07 August 2004

CSI and the Jury

The Curmudgeonly Clerk asks whether shows like CSI have effected the way juries view evidence.

Well, I'll tell you how shows like CSI have helped me. They have led to the easy availability of books which explain forensic evidence and are easily understood. So now when I want to find out how things work I can usually find a book that explains it in English at my local Barnes & Noble instead of hunting around for some technical manual or college text book where there will be three foot long greek/latin words and pages upon pages of charts to decipher.

As to how it effects juries, I'm not sure it has in any of my cases. Of course, I make the purposeful blindness argument because often police seem to stop looking for evidence if it might place in doubt the guilt of the person they've decided is guilty. However, this argument has been made as long as anyone can remember and I think it's a hit or miss proposition. I find juries to be amazingly perceptive as to whether you are making a desperate argument or the police really have purposefully chosen not to take fingerprint evidence or check to see if the hair at the scene matches your client. Of course, being a big fan of juries I might be a little biased.1

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1 My biggest gripe about the Virginia system of criminal law is the taking of a jury is basically banned in serious cases except in extreme desperation or when used by the prosecutor as a weapon.

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