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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

CSI effect: forensic science is nearly infallible

Wrong answer - forensic science is not as good as it is cracked up to be on the CSI shows. Solving every crime in one hour is distorting peoples views of what really goes on with forensic science. The BBC reported:

"The CSI effect is basically the perception of the near-infallibility of forensic science in response to the TV show," said Max Houck, who runs a forensic science graduate course at West Virginia University, US.

"This TV show comes on and everyone starts watching it - including the cops and prosecutors - and submissions to forensic laboratories go through the roof," he told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The American forensics expert said there were roughly 200,000-300,000 backlogged DNA samples in US labs.

Yet these constituted just 10% of the total test backlog, said Dr Houck.

Forensic pathologist Dr Patricia McFeeley said she had started to see the show's influence in dealing with the families of victims.

"What I find is that families now are more dissatisfied with the investigation than was previously the case," she explained.

"For example, on television, the toxicology results are available almost instantaneously. But when people find out that it can take several months, they can find that very difficult."

CSI shows give 'unrealistic view' [BBC, Feb. 21, 2005]
Pathologists Say TV Forensics Creates Unrealistic Expectations [AAAS.org, Feb. 21, 2005]
Crime sleuths cope with ‘CSI’ Effect [MSNBC, Feb. 20, 2005]
Prosecutors Feel The 'CSI Effect' [cbsnews, Feb. 10, 2005]
'CSI effect' has juries wanting more evidence [USA Today, Aug. 5, 2004]
542,700 Crime Scene DNA Samples Still Waiting [house.gov, May 11, 2004]

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