Monday, 21 November 2011

The Reality of CSI

The scene is too familiar.

The crime scene is fresh, blood still dripping from the victim. The hotel room is scoured by the CSI technicians while they continue their witty banter, looking incredibly sexy in their CSI t-shirts. Sunglasses come off at the precise moment. Little flashlights pick out the smallest piece of evidence.

There are always hair samples, skin samples, sweat, semen, saliva from cigarette butts and wine glasses.

The place is just lousy with DNA, fingerprints and fibers…but not many actual police detectives, just lab rats scurrying around the room.

And of course, every piece of evidence has been collected, catalogued, processed and compared to existing databases before the end of the second round of commercials by these superhuman (and did I mention sexy) denizens of the laboratory.

In two days, the killer is caught, confesses because of the overwhelming forensic evidence and before the credits roll, it’s orange jumpsuit, don’t drop the soap in the shower, meet your cell mate Billy Bob, time

Flash to real life and you are sitting in the jury box listening to the defense mention that there is no forensic evidence proving that his client was even at the murder scene.

Obviously innocent. I mean, there is ALWAYS forensic evidence at the scene, right?

Reality check.

Since the arrival of TV shows like CSI, police are often accused of not doing their job properly if they don’t come up with boxfuls of forensic evidence from crime scenes. However, the reality is that there is often very little forensic evidence. And since most victims know their killers (and often live with them), of course they find evidence of the suspected killer at the crime scene. However, it is rare they can say “when” the forensic sample was left. It is not often they find a particular dust on a strand of hair from a particular farm that the killer visited hours before the murder.

As for DNA, with backed up labs and the lengthy processing, the results usually take weeks or months, not hours.

Authors, screenwriters, etc. (I raise a guilty hand) have to keep the story moving and can’t let a little realty get in the way. But, if you find yourself on a jury or just discussing a prominent case in the news, remember that television (regardless the increase in “Reality” TV) is just entertainment.

More crimes are solved by the hard work, brain power and the dedication of the police than by the work done in the lab.

DNA might ensure a conviction but remember the police still need to sleuth out whose DNA needs to be tested.

1 comment:

  1. No doubt. A drama conforms to the rules of drama, not reality. Of course writers and TV writers go for the gripping over the grim and banal. Why would we tell a story about something ordinary?