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Potential jurors say they want to see scientific evidence

May 23, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD


Nancy Baker and Lynda Daley are not crime scene investigators, nor do they play them on TV, but the two friends and loyal "CSI" fans said if they sat on a jury, they'd need to see scientific evidence to convince them of the defendant's guilt.

Baker and Daley were among about a dozen people interviewed recently at Valley Mall who said they'd need to see fingerprint, DNA or other scientific evidence to convince them beyond a reasonable doubt of someone's guilt.

Potential jurors in some Washington County cases are being asked that question in response to what prosecutors across the country are calling the "CSI Effect." Prosecutors fear that "CSI" and similar television programs about forensic science are placing unreasonable expectations on real-life investigators to produce irrefutable scientific evidence the way their TV counterparts do, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil said.


Baker, 54, said she likes watching shows that deal with forensic evidence because she likes "to see how they come up with the clues." She likes "CSI" and "CSI: Miami," but doesn't like "CSI: New York," she said.

According to the most recent Nielsen ratings, "CSI" and "CSI: Miami" were among the top-10 most-viewed prime-time programs in the United States for the week of May 8 to 15.

Baker, who has never served on a jury, but is eligible to serve, said that without DNA or fingerprint evidence, "How else would they find out for sure if they're involved or not?"

Both Baker and Daley agreed that there will be cases when DNA cannot be obtained, but said that, for the most part, police should get it.

"There's times when in a rape case they're not gonna get DNA if he (the assailant) uses a condom," Daley said.

Jacey Hahn, 25, is also a big fan of crime-related programs and believes DNA and fingerprinting evidence "can really make or break a case," she said.

"If the state fails to get fingerprints, it raises the question of why," she said.

Paul Foltz, 26, watches "CSI," "Law & Order: SVU" and "Cold Case," among others.

The Hagerstown man said he would need to see scientific evidence to convince him a defendant committed a crime.

Otherwise, "you don't know for sure if it's this person. It's just hearsay," he said.

If scientific evidence wasn't presented to him, Foltz said he'd consider its absence.

Without scientific evidence, Foltz said, police "are going for something blindly. You can't convict someone if you don't have any leads."

Holly Yost said she finds forensic shows "interesting," but because she works night shifts, is not always able to watch them.

In order to convince her that someone is guilty of a crime, she said she would need to see some scientific evidence.

"It only clears a person of what they're being accused of," she said. "I also think it's the proper way to do a crime scene."

Yost said, "I suppose you could convict on circumstantial evidence. I say DNA's the best, and fingerprinting."

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