The Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) -- In Hollywood, the crime, investigation and trial
are all handled in an hour. Complete with DNA, fingerprints and other
irrefutable scientific evidence of guilt -- voila -- cases are
handled from start to finish, even with commercial interruptions.
In Baltimore, jurors are expecting that, prosecutors say, and they're
not getting it.
Prosecutors call it: "the CSI effect".
It's named after CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the No. 1 rated show
in the country, reaching nearly 30 million viewers weekly, according
to Nielsen Media research.
Lawyers and scientists have noticed an unintended consequence: Jurors
increasingly expect to encounter in the courtroom what they've seen
"Jurors are so influenced by television to the point that it makes it
nearly impossible for us," said Baltimore's Deputy State's Attorney
When Kodeck conducts orientation for grand juries, the first thing he
does is explain the difference between real cases and
"I tell everyone, 'If you watch CSI, please put it out of your
mind,"' he said. "People expect us to produce what TV produces, and
that's just not reality."
But in two recent cases, Baltimore jurors said they needed more
physical evidence to convict.
In one case, they disbelieved a priest's testimony about who robbed
him at gunpoint. In another, they refused to convict despite the word
of an 11-year-old girl who came to court and pointed out the man who
she said shot her father.
"I would have liked some kind of evidence, like finding the gun with
fingerprints," said Phil Cunneff, an alternate juror in the DeAndre
Whitehead murder case, which included the small child as a witness.
After the verdict in the priest's case -- in which a man was charged
with holding up a parish -- jury foreman Candace Blankenship said:
"There should have been some other evidence from the church."
However, the priest, the Rev. Mike Orchik, thought his testimony,
along with the testimony of another victim of the robbery, ought to
be enough to convict the defendant.
"I thought I'd identified him very strongly," Orchik said.
Fewer than 10 percent of the homicide cases in the Baltimore state's
attorney's office involve fingerprint or DNA evidence, according to
Donald Giblin, deputy chief of the division.
"I don't watch the shows because it raises the hair on the back of my
neck," he said.
Thomas Mauriello, a forensic scientist and adjunct professor at the
University of Maryland, College Park, said there is a disconnect
because many jurors across the country believe they're actually
learning something about the criminal justice system when they watch
"What's happening is every day people are watching the TV show and
they think they're being educated as well as entertained," Mauriello
said. "When they are a member of a real case, they think they have
knowledge of the scientific progress. They think the police didn't do
their job because they didn't find a fingerprint. We're polluting
Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who is on the board
of the National District Attorneys Association, said the CSI effect
is reaching across the nation.
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"Everybody is complaining about it," Jessamy said of her peers in
other states. "It's become a standing joke."