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UT Students Investigate CSI Effect

Published: March 30, 2010
 Audrey Lindeman ’13 can’t get enough of those crime show dramas she sees on TV.

The criminology major has been fascinated by them since high school. As her knowledge of the industry increases the deeper she gets into her studies at UT, the more fascinated she becomes with the shows, wondering how accurate the dramas really are.

“I’m an avid CSI watcher and have the board game and watch all the spin offs,” Lindeman confessed. “I knew the show wasn’t accurate, but I was surprised by the other professionals who think it’s a poor portrayal of the real thing.”

So when Associate Professor Tony LaRose assigned his Introduction to Criminal Justice class with an end-of-semester paper, Lindeman didn’t think twice. She wanted to study the CSI Effect.

“The CSI Effect is a courtroom phenomenon where jurors have seen CSI shows and expect their case to proceed in the same way,” Lindeman said, referring to the way evidence is collected, the technology used, even the interactions between those collecting evidence. Results don’t pop up on high-tech screens minutes within their collections. Crime labs often need updated equipment, and some methods shown on television are purely nonexistent in reality.

“There is a higher acquittal rate because people expect that kind of (theatrical) forensics in the courtroom,” said Lindeman who is majoring in criminology with a minor in law and justice. “It’s shocking to see how the show affects who gets off and who doesn’t. It’s an interesting project.”

Lindeman, who is from Indialantic, Fla., had her research paper completed within days of the assignment, a sign to LaRose that she would be perfect to work with on a bigger research project, CSI: Fact or Fiction.

Working with classmates Morgan Tanafon, Ashley Moreland, Cecily Wood, Sabrina Narain and Mellorie Garcia, Lindeman has interviewed a whole genre of crime scene investigators, from Orlando lawyers to Tampa police officers to most recently, a forensic artist with the Miami-Dade Police Department.

“You learn a lot from a classroom, but it doesn't compare to taking a hands on approach to whatever it is you’re researching and putting skills learned into action,” said Moreland ’10, who joined Lindeman and Wood March 26 in Miami for a behind-the scenes look at the Miami crime lab.

“Instead of sitting at a computer doing research the whole time, I am able to go out and gather the information first hand,” said Moreland, a criminology major.

Lindeman and LaRose should have their data collected by the end of the semester, in time for them to co-author and present a paper with the findings at the Southern Criminal Justice Association conference in the fall. They hope to publish the paper soon after and have a long-term plan to study the CSI Effect in Mexico or Colombia to get an international perspective.

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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