Forensic footwear evidence
Questioned document examination
Forensic materials engineering
Forensic polymer engineering
Vehicular accident reconstruction
|Auguste Ambroise Tardieu
William M. Bass
Use of DNA in forensic entomology
The CSI effect (sometimes referred to as the CSI syndrome) is a reference to the phenomenon of popular television shows such as the CSI franchise raising crime victims' and jury members', even criminals', real-world expectations of forensic science, especially crime scene investigation and DNA testing. Much of these concerns stem from the "dramatic license" taken by the writers of forensic science television—glamorizing the field, overstating the accuracy of forensic techniques, and exaggerating the abilities of forensic science—and from the extension of pop images past the realm of entertainment programming and into that of news reporting and the general criminological dialogue. The CSI effect is purported to skew public perceptions of real-world forensic science, as well as the behavior of criminal justice system actors; this is of particular concern in the courtroom setting, where many prosecutors feel pressured to deliver more forensic evidence.
Although speculation as to the validity of the CSI effect abounds, researchers have only recently begun studying the effect of CSI on juror behavior. One empirical study of the CSI effect suggests that viewers of CSI and other forensic science shows are more critical of forensic science testimony  and less persuaded by it; however, these same differences were not found for viewers of Law & Order (and other "general crime" shows), which implies that the CSI effect is limited to those who watch specifically forensic-science shows. Another study surveyed potential jurors and failed to find a link between CSI viewing and whether the jurors would "demand scientific evidence" in order for them to convict a defendant. A third study examined mock jurors' impressions of a criminal trial and found that CSI viewers' verdicts were not significantly different from non-viewers.
People who overestimate the reality basis of shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs may develop unreasonable expectations of actual forensic practitioners. Although the technologies lauded on these fictional programs are found in real crime labs, they often require much more time and deliver answers more equivocal in real life than on television. Analysts worry that people will come to believe that real criminalist science has become as swift and certain as portrayed in the show. DNA evidence in particular is expected more and more by jurors whether it is relevant or not in a given case. Some potential jurors find themselves, during voir dire, being asked whether they are viewers of shows such as CSI.
A Delaware Superior Court case taking judicial notice of the CSI effect and deeming various inconclusive test results and other evidence admissible in order to mitigate the CSI effect, was State v. Cooke, 914 A.2d 1078 (Del. Super. Ct. 2007). While the court accepted the argument that the inconclusive evidence was relevant, it did not accept some of this inconclusive evidence that would not have passed the Daubert standard of reliability.
The CSI effect may also be altering how crimes are committed. Tammy Klein, a criminalist for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and other criminal experts have noticed an increase in criminal cases in which suspects burn or tamper with evidence (e.g. using bleach to destroy DNA evidence), or attempt to carefully clean the crime scene of trace evidence such as hairs and clothing fibers. For example, experts cite a particular murder case in Trumbull County, Ohio. The prime suspect in this case, described as a CSI fan, murdered a mother and daughter. He then used bleach to wash his hands of blood and covered the interior of his car with blankets to avoid transferring blood as he transported the corpses, which he then burned along with his clothes and cigarette butts (which he feared would yield trace amounts of his DNA). He attempted to throw the remaining evidence into a local lake, including the murder weapon, a crowbar, but was unable to dispose of the evidence due to the lake's surface being frozen. The surviving evidence was later recovered by investigators and the suspect arrested.
Academia is also said to feel this effect. Universities have seen an increase in students enrolling in forensic science and related science programs. There has been criticism from police departments that, in an effort to increase their student numbers, universities have been offering unsuitable courses, leaving graduates unprepared for real-world forensic work. The traditional academic route followed by a would-be forensic scientist has been to pursue a primary (bachelor's) degree in a general-science subject such as chemistry or biology, followed by a suitable postgraduate course or some type of in-service training. In 2003, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences promulgated accreditation standards for forensic science educational programs through its Forensic Science Educational Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), based on recommendations from the US National Institute of Justice.
Highly publicized trials such as those of Scott Peterson, Robert Blake and O.J. Simpson have also drawn many people into forensics. TV networks like Court TV, Discovery Channel and A&E also carry many programs depicting forensic investigations of actual cases, such as Forensic Files, Cold Case Files, Body Of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman, The New Detectives, and American Justice, as well as other fictional series such as Cold Case and Cold Squad.