’ yearning for the suspense of a dramatic interrogation or cross-examination. More recently, podcasts and streaming platforms have continued this trend.


In October of 2000, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation gave the viewer an in-depth look at a new phase of the process and focused on characters who merely served as “extras” in other shows. CSI featured a team of crime scene investigators in the Las Vegas Police Department, and the show captivated audiences with dramatic crimes, witty banter, and most importantly—impressive technology that inevitably led to catching the perpetrator. Viewers worldwide became fans of the high-tech gadgets and fancy laboratories. During its reign, CSI aired more than 300 episodes, inspired three spin-off series, and accumulated thirty-nine Primetime Emmy nominations, with six wins.


For years, lawyers and judges have claimed that this exposure to impressive and often unrealistic technology has also created an unrealistic expectation in jurors’ minds; it is referred to as the “CSI Effect.” Prosecutors express concern that jurors might expect to see DNA evidence in proving even the simplest of cases. Defense lawyers similarly fear that without a CSI team lifting a fingerprint from a blade of grass to exonerate their clients, juries might return with an erroneous conviction. Jurors have been conditioned to believe that we are under surveillance at all times and expect every car wreck and slip-and-fall to be caught on surveillance video; that’s simply not reality. Just because something wasn’t caught on camera doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and a skilled advocate understands that success comes through working with what you have, not with what you don’t.


Conversely, others believe the CSI Effect may work in lawyers’ favor. Juries’ changing expectations in technology stems not only from CSI and similar TV shows but society’s growing exposure to technology in general. People today rely on technology in their day-to-day lives more than ever before. While juries might expect more technology in a trial today, they might also trust more technology in a trial today. It all boils down to your lawyer understanding and managing the juries’ expectations and beliefs.


As technology changes, society changes; and as society changes, juries expectations change. Trial lawyers have always had to work with juries’ changing expectations. When choosing a law firm to fight for you, it’s vitally important to choose an established firm with proven success both in and out of the courtroom. Perdue & Kidd has over 100 years of combined experience in navigating the intricacies of a lawsuit and truly connecting with juries during the trial. If you have been injured in any way, contact Perdue & Kidd immediately and we will get to work for you.


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