"Lawyers in the United States have been known to use the following reason for striking down potential jurors: the prospective juror is well educated in science, or has some knowledge of genetics or probability theory." - Richard Dawkins Unweaving the Rainbow
Interestingly, this quote comes from the same year (2000) as the debut of forensic procedural television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and is one of the earliest I've found to (popularly) call attention to the idea that the outcome of criminal cases should be becoming more contingent upon the ability of all involved (police, jurors, lawyers, technicians, judges, experts, etc.) to correctly interpret and understand scientific evidence, but perhaps are not.
It's been reported by some that the immense popularity of American television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation are having an apparent impact on the verdicts juries render by causing them to demand more television-style forensic proof, while contributing to a general misunderstanding of the real-life forensic investigative processes in use today. However, the demonstrable effects of such a phenomenon, if it exists, seem to be unclear.
"programs also foster what analysts say is the mistaken notion that criminal science is fast and infallible and always gets its man. That's affecting the way lawyers prepare their cases, as well as the expectations that police and the public place on real crime labs. Real crime-scene investigators say that because of the programs, people often have unrealistic ideas of what criminal science can deliver". source There is disagreement as to whether or not the effect is real and demonstrable, but there is also some debate as to which side is affected more:
Many lawyers, judges and legal consultants say they appreciate how CSI-type shows have increased interest in forensic evidence.
"Talking about science in the courtroom used to be like talking about geometry — a real jury turnoff," says Hirschhorn, of Lewisville, Texas. "Now that there's this almost obsession with the (TV) shows, you can talk to jurors about (scientific evidence) and just see from the looks on their faces that they find it fascinating."
But some defense lawyers say CSI and similar shows make jurors rely too heavily on scientific findings and unwilling to accept that those findings can be compromised by human or technical errors.
Prosecutors also have complaints: They say the shows can make it more difficult for them to win convictions in the large majority of cases in which scientific evidence is irrelevant or absent. source
- Has it been proven that television shows such as CSI are affecting verdicts by influencing the way jurors interpret evidence (or lack thereof) presented in court?
- If so, has it been shown to work in favor of either the prosecution or the defense?