The seemingly endless variety of fictional television crime dramas has had a much more far-reaching effect on the public than just providing entertainment: it has increased public knowledge of the inner workings of crime scene investigation, analysis, and the justice system. Or has it?
Experts agree that while the public is generally less in the dark about these subjects that they were, say, twenty years ago, some of their perceived knowledge is actually misleading. What the public thinks they know about forensic investigation and other related subjects can be enough to influence a panel of jurors during a trial because they think they know more about the investigatory process and how the case is supposed to end. This is because of what attorneys dubbed “The C.S.I Effect” back in 2005. Shows like “C.S.I.” make it seem like the case has been solved before it ever goes to trial, and tends to take actual cases and mixes them with fictional elements to add drama, which can confuse viewers as to what is reality and what is for ratings. There have also been actual cases where shows like these can actually help a criminal commit a more “perfect” crime, such as the case of Marina Calabro, who was beaten and murdered by her grand-nephew and three of his friends who felt they could commit the perfect crime by using what they’d learned from watching shows like “Forensic Files”. According to reports and experts, they actually did a great job of making the death appear to be an accident because the crime scene was processed as an accident and no further investigation was conducted. It most likely would officially have remained an accident had one of the young men not bragged about the murder to another acquaintance, who then informed police and subsequently wore a wire to record another confession from him.
The term “C.S.I” Effect may have been given its name back in 2005, but its effect has only grown with the ever-growing list of crime shows of both fact and fiction, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.