Investigating the Future of Forensics
By Carrie Madren
Much has been made of television’s crime dramas such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Bones, Without a Trace and Cold Case, and their effect on the criminal justice system. The so-called "CSI effect," a theory that the fictional portrayal of forensics influences public perception, has raised vital questions for forensic scientists and the trials that depend on analyzed evidence.
While experts continue to debate what real effects these shows have on jurors, they do agree that the overzealous collecting of evidence from a crime scene and the following analysis on hundreds of items — in attempt to preemptively react to the "CSI effect" — makes little sense, adds to the existing backlog, and stretches resources unnecessarily, says Max Houck, a AAAS member who heads the new Department of Forensic Services in Washington, D.C. “You have to triage — let’s look at the things that make the most sense and answer the questions being posed,” Houck says.
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