Monday, April 25, 2011

The CSI Effect

Jurors with less education demand scientific evidence.  Educated jurors trust the prosecutor.

History can be funny.  Typically, progress comes from ferment.  People in cities interact in multipicative modes.  Entrepreneurs, artists, and scientists attract others of their kind.   Alternately, the peripheries bring new ideas to the centers.  Eastern Michigan University is a midrange midwest state school, located in Ypsilanti, in the shadow of its neighbor in Ann Arbor.  Unlike the U of M, EMU prides itself on teaching, not research.  Generally, the graduate students do not teach classes: they are GAs, clerical assistants, not TAs.  Classes are taught by the professors whose names appear in the course schedules.  Originally the Michigan Normal College, its motto is "Education first."  It is from EMU that Gregg Barak, Young S. Kim, and Donald E. Shelton published their paradigmatic research into juror attitudes.  "The CSI effect" did not originate with them, but they have produced the most rigorous statistical studies of it. 

Gregg Barak describes himself as a "dialectician."  He can argue any side of any topic equally well.  Among his many focus studies is the relationship between crime and the mass media reporting of it.  Young S. Kim specializes in research methods. Donald E. Shelton serves as the Chief Judge of both the Circuit and Probate Courts in Washtenaw County.  So far, they have co-authored three papers investigating and explaining the "CSI Effect."  
  • "Examining the 'CSI-effect' in the cases of circumstantial evidence and eyewitness testimony: Multivariate and path analyses," by Young S. Kim,  Gregg Barak, Donald E. Shelton; Journal of Criminal Justice 37 (2009) 452–460.
  • "A Study of Juror Expectations and Demands Concerning Scientific Evidence: Does a 'CSI Effect' Exist?" by Donald E. Shelton, Young S. Kim, Gregg Barak, Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law Vol 9 No 2; 367.
  • "An Indirect-Effects Model of Mediated Adjudication: The CSI Myth, the Tech Effect, and Metropolitan Jurors' Expectations for Scientific Evidence." by  Donald E. Shelton, Young S. Kim, and Gregg Barak, Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law Vol 12 No 1. (Fall 2009)
They found that less educated jurors demand scientific evidence, whereas jurors with more education accept the prosecutor's statements prima facie.  More deeply, they theorize not a specific "effect" attributed to a widely popular franchise of television shows, but rather a general "tech effect."  They attribute that to the pervasive facts that reveal widespread ownership of iPods, laptops, and other devices among even the poorest and least educated members of jury pools.  

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