Expertos forenses critican serie CSI

Miami-Dade County prosecutor Flora Seff nearly screamed when she
recently heard about forensic fiction passed off as science on the
top-rated CBS drama «CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.»
Criminal analysts injected a victim’s fatal stab wound with caulk —
the kind used to seal your bathtub — to mold a replica of the blade.
In the real world, no such technique exists.
Prosecutors and forensic experts across the country have begun to
grumble about «CSI» and «CSI: Miami.» The American Bar Association
Journal ran an article on its Web site: «Evidence Piles Up Against CSI.»
One of critics’ biggest fears: The shows leave viewers — who
represent tens of millions of potential jurors — with expectations for
whiz-bang technology that doesn’t exist.
«The whole show makes me crazy,» Seff said.
A Miami-based jury expert who helps defense lawyers agrees.
«These crime shows all play a role in what evidence jurors expect,»
said Sandy Marks, who has worked for defendants such as Oklahoma City
bomber Timothy McVeigh and reputed drug lords Willy Falcon and Sal
Elizabeth Devine, co-producer, writer and forensics expert for both
CSI shows, bristles at the criticisms. She spent 15 years as a crime
scene investigator for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
«We don’t make anything up,» she insists.
What about the stab-wound-and-caulk scene?
She pauses, then blurts: «I lost that battle in the writers’ room. I
pounded the table and said: ‘You can’t do that.’ They went around me.»
Still, she says the carping has more to do with swiping at two
popular shows than it does with science. «CSI» consistently ranks in
TV’s top three shows and «CSI: Miami,» in its first season, has been in
the top 10.
«This is a moment. We’re making forensics and forensic investigators
into heroes. I think they should embrace the show,» Devine said.
Many in forensics say they won’t even watch.
To be fair, a lot of their complaints involve niggling details.
Stars David Caruso of «CSI: Miami» and Marg Helgenberger of «CSI»
play criminalists who act like detectives. They interrogate suspects and
call the shots at crime scenes; real criminalists don’t. Devine concedes
that’s dramatic license. Writers tried inserting detectives into the
stories, she said. Viewers found the extra characters made the shows
Critics cite other examples of scientific liberties taken besides the
knife-wound mold.
In one episode, for instance, investigators used an instrument to
analyze the lingering scent of cologne worn by a killer to help crack a
«That’s a Cyranose. That’s a real instrument. That’s possible,»
Devine said.
«No, no, no,» said Peter De Forest, director of the graduate forensic
programs at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
«There’s no supporting research for that.»
A representative from Cyrano Sciences, the company that makes the
device, said it has never been used in quite the way «CSI» portrayed.
De Forest, who admits he’s never watched the show, says whether
dramas such as «CSI» do more harm than good is a complicated question.
«Forensic science is underfunded and underutilized,» he said. «If
used to its full potential, we’d have better justice.
«You’d like these things to be more realistic, but to the extent the
show raises awareness, it might be a good thing.»

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