Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crime Show Effects on Real Trials

This came in just recently from a Maricopa County source, Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Of 300 prosecutors in Phoenix's Maricopa County attorney's office:
  • 61 percent say jurors seem to believe forensic crime shows on TV are true.
  • 90 percent have to explain to juries why police don't collect the kind of evidence seen on television.

Of the 102 most experienced prosecutors:

  • 38 percent had at least one trial that ended in an acquittal or a hung jury when forensic evidence was not available to corroborate testimony.
  • 52 percent have seen a defendant receive a more favorable plea offer because there were expected problems with the 'CSI effct' had the case gone to trial.
  • 80 percent reported juror disapproval with the lack of forensic evidence.

Source: Maricopa County Attorney Andrea Thomas

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

High School Daze

I spoke to five science classes at Lakeside High School the other day. It was the day before spring break and held in a library with very little air circulating. I walk around when I speak and could feel the rivulets of sweat running down my midriff.

The classes combined equalled about 150 students. My talk that day was about the forensic science field, our state lab, what the jobs are, some of the specifics, and the odd little details. I made sure to get the skinny from J.R. Howard, the Director of the Arkansas State Crime Lab before I went, because I am not keen on passing out misinformation or disinformation. I had thought that with CSI being so popular that I would get a lot of questions and feedback. (I'm always hearing how universities are scrambling to set up more forensic science-based and criminal justice classes.) But, it was very quiet. I think I only got two questions all day. Granted, one class was studying environmental science but the two questions actually came from them. (My husband—who was playing my lovely assistant—said that the questions came from two males who thought I was "hot".) Now the validity of that, I cannot comment.

I was disappointed however in that when I asked them questions, there were no answers. Quiet again. Okay, they were dragged there by their teachers, but where is the passion? I came to forensic science very early, (in the late 80's) before it was on TV and before every other show was a crime drama, but I was led to believe that students were ga-ga over CSI and here I was representing the topic with no life, not nary a spark.

I'm glad I'm not in high school anymore.