Massachusetts Evidence and the “CSI Effect”

posted Sep 27, 2011, 6:36 AM by Andrew Kenney   [ updated Sep 27, 2011, 6:39 AM by Michael Vosilla ]

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last week ruled that a judge may ask potential jurors about the “CSI effect.” a defendant in an Essex County murder case had argued that a judge’s questioning directed at potential jurors about whether they believed that the Commonwealth could prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt without forensic evidence to support witness testimony amounted to a denial of his constitutional right to a fair trial. The state’s highest court disagreed. The SJC was quick to point out that its decision does not affirm the popular belief that jurors who watch television shows depicting forensic science, such as “CSI,” will hold the prosecution to an unreasonably high burden or proof. Instead, the Court upheld the trial court judge’s discretionary questioning of the potential jurors to determine whether he or she could decide a case without bias and based upon all of the evidence presented at trial, including, but not limited to, forensic evidence.