The so-called “CSI Effect” has long been a topic of concern and debate in law enforcement circles. In a nutshell, it’s a theory that juries will be more likely to vote for acquittals unless the evidence resembles that depicted on popular forensic television shows.
The truth is that many cases, if not the majority, are lacking in any physical evidence and often rely on the testimony of witnesses instead of high tech fiber analysis, DNA matches, or computer enhanced video captures.
While the concern is real enough, and anecdotal accounts of verditcts swayed by the “CSI Effect” are legendary, it’s much harder to document actual cases that have been influenced. However, technology is having a very real effect on juries especially as it concerns the Internet & Social Networking.
The Internet is blamed for at least one mistrial in Rhode Island where the second murder trail of Destie Ventre, ended after a juror used the Google search engine to look up definitions of murder, manslaughter, and self-defense to help speed up deliberations.
This mistrial may have been a factor in Rhode Island’s Presiding Justice, Joseph Rodgers, Jr. recently issuing new instructions to jurors that included warnings against the use of Internet searches and text messaging to the more standard cautions against watching television news program or reading newspapers.
Justice Rodgers said that the new instructions would replace the more vaguely written language in the current jurors guidebook which will be replaced later this year.
It seems that new technology is evading the sanctity of the courtroom at an alarming pace, and the legal community will have to adapt more rapidly.
“CSI Effect”, indeed.