"...foster what analysts say is the mistaken notion that criminal science is fast and infallible and always gets its man. That's affecting the way lawyers prepare their cases, as well as the expectations that police and the public place on real crime labs. Real crime-scene investigators say that because of the programs, people often have unrealistic ideas of what criminal science can deliver."
The article notes that while the shows are attributed with increasing both awareness and interest in forensic science, both prosecutors and defense attorneys recognize that "the effect" has impacted jurors' willingness to convict:
"Talking about science in the courtroom used to be like talking about geometry — a real jury turnoff," says Hirschhorn, of Lewisville, Texas. "Now that there's this almost obsession with the (TV) shows, you can talk to jurors about (scientific evidence) and just see from the looks on their faces that they find it fascinating."
But some defense lawyers say CSI and similar shows make jurors rely too heavily on scientific findings and unwilling to accept that those findings can be compromised by human or technical errors.
Prosecutors also have complaints: They say the shows can make it more difficult for them to win convictions in the large majority of cases in which scientific evidence is irrelevant or absent.
"The lesson that both sides can agree on is, what's on TV does seep into the minds of jurors," says Paul Walsh, chief prosecutor in New Bedford, Mass., and president of the National District Attorneys Association. "Jurors are going to have information, or what they think is information, in mind. That's the new state of affairs."
Notwithstanding the impact on jurors, what impact does CSI have on defense attorneys? Do defense attorneys rely too heavily on scientific findings? Yes, according to US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, who says, according to this Boston Globe article published yesterday, said defense attorneys should be more skeptical of forensic science:
"Spurred by the report and criminal cases she has presided over, Gertner wrote that the validity of such evidence “ought not to be presumed’’ and that defense attorneys should contest it at pretrial hearings, or explain why they do not."
Judge Nancy Gertner's discussion of forensic science was summarized in Howard J. Bashman's blog, How Appealing yesterday: