October 6, 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the debut of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This series and its spinoffs CSI: Miami, CSI: NY and CSI CYBER were enormously successful. But beyond their commercial success, these series have had an impact on the American criminal legal process.
Within a few years of the series premiere, a phenomenon emerged among criminal trial juries that came to be known as “the CSI effect.” The journalist and blogger Michael Roberts has defined this as a “belief that forensic science television dramas influence American jurors to want more forensic evidence to convict defendants of crimes.”
The first print reference to this so-called “CSI effect” seems to have been in a 2004 USA today article that began by citing Robert Hirshorn, a jury consultant who had been hired by attorney Dick DeGuerin’s team to help pick the jurors for the trial of Robert Durst for the murder of Morris Black. Investigators never found Black’s head, and DeGuerin and his team claimed that wounds to the head might have supported Durst’s story that he had killed Black in self-defense. According to the USA Today article, “Hirschhorn wanted jurors who were familiar with shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to spot the importance of such a gap in the evidence.”
Hirshhorn was quoted in the article as saying: “There’s this almost obsession with the shows. You can talk to jurors about (scientific evidence) and just see from the looks on their faces that they find it fascinating.”
At Crime Story, we have interviewed two of the key individuals to the CSI franchise and we mark this 20th anniversary by featuring links to both of those interviews.
Carol Mendelsohn was CSI: Crime Scene Investigation founding showrunner, and Executive Producer of all four iterations of the franchise. You can listen to Part 1 of my interview with Carol below.
And you can find a transcript of Part 1:
You can listen to Part 2 of my interview with Carol below.
And you can find a transcript of Part 2:
Pam Veasey served as showrunner and Executive Producer of CSI: NY and CSI: Cyber.
You can listen to my interview with Pam below:
And you can find a trascript of that interview here.