National Fire Protection Association

Do crime television shows depict the collection and analysis of crime scene evidence realistically? Why, or why not?


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                                                                      CLASSMATE’S POST

Do crime television shows depict the collection and analysis of crime scene evidence realistically? The correct answer is yes and no. In using their artistic license that which is written as a story-line will typically be “based” on reality, but because of the need to appeal to audience attention span and the need for escapism, the entertainment side of production will trump the “nerdiness” found in a documentary style in presentation. The crime scene investigation media entertainment blitz serves to fascinate, educate, and bewilder the viewer and helps to strengthen and tear at the fabric of the American justice system’s ability to seat an impartial jury. According to scientists Saferstein and Roy, “Some jurists have come to believe that this phenomenon ultimately detracts from the search for truth and justice in the courtroom” (Saferstein & Roy, 2021, p. 4).

CSI Effect: “Better Jurors through Television”

As I stated in my introduction, knowledge about criminal justice (CJ) is absent from my personal, educational quiver. I have had my share of fire and explosion cause and origin. Still, since these areas are a minute part of the criminal justice dynamics, I do not consider myself worthy to enter an educated opinion on any CJ subject matter.

I and others learn from who I call “Professor Television,” who is always available and more than willing to distort the truth in his script production as a method to support a corporate rating priority.  Like those who rely on the lottery for a retirement plan, some have received their CJ degree from what I refer to as the “University of Escapism” (UE). These (UE) graduates are currently packing the American court system to manifest the CSI Effect.

In consulting reference material thus far, I have noted the mention of several references from authors of literary tainting effects and entertainment influences (e.g., Sherlock Holmes & CSI) on the minds of potential juries from products related to forms of media rooted CSI messaging (Saferstein & Roy, 2021).   The following list is a modern entertainment medium example of the millions of potential jurors that will hear both forensically correct and “crapola” from the U of E. The following are part of the CSI media franchise: CSI NYC, CSI Miami, and CSI LV.

Not an Isolated Phenomenon

I do not mean to get off subject but must now pivot to underscore the damaging effects of some media presentations on social actions in negative ways.  In my opinion, the phenomenon of the so-called CSI Effect shares a kinship with the societal influence generated from some movies and television screenwriter’s products.  Violence, especially gun violence, put on display repetitively in film and television, has been at the center of many free speech arguments as a trigger for some unbalanced individuals to “act out” in committing violent acts.

I recall a child murder where the perpetrator, a 170 pound, 12-year boy sibling, attempted to emulate wrestlers by body slamming his 6-year-old 48-pound sister into a table, causing a lethal outcome (New York Times, 2001). The child perpetrator was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. The defense was that the child accused of murder in the first degree had learned a slamming and kicking maneuver used in a televised World Wrestling Federation (WWF) production (New York Times, 2001).  Those who commit violence may not need the catalyzing effect of viewing violent acts. A psychological element may be a trigger. The area of personal safety is a clear-cut issue that exists in movies and television; that of viewing dangerous acts displayed to the uninformed viewers.

Fire science and safety experts teach that the ignition of flammables (e.g., gasoline) requires a combination of a specific heat temperature, a specific fuel range, and specific oxygen concentration in a fuel-oxygen-heat mixture to combine to create the phenomenon of self-sustained combustion (National Fire Protection, 1986, p. I-49). Some television and movie producers often give the impression that you can light a cigarette while standing in an invisible cloud of explosive gasoline vapors, which suggests a sustained act of flame contact is needed for gasoline to ignite; this is not true and sends a dangerous message to the uninformed. These messages by some television and movie writers are putting the public at risk.


The Unit Two Discussion Question intends to apply critical thinking to the medium influence of television and movies or other depictions of science to solve crime mysteries.  My answer was to focus on the medium of film, television, books, or other entertainment offerings for profit; thus, my answer is corporate profit.  In my opinion, the profit earned from exploiting the fascinating discipline of forensic science is terrific.  Suppose juries are undermined by the prejudice that enters the criminal justice process. In that case, prosecutors need to “dig in” and counter the phenomenon of the CSI effect and jolt the jury into the real world.  However, the depiction of forensic science as an outcome of “best practices” stimulates the jury that needs clear and concise evidence presentation.  They (jury members) sit in judgment. Although council and judges are inundated with case-load, the jury does not want a quick and shallow attempt to find a suspect guilty or innocent; they need clear and believable science.


National Fire Protection Association (2008). Fire protection handbook (20th ed.). National Fire Protection Association.New York Times (January 26, 2001).

Saferstein, R., & Roy, T. (2021). Criminalistics: An introduction to forensic science (13th ed.) Pearson.For more information on National Fire Protection Association check on this :

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