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Examining the "CSI-Effect" in the Cases of Circumstantial Evidence and Eyewitness Testimony: Multivariate and Path Analyses

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 37 Issue: 5 Dated: September-October 2009 Pages: 452-460
Young S. Kim; Gregg Barak; Donald E. Shelton
Date Published
October 2009
9 pages
This study examined the impact on juror decisionmaking of watching television shows that feature CSI (crime scene investigation) themes.
Multivariate analyses found that juror individual characteristics exerted different influences on decisionmaking depending on the types of evidence presented. When only circumstantial evidence was involved, jurors' race, educational level, and neighborhood crime problems were significantly associated with their willingness to convict defendants; age and gender were significantly associated with jurors' willingness to convict in cases that involved eyewitness testimony alone. Exposure to CSI television dramas had no significant effort on cases that involved either circumstantial evidence only or eyewitness testimony only; however, CSI exposure did have a strong indirect effect through raised expectations about scientific evidence in cases having circumstantial evidence only. Those jurors exposed to CSI dramas often had higher expectations about scientific evidence presented by prosecutors. This lowered their willingness to convict without scientific evidence of any kind. The CSI effect did not come into play in cases with only eyewitness testimony. One obvious implication of these findings is that police and prosecutors should obtain and present scientific evidence whenever it is reasonably available in a case. In the real world, however, law enforcement agencies argue that obtaining such evidence, examining it, and providing expert testimony in court for significantly more cases is not realistic, given the current backlogs in forensic laboratories. Further, most cases do not yield the type of scientific evidence or lend themselves to the types of forensic examinations depicted in some crime shows. The study sample consisted of 1,027 (54.9 percent male) actual jurors who were summoned for jury duty in Washtenaw County court, Michigan. Before they were assigned to an actual trial, the prospective jurors waiting in the courthouse were asked to complete a questionnaire. 2 tables, 5 figures, and 34 references