Please cite to the original publication
The "CSI effect" is a term that legal authorities and the mass media have coined to describe a supposed influence that watching the television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has on juror behavior. Some have claimed that jurors who see the high-quality forensic evidence presented on CSI raise their standards in real trials, in which actual evidence is typically more flawed and uncertain. As a result, these CSI-affected jurors are alleged to acquit defendants more frequently. This Review argues that, while some existing evidence on juror decisionmaking is consistent with the CSI effect, it is equally plausible that watching CSI has the opposite impact on jurors and increases their tendency to convict. The perceived rise in acquittals can also plausibly be explained without any reference either to watching CSI or to viewing crime dramas more generally. For these reasons, and because no direct research supports the existence or delineates the nature of the CSI effect, calls for changes to the legal system are premature. More generally, the issues raised by current attention to the CSI effect illustrate the problems that arise when proposed changes in the legal system are supported by plausible, but empirically untested, "factual" assertions.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Viewing CSI and the Threshold of Guilt: Managing Truth and Justice in Reality and in Fiction, 115 Yale Law Journal 1050-1085 (2006)