Bar Guidelines for Ohio Jurors: Forget What You Saw on 'Judge Judy' and 'CSI'

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On Wednesday, the Ohio State Bar Association Jury Instructions Committee approved jury instructions that warn panel members about improperly getting information regarding a trial from outside sources—including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“Certain controls over the judicial process we once had are vanishing from the courts because of the stunning rise of technology,” Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger told WTAM last month.

These new instructions more or less emulate similar ones that are planned or already in place in other jurisdictions, University of Dayton law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister writes at Juries.

But “one rather unique aspect of the [Ohio] instructions is that they also attempt to address the so-called impact of CSI and other law-related television programs on jurors,” Hoffmeister wrote.

He is referring to item No. 3 of the general instructions that cites Law & Order Boston Legal, Judge Judy, L.A. Law, Perry Mason, Matlock, CSI and NCIS as shows that may leave jurors “with an improper preconceived idea about the legal system.” These shows are not subject to the rules of evidence and present unrealistic situations, the instruction says.

“While entertaining, TV legal dramas condense, distort, or even ignore many procedures that take place in real cases and real courtrooms,” the instruction says. “No matter how convincing they try to be, these shows simply cannot depict the reality of an actual trial or investigation. You must put aside anything you think you know about the legal system that you saw on TV.”

This week, however, one blogger weighed in against the “CSI Effect.” At Deliberations, litigation consultant Matt McCusker notes a 2009 article in the Loyola University Law Journal titled “Before the Verdict and Beyond the Verdict: The ‘CSI Infection’ within Modern Criminal Jury Trials” that reviews empirical studies on the “CSI Effect” that suggest that it doesn’t exist. “However, if you need to cling to your guns and DNA testing, only read the anecdotal reports/media stories in the review and keep your rose-colored David Caruso Ray Bans on,” McCusker writes.

McCusker discloses in the post that he personally has facilitated a focus group exploring “CSI Effect” and doesn’t believe in it.

Updated at 5:36 p.m. to include content from Deliberations.

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