CSI Effect

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Another discrepancy between actual forensics and how it is portrayed in the media is the availability of information in databases. There is only a small percentage of the entire population’s fingerprints or DNA samples stored within databases such as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). This makes finding a match between a DNA sample or fingerprint difficult, as a match would only be found if the person’s information was already stored within the database. If there is no match previously stored in a database, the fingerprint or DNA sample could be potentially rendered useless within a trial. Typically, in order to perform an analysis, investigators must already have a suspect in mind and request a DNA or fingerprint sample from him or her. If the suspect does not want to provide one however, the sample collected as evidence may not count as valid. The CSI effect creates an idealized image that all crimes can be solved with a hair or drop of blood, but this is not always the case in real life.
In a well-known study conducted by Judge Donald Shelton, jurors were asked various questions to see if there was a significant difference in the rate of acquittals between those who watched shows such as CSI and those who do not. Attorneys, judges, and journalists have claimed that watching television programs like CSI have caused jurors to wrongfully acquit guilty defendants when no scientific evidence has been presented. To test this, 1,027 jurors were randomly selected and given a questionnaire to fill out. Questions about their demographics were listed and the jurors were asked what kind of TV shows they watched, how often, and how real they believed these shows were. The survey asked questons about seven ty...

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...o say there is a connection or possible link between the two.
I began this year considering a career in forensics. After delving into the field in detail however, I see that it is a very delicate science and easily open to misinterpretation. There are many variables within forensics, the first and foremost being that of the CSI effect and how it influences our expectations of the capabilities of forensic science. While it's true that great advances have been made in the area of forensic science, it's unrealistic to expect a crime scene to be processed, evidence analyzed and a conclusive forensics report to be completed in a short time and be completely accurate 100% of the time. Forensic science has a lot of room for improvement, and understanding if, how, and why shows like CSI affect the field is of high priority. After all, this is real life and not a TV show.
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