In order to accurately depict how the CSI Effect strongly influences our society’s view on crime and courtroom proceedings, I will be comparing different CSI episodes to those methods and theories which apply. Throughout the paper, I will be explaining how CSI has shaped peoples’ minds in believing false claims and investigation beliefs. Watching and comparing episodes of CSI to the CSI Effect will be a prime reference in explaining how the media is placing a spin on CSI television shows.
According to the Mean World Syndrome, heavy television viewers tend to be more fearful about society and crime which in turn makes them take any TV show seriously that depicts crime. Since television is the leisure activity in America, it has brought about a radical change in the way American children grow up and view society. Impacting views from the media are upheld according to the substitution thesis and resonance thesis. In the substitution thesis, media messages substitute for lack of a personal experience.
While in the resonance thesis, media messages reinforce personal experience. An objective of these theories is that people have both a fear and fascination about crime which is partly shaped by the media. The media can sensitize issues and help define crime for the public in a more layman way. The media can both amplify deviance and create moral panic is increasingly common in postmodern society. The media is selective in whom and how it treats offenders and victims of moral panics. This theory objective then leads into Stan Cohen and moral panics.
The CSI Effect refers to a supposed impact of the popular CBS crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This TV trend increases the expectations of victims’ and jury members’ concerning forensic evidence and the level of crime scene investigation. CSI creates unreasonable expectations on the part of jurors, making it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain convictions. After watching a great number of CSI episodes, it was very easy to depict all the myths and confusion which are made by these shows. In one of the episodes I watched, the storyline is portrayed as a classic eenage girl getting drunk at a bar, getting in her car to go home alone and getting killed. The episode portrays a perfect and extremely cooperative crime scene and source of evidence. For example, when the detectives arrived at the crime scene, they noticed an odd stamp on the girl’s hand. In the episode they say that the stamp was “called in” and they immediately are told which bar it came from. This seems very mythological to me that they can just “call in” a stamp and immediately be told where it was used the night before, instead of having to do any research.
Then, when the detectives arrived to the bar, the bartender from the night before explains that he did see the verbal description, without seeing a picture, of the murdered girl there last night. And the bartender described what the man looked like who bought her a couple drinks. This is also extremely odd to me; what are the odds that the bartender at a major bar remembers what a specific girl looked like but more importantly, what the guy who bought her one drink looked like, too. Normally, security cameras would have to be checked and I’m sure they’d talk to more than just the bartender who works there.
To add to that, when the detectives went back to the bar that the victim was at the night before, the bartender explained that the guy she was with had left his credit card there. How convenient for them! It seems very odd to me that the bartender would be able to dump out about 30 credit cards that were left there the night before and after rummaging through them for about 10 seconds, pull out the exact one the detectives described to them. That means that the bartender has to somehow remember the guy’s name of the described girl in which he bought one drink for.
In retrospect, wouldn’t you think that security cameras would be the first sought after evidence? This goes back to the CSI Myth discussed in class: Myth 5- The cooperative Crime Scene. In class, it was explained that the “perfect” evidence is rarely there. Technology has greatly improved evidence collection but no technological advancements can find nonexistent evidence. And the biggest factor of them all is time between occurrence and discovery of the crime. The episode ended with the storyline being portrayed that the boss of the irl is the one who did it the whole time although in the end he has an alibi. The writers never even explained who murdered the girl, but instead dramatized the whole story in order for the girl to look like the bad one for being naive and getting killed. In another episode I watched, the storyline is portrayed as a classic wife having an affair and her and the “gardener” being looked at in the murder of her husband. Less than 24 hours after the detectives arrived on the scene, “the lab” was able to examine the evidence and call the detectives back with the information at hand.
This goes back to CSI Myth 1: Laboratory Personnel can examine evidence as soon as it get into the lab. Explained in class, it usually takes months before time permits an examination of the evidence due to back logs and quality control procedures. Another Myth discussed in class which this can be compared to, would be the CSI Myth 4: Testing for drugs and chemicals in blood is quick and easy. Like I explained in the Myth before, the process often takes weeks or months before completed.
There are numerous drugs, botanicals, and chemicals that can presented at any given crime scene and as well there are numerous instruments used to identify these various compounds. There isn’t just one test tube they fill with the blood and get a sheet of paper back in an hour listing everything that was in their blood stream. Something I noticed in one of the episodes was the description and generalization of the victim’s age and gender. The writers explained that she was a rich, 18 year old female who was drinking, left the bar alone, and was an easy target to get murdered.
According to Surrette, “When described, victims in the news tend to be portrayed as female, very young or old or of high status, such as celebrities. News coverage also routinely depicts criminal violence against females differently from that against males and underplays the victimization of minorities. ” I find this extremely interesting because of the big deal they made throughout the episode of her status. Although these are the stories which hit news the hardest, they are not the most common crimes committed. Source Surette, Ray. Media, Crime, and Criminal Justice. Third Edition. Thomson Wadsworth CO, 2007.