How “CSI” Became A Verb

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Hey everybody. Jennifer here.

At LU Law, we were required to take at least one semester of trial advocacy as part of our Lawyering Skills program. I took the required semester, then a semester of Advanced Trial Advocacy because I loved the material and I really enjoyed the professor’s teaching style. This particular professor served as the Attorney General in Kansas before becoming a visiting professor at LU. He is one of two professors who had a profound influence on me as an attorney.

One of the first things he taught us in basic trial advocacy was how to talk to a jury. Of course, he impressed upon us the understanding that a jury is not composed of twelve lawyers, but twelve laypersons who don’t have the same legal education that we have. More importantly for the purposes of this post, he stressed that you absolutely must “CSI” your juries. Never heard “CSI” used as a verb before? Get ready.

Everyone has at least heard of CSI, unless you just don’t watch TV. If you don’t watch it, it’s about crime scene investigators (hence CSI) attempting to figure out outlandish crimes, one hour at a time. Despite the good writing and interesting storylines, CSI could not be further from reality — at least, North Carolina’s reality. Thus, the necessity to “CSI” a jury.

North Carolina has a lot of great technological advantages over some other states. The RTP is pretty solid evidence that we know our way around technology. However, the North Carolina SBI doesn’t have access to anything close to the crazy advanced technology that you see on CSI. The procedures employed by the SBI and local law enforcement agencies in this state simply cannot be compared to those on shows like CSI. While it would be great to be able to simply spray a substance over a surface and shine a light on it to find dozens of tiny droplets of blood or saliva, then identify a suspect based solely on that evidence, it just doesn’t happen that way most of the time.

The bottom line is this: shows like CSI are entertaining, but they are not realistic. If you ever find yourself on a jury, try to keep your expectations for things like physical evidence in check. Neither the prosecutor nor the defense attorney is likely to walk in with luminol, a blacklight, and a scrap of fabric that nails the killer in one fell swoop.

Now you may return to your regularly scheduled Criminal Minds marathon.


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