Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Stephen A. Morreale
The media exaggerates the capabilities of crime laboratories while it publicizes the wrongdoings of individual forensic scientists. Such portrayals skew the perspectives of jurors and hinder expert witness testimony. Complicating the problem are separate, but related, phenomena that influence how forensic laboratories conduct casework. These phenomena are Cole and Dioso-Villa's conceptualization of the unrealistic expectations of forensic science created by fictional television, known as the CSI Effect; the Daubert ruling on the admissibility of expert testimony; and some federal policy changes as a result of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that impacted requirements for the daily operation of crime laboratories. This study sought to better understand which among these phenomena had the greatest effect on policy development and implementation related to crime lab operations. Quantitative survey data were collected through an online survey from a nationwide sample (n = 124) of forensic practitioners belonging to the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. The data were analyzed using ANOVA to evaluate the influence of each factor (CSI Effect, Daubert ruling, and NAS report) on policy creation within crime laboratories. Results indicate that the CSI Effect has a statistically greater impact on policy creation than did either the Daubert ruling or the NAS report (p <.001). The implications for positive social change stemming from this study include recommendations to lawmakers and administrators to reevaluate performance objectives related to operations and increase awareness of the CSI Effect in order to promote scientifically sound results and increase the effectiveness of testimony at trial.