With the creation of the television, the prominent legal scholars reached the conclusion that the impact of the legal-oriented movies and entertainment programs becomes increasingly tremendous (Fielding, 2006). Movies and TV programs like Boston Legal, LA Law, the People’s Court and many others were reported to have a significant influence on the legal perception of many citizens of the United States of America. Initially, the changes were reluctantly acknowledged by the legal community. Within several years, the CSI effect was reported to have been admitted by the Supreme Court of the United States together with the American Bar Association (Buyers, 2009), which, in their turn, expressed the opinion that the general public understands the nature of some legal professions differently than they are in real life. The reflection of the legal community was reported to be defined as “excessive” and “unrealistic” (Buyers, 2009).
The problem that was perceived by the American Bar Association was the fact that the mass media differently described the police men of the United States. Every policeman was depicted as an ingrained crime fighter with unlimited physical capabilities and high moral values. What is more, the accountants, experts and other non-crime-fighting professionals who serve with the police are routinely disregarded by the community of the United States. Heroic exploits are ubiquitously expected from everyone who wears a uniform. In this paper, I am advocating the idea that the role of the popular media in crime investigation processes became excessively high and that the image of the United States Police forces has been purposefully distorted (Fielding, 2006). Although, the distortions were positive in their essence, by the mass-media caste. An accent is made on the fact, that the importance of forensic evidence has been exaggerated.
The investigation of the Criminal Cases and the CSI effect
The biggest apprehension that was expressed by the United States Bar Association was that the jurors might be CSI affected while hearing criminal cases, thus, indirectly violating the principle of impartiality and the principle of unbiased nature of the sentence (Schmalleger, 2008). However, the leading scholars in the fields of criminal law and criminology assume that although these claims are grounded, further substation is required to prove their scientific independence and existence (Buyers, 2009).
The term ‘CSI effect’ derives from the popular United States police drama CSI: Crime Investigation Scene, which was launched in October 2012, and which was reported to be seen regularly almost by 20% of the entire population of the United States of America. The season of 2005-2006 years was estimated to have almost 26 million audiences in the United States only, not to mention the viewers from overseas. Due to the increased popularity of this legal drama, a huge number of spin-offs have launched. The creators of the movies explained that they decided to inform the target audience that the methods, which were so vigorously advocated by Sherlock Holmes, are applicable nowadays, and the criminal can be brought to liability even when the witnesses are not available or if only the forensic evidences were left in the place of the crime.
The opinion of the leading scholars is that the CSI effect is threefold in its nature. The firs assumption is that the jurors in criminal cases are influenced by some unreasonable factors, making it excessively difficult for the office of the prosecution to obtain and to prove that the conviction shall take place. In other words, due to the role of the mass media, the accused person is more likely to be acquitted (Schmalleger, 2008). The second assumption is that the scientifically obtained evidence is almost impenetrable in its nature and, thus, cannot be refuted by the evidences of non-scientific, non-forensic origin. In other words, if the witness and the expert witness are available the jury is more likely to believe the expert witness. Although, from the purely legal point of view, these types of evidences must be assessed equally; and no type of evidence is, in fact, infallible in its nature. The third concept is that the citizens who serve as a juror without sufficient academic background are more inclined in following scientific evidence (Fielding, 2006).
The Impact of CSI Effect on the Role of Prosecution
According to the Criminal Law of the United States of America, both the case law and the provisions of the statutes, the prosecution has to prove the person indictment, he/she must be found guilty unanimously and beyond the reasonable doubt (Buyers, 2006). It is opposed to the civil system, where it is enough to prove that something is on the balance of probabilities, in other words, that something was probable to occur. Evidently, the prosecution has to fulfill a difficult task to prove someone’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and collect all the necessary evidence. With the development of mass media and the increasing popularity of legal dramas like Boston Legal, CSI Criminal Investigation, The Lincoln for a Lawyer, and the adapted versions of the legal novels written by the prominent United States author and former lawyer, John Grisham, the perception and the understating of the jurors of the United States became unduly demanding and inflated.
The typical episode of the CSI-related movie creates the false impression that each crime can be efficiently solved with forensic evidence only and the fact that this evidence is always sufficient to identify the person who committed the crime (Cavender, Deutsch, 2007). Therefore, unreasonable expectations from the forensic sciences are permanently created in the brains of the jurors. Obviously, the importance of the forensic science is substantially exaggerated. The jurors in the United States became excessively opinionated that every criminal case can be riddled by means of forensic science and that these evidences exist in every crime that has been committed. Moreover, when these evidences are not available in case, the jurors demand them before issuing the conviction for an accused person; although, the rest of the evidence may explicitly indicate that the one is guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. When this data is not available, the jurors are likely to adjudicate that the evidence sufficient to substantiate guilt of the one arraigned is not sufficient.
Moreover, the prosecutors expressed concerns that after watching Boston Legal or CSI Criminal Scene Investigation, or other legal-related dramas, the jurors reasonably expect that the expert witnesses will follow the pattern that was depicted in the movie (Buyers, 2009).
The fact that it is not always possible to extract substantial scientifically based forensic evidence is not accepted by the jurors affected by the CSI effect. When the evidence is not procured by the office of prosecution, it became very unlikely in recent years that the arraignment will take place (Schmalleger, 2008).
Legal dramas like CSI Crime Scene Investigation, Boston Legal and others began to play an increasingly important role in the criminal proceedings of the United States of America. The Code of Criminal procedure does not provide for the existence of this participant of the proceedings. Naturally, this policy must be thoroughly re-considered by the judiciary officials of the United States.
Unless the jurors are instructed to evaluate all types of evidences separately and independently, the entire system of criminal justice, in particular the competitiveness of the party, is seriously endangered. The true criminals, who indeed committed heinous crimes, can rely not only on their attorneys, but on the help of the opinions created by the mass media and television, as well.