DNA Evidence – Criminology

In this era, the most substantial evidence, according to many people is DNA testing. People believe this is the only evidence that cannot be tampered. It is not possible to alter the DNA evidence, but the samples can be contaminated. High tech criminals who commit serious offenses such as; murder and rape are aware of the fact that DNA can protect them against further investigations. As a result, they have come up with ways through which they destroy the DNA evidence, such as pouring bleach agents at the crime scene.

This explains why this type of evidence is not reliable enough. Baskin and Somers in their research on the correlation between crime show viewing and public attitude towards forensic evidence, indicate that these shows have influenced the public to believe forensic evidence is the way to go. They believe this evidence is often undisputed as the suspects found guilty are convicted without further questioning.

Brewer and Barbara further bring out this effect in their discussion of how the media has influenced the public’s perception of DNA evidence. They state that this influence is felt even in the courts where the jury demands the DNA evidence even in situations where it does not exist. Similarly, Desmarais and his colleagues during their research on the relevance of the crime show realized the extent to which these kinds of evidence can be deceptive.

When conducting the research, they came across a number of cases where innocent people were imprisoned and later on the true criminals confessed to the crimes. This brings out a very significant flaw in the whole process of using forensic science in investigations. In support of the allegations, Desmarais and his colleagues state that the “evidence does not meet high standards and is therefore judged as insufficient resulting in increasing conviction rates” (233).

Consequently, Durnal in his journal Forensic Science International brings out the challenge faced by prosecutors in their attempt to explain that most of the forensic procedures used in the crime shows do not exist, and can never exist even in future. He agrees to the fact that fingerprints and DNA’s are the most common types of evidence. He further illustrates that fingerprints and DNA’s were once the most reliable since these two elements are unique in every person.

This, however, is not the case nowadays as the criminals have come up with ways of altering the evidence. All these sources, therefore, attempt to discredit the notion that the forensic evidence is as reliable as depicted in the crime shows. These shows are fictional, and so many people have been deceived into believing the best criminal justice system is one that conforms to the standards of the CSI like programs.

The media is to blame for the change in the criminal justice system

The media is considered to be one of the leading tools of education as well as of destruction. This is owing to its influential nature and the fact that most of the content therein is not censored. The initial idea behind the production of the CSI like shows was strictly for entertainment purposes. These programs were, however produced in a way that closely mimics real-life situations. This is what brought about the CSI effect. This situation is explained by Hughes in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture.

Hughes explains the problem with the CSI effect is largely brought about by the fact that most people tend to believe what they see on TV instead of just being entertained. Hughes supports his allegation be stating that “…. criminal justice issues a fertile area for episodic stories. It has also been asserted in the past that media representations have impacted the criminal justice system” (263).

Mann in his article The CSI Effect: Better Jurors throughout Television and Science supports the view that the media is to blame for the CSI effect. He in fact alleges that this has gotten into the courtrooms and affected the decisions made by the jurors.

To support his allegations, he poses a rhetorical question as on “whether the unrealistic expectations held by the jurors as a result of watching CSI and other crime dramas such as Dick Wolfs and Law and order are marginalizing actual investigations” (212). Truth is they are, by creating a false illusion of how investigations should be carried out. This means the decisions made in the courtrooms are greatly influenced by the CSI effect.

Another similar view on this subject is that of Robbers in his article Blinded by Science: The Social Construction of Reality in Forensic Television Shows and Its Effect on criminal jury trials. She claims that a majority of the policies dealing with crimes are altered or determined depending on what the media depicts of the issue.

She brings out the fact that the media has affected both the public and the jury alike. In this regard, she asserts that “not only does it appear juries expect the same level of evidence in a courtroom as they see on television shows (regardless of the agency’s resources), but they also expect the evidence to be produced extremely quickly” (84-85).

In all these discussions, the media are depicted as the force behind the many changes experienced in society. This, therefore, explains why the CSI effect has had such a serious effect on the criminal justice system. It is because of its relationship with the media.

CSI shows have set new standards for the criminal justice system

The public has come to believe more in the systems depicted in the crime shows, more than the real systems used in the justice system. Some of the technology and procedures used in these dramas are the next generation technology and this explains why these shows have exerted a lot of pressure on the criminal justice system to raise their standards.

Some of these standards are even unrealistic owing to the fact that they are bundled up with fiction. This aspect has been researched by Mann in his article The CSI Effect: Better Jurors throughout Television and Science. He claims that these crime shows have set a high standard for the prosecutors and the jurors alike who are forced to adopt them to maintain confidence with the public.

Mann goes ahead to explain that these programs are not even anything near real, especially considering the time factor. They last for a maximum of 45 minutes and by that time, crimes have already been solved and the criminal convicted. This is unreal and it leads many people into believing that crimes can truly be solved within such a short time.

Mancini supports this fact in his article The CSI Effect Reconsidered: Is It Moderated By Need for Cognition? He claims that these entire shows do is increasing the expectation of the jurors to the level that is unrealistic for the prosecutors to achieve. These heightened expectations have led to the acquaintance of many criminals and the questioning of the defense lawyers capacities.

From this, he states that these high expectations do not lead to the improvement of the system but threaten it in a way that it might eventually collapse if action is not taken. The CSI effect is moving among the crowds like bush fire and Mancini illustrates that “the pace of the public discussion has outstripped the ability of scholars to research the issue” (165).

This implies that the people researching on this issue have been outweighed by the public’s expectation and to some extent dragged into the system as well. From these two articles, therefore, it is clear that thanks to the CSI effect, the prosecutors, defense lawyers, and jurors are expected to raise their standards.

The jurors now follow the procedures from the CSI shows

Most research conducted on the topic of the CSI effect indicates this has not only affected the public’s opinion but also that of the jury. Shelton and his colleagues in their article An Indirect-Effects Model of Mediated Adjudication: The CSI Myth, the Tech Effect, and Metropolitan Jurors’ Expectations for Scientific Evidence bring out the positive side of the CSI effect. They indicate that members of the jury are supposed a lot of forensic investigation for them to be able to tell fictions from facts.

This they believe will ensure that they are able to settle for the right judgment in the high degree crimes such as murder and rape. With the CSI like shows, the jurors have a field to practice their knowledge by trying to identify what is real and what is not. Besides this, they also believe that the technology used in the shows could be a resource to the jurors in the future if not now. In addition to this, they also allege that the CSI is not the only influencing factor in the judicial process.

In this regard, they state that, “… juror responses … are likely not directly related in a causative, linear fashion to any of these effects alone, but rather to an indirect-effects model … CSI effect, a tech effect, a – mass media effect, or even a combination of these effects represent just a few of the more conspicuous social features” (13).

In contrast to this, Robbers claims that the CSI related programs have affected the decisions of the jury and the other professionals in this field as well. Most jurors who watch these programs tend to incline towards the judgments in there more than what they have been practicing in years. A good example is where most of the jury members have developed a high expectation on the evidence to be produced in a trial and the time taken to facilitate the verdict.

To support her allegations, she came up with several themes which include, first is that the jurors have come to appreciate forensic evidence compared to eyewitnesses. The second theme is whereby the jurors have come to believe that the police are incompetent if they fail to present DNA tests as part of their evidence. The third is where the jury has demanded forensic evidence despite its irrelevance in the case and finally is the case where the jurors are not able to tell opinions from facts.

The truth is that CSI like programs are based on opinions and imaginations since they are meant to entertain. Most people including the jury have however taken these programs to be educative and this has led to a big mess in the justice system. Despite the allegations made by Shelton and colleagues that CSI shows are not to be blamed entirely for the changes in the jury, they are largely to blame as indicated in the cases presented by Robbers.

Therefore, if there is to be any change in the criminal justice system, it should start with the jury who are the most affected by the CSI effect in the system. This should start from the jury selection process as stipulated by Robbers by conducting a CSI effect before admitting them to the bar.

The CSI effect has to be eliminated fast

From past experience, CSI effect is seen to take a toll on the entire criminal justice system. Considering the criminal shows are based on fictional stories these are nothing to go by in real life situations. Despite this knowledge, most people including the jurors and prosecutors base their judgment on what they see in these shows. The result of this is that the criminal justice system has been flawed hence proving unreliable. The fact that many people have convicted innocent based on false evidence makes the issue more complicated.

A number of people have come claiming responsibilities for crimes that other different people were convicted for. These are just a few who decided to stand up and let the truth be known.

There could be others who are still in the underground while someone else is serving the sentence on their behalf. In the attempt to explain why the CSI effect should be eliminated fast, Baskin and Somers defines it as “the response of the public who have been exposed to forensic science and eyewitness evidence from a fictional point of view” (102) in their article Crime-Show-Viewing Habits and Public Attitudes Toward Forensic Evidence: The CSI-Effect Revisited.

One of the most major deceptions brought up in these shows is in relation to the time and resources required to solve the crimes. The programs take an average of 45 minutes and by the end of this time a crime has to be investigated and the person responsible prosecuted. This creates an illusion that real crimes can be solved within such short time limits.

In agreement with the fact that the CSI effect has to be eliminated Brewer and Ley in their article media use and public perceptions of DNA evidence indicate how the CSI effect has affected not only the public’s perception but also that of the jury. Most people have replaced learning with adapting to the ideas they get on television.

This can be compared to a case where people prefer to believe fictional ideas when there are facts on the table. The expectations of many have been raised such that the prosecutors are having a hard time when presenting their evidence.

In the attempt to bring out the adverse effects of the CSI effect, Brewer and Ley stated that “members of the public are ‘cognitive misers’ who rely on information shortcuts to make sense of the complex realm of science and technology” (97).

Cole and Dioso-Villa on their article investigating the CSI effect: Media and litigation crisis in criminal law also support that fact that the CSI effect is evil in the criminal justice system. In fact, the research they conducted on this issue revealed that the legal experts are no longer in agreement with the inclinations of decision making since the time the CSI effect started having its way.