Saturday, September 24, 2005

 

The CSI effect

It seems that Federal prosecutors are feeling the same pain that we're forced to put up with on a daily basis, as jurors seem to think that everything portrayed on television actually happens in real life.
Jurors schooled in crime investigations through watching TV dramas expect prosecutors to show them sophisticated forensic evidence -- even in white-collar trials -- making it tough for the government to prove cases, two federal prosecutors said on Friday.

Alice Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said that the so-called "CSI effect" -- a reference to the hit CBS television show about gruesome crime scene investigations -- hurt her case against HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy.

Scrushy was acquitted of securities fraud and other charges by an Alabama federal jury in June -- a blow to prosecutors seeking to punish alleged corporate wrongdoing.

Jurors in post-verdict interviews "said, 'we needed a fingerprint on one of the documents or we needed him (Scrushy) to say the word 'fraud' on the audiotape"' that was secretly recorded by a former HealthSouth finance chief, Martin said at a white-collar crime conference at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington.

"They said, 'they always do fingerprints on TV," she said.

David Anders, an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan who prosecuted ex-WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and former investment banker Frank Quattrone, also told the conference that jurors expect forensic-type evidence in white-collar cases.

"The 'CSI effect' is not something that we're happy about," Anders said.

These aren't tears of joy on my face, either.

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