The Prosecutor, May-June 2007, Volume 37, No. 3

Entertainment or expectation? How ‘CSI’ affects today’s juries

2007

As a recent aggravated sexual assault and injury to a child case illustrates, the forensic magic of television has ignited juries’ thirst for technology and information that can thwart the pursuit of justice.

My life is a devilish dichotomy. At night I join millions of Americans in the delicious pursuit of crime-solving with “CSI” and its successful siblings in Miami and New York. But by day, I am a Texas prosecutor who doesn’t have Horatio Caine or Gil Grissom to woo a jury. Oh, to make a case in 45 minutes, without commercial break, with such a stunning array of technology and science as to leave the jury with no doubt of a defendant’s guilt!

We all know real criminal trials don’t work that way. I recently had a case that ended in mistrial because of jurors’ demand for fancy science and indisputable evidence, even though the law required neither. I hope this article helps other investigators and prosecutors with future cases.

The case

It was Friday, August 4, 2006, and it had the makings of a great day. Twenty-six-year-old Juli