Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Justice Abuse, Justice system, Law enforcement, Wrongful Convictions | Posted on 25-07-2011
Crime Scene Investigation is the premise for several television shows. Known as “CSI, ” the various shows take place in different cities with a different cast for each. Prosecutors have noticed that some of the half-assed cases they have presented at trial have been found lacking by jurors who later referred to case presented in the courtroom to their experiences watching “CSI.” Naturally, such prosecutors resented any fault-finding, so they have blamed the jurors, said the jurors expected “too much.”
Prosecutors usually pay lip service to the legal standard required for their cases, the well-known burden of persuasion articulated as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But they really do not want to be held to that standard because it really is a high standard. What they want is to give the jury as much evidence as they can get and fill in the blanks with argument and the opinions of police officers posing as experts derived from the police training schools geered to a maximum level of high school. There may or may not be enough to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt in a given case, but prosecutors always use emotion to carry them to the line or over the line when things get close. When the jury doesn’t buy it, it’s time to blame the jury.
Now some prosecutors actually question veniremen during voir dire to qualify them as trial jurors, asking them what their expectations are in the way of evidence. Of course, these prosecutors would never admit that the news and entertainment media are full-time tools for the prosecution. Look at all the crime featured at every news cast on every television station. Look at all the reality “cop shows,” where the suspect is followed in a death-defying chase, wrestled to the ground, hand-cuffed, all in full view of the camera, and then led away to a voice-over says, “every suspect is presumed innocent.” This makes a joke of the instructions of law that viewer later receives when he takes his seat as a juror because it has been told repeatedly by the television that “this is just a formality, but you really know he is guilty as sin.” So much for beginning with the presumption of innocence. Thus has television for decades inculcated every viewer into believing crime is everywhere, criminals need to be punished even if the technicalities and courtroom niceties cannot always be complied with. It has brought the average citizen along to be a bad-guy-getting cohort of the prosecution rather than a guardian of the system of justice. Jurors thus cannot imagine themselves threatened by a justice system with a lowered burden of proof.
So now prosecutors don’t think they’re getting a fair shake from jurors who may hold their feet to the fire by demanding a thoroughly investigated case rather than a superficial one? This is sour grapes from people who have had it their way for way too long. If jurors had required more thorough evidence in all those death cases in Dallas, the prosecution would not have wrongfully convicted so many to send them to death row.
Only now with DNA evidence can the factually innocent person prove he is truly innocent. It is sad to think how many years sloppy evidence has been putting people to death in the American justice system. That’s what happens when a district attorney is in office too long and the average person thinks the number one thing to do is fight crime – not decide justice. And prosecutors complain jurors are making them actually prove their case with the scientific tools available? And prosecutors only rejoinder is that it is too much trouble for them, and, besides, why don’t the jurors just take their word for it? That’s why we have judges and criminal defense lawyers, to keep the system honest.
There have been studies of this claimed “CSI effect.” The New England Law Review in 2007 published the results of the study by Simon Cole and Rachel Dioso-Villa, entitled “CSI and Its Effects: Media Juries and the Burden of Proof.” Their conclusions were that this claimed effect did not exist except in the minds of prosecutors who lost cases along with some stories in the press that were generated from prosecutors.
Another study was done by Eastern Michigan University criminologists. They found the “CSI effect” had no independent effect on jurors’ verdicts, although they did find that jurors who watched CSI were generally more interested in issues surrounding criminal justice and the law.
Maybe CSI should start showing the police routinely leaking stories before trials to help poison the jury pool with the prosecution’s version of the facts, the way they did with the French diplomat, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Then they could show how the police case collapsed, and how all this illustrated the extreme nature of the press assassination that had taken place upon the accused before a trial could even begin. That would be realistic, but it would be outside the story line. Given its viewership and the proliferation of shows in different cities, the CSI script appears to be successful as it is.