I wanted to be a forensic scientist for a long time…It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Solving mysteries seemed like it would be fun, scary and exciting all at the same time. – Kristin Kreuk
Every time—without fail—I get the same response when I tell people my major: a shocked face with a not -so-subtle overlook of my person as if they couldn’t believe a nice girl like me would be into forensics. I always wonder what someone in forensics is supposed to look like (Abby from NCIS does come to mind). After their initial reaction they say along the lines of how cool it is or how interesting that sounds. I think to myself ‘dude, make-up your mind’ because their body language and the words that express their enthusiasm are not consistent. I think the main reason for this is because of the misconceptions that the majority of people have pertaining to forensics.
Forensics became popular because of TV shows like CSI, Bones and NCIS and it is because of these shows that make the reality difficult to explain. Once I get my degree in Forensic Chemistry, I will not be going to crime scenes to collect evidence, toting a gun, meeting with any suspects nor interrogate them. I will be working in a lab with goggles, gloves and the appropriate attire. The work will be tedious and grueling. It’s not glamorous like it’s shown on TV and I won’t be working in all of the areas of forensics. I won’t have a lot of expensive equipment that do all of the neat things that CSI exploit (it is estimated that about 40 percent of the scientific techniques depicted on CSI do not exist).My work will be back logged for months at a time and more often than not a case won’t be blown wide open because of my work. Crimes are usually solved by detectives knocking on doors and hitting the pavement and not solely on forensics.
This effect that CSI has on the general populace makes get trails more demanding. Modern jurors believe that there is always blood, fingerprints or DNA evidence in every case and if there are none present the jurors are inclined to believe that the defendant is not guilty. Prosecutors are now spending more time telling the jurors why there is a lack of physical evidence or why it is irrelevant just to reverse that damage that CSI has done.
I love NCIS and enjoy watching other crime shows but allowing TV to affect reality is detrimental to the practice of Criminal Justice. Just because it’s on the television doesn’t mean it’s accurate.
- SJC: jurors can be asked about ‘CSI’ (boston.com)
- CSI looks for clues in Philadelphia (travelnews.britishairways.com)