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Criminal Investigation: The First 48 and CSI

This paper is going to give a brief description of one episode each of the television series The First 48 and CSI. It will give a brief summary of how the two television series compare in terms of the tools and techniques used in the investigation of crime scenes and the personnel involved with the processing of crime scene evidence. It will finally conclude by giving the influence that fictional crime shows have on the investigations of real crime scenes

The First 48: Season 4, Episode 11 “The Wrong Man”

First 48 is a television series that takes the viewer from the moment a 911 call is made to the police, up to the moment the case is solved and all the internal operations that encompass the gathering of evidence, following of leads and the interrogation of suspects.

Episode 11 of Season 4 was a case in which an innocent bystander is shot dead. The victim was not the intended target, but the shooter missed and hit him instead. This shooting occurred at an intersection in Memphis, Tennessee. The police are having difficult time collecting evidence at the scene of crime as it is raining and a lot of crucial evidence is being washed away. A witness gives them a lead about a gray Chevy Caprice driving away from the scene immediately after the shooting.The cops find the car and eventually the case becomes a manhunt for two brothers, Sammy and Johnny Peterson. It takes the police over two weeks for these two suspects to be found.

The second case in this episode is based in Dallas, Texas. Police get a call about a shooting in a parking lot of an apartment. They find two men shot, one is already dead, and the other one is rushed to the hospital. He eventually ends up being paralyzed. At the end of this show the killers were yet to be arrested. The case is yet to be solved.

Crime Scene Investigation:Season 14, Episode 8 “Helpless

In this episode, a body of a man is found in a human hamster ball. The CSIs establish that the victim was beaten outside and then placed inside the ball. After tracking the ball’s path back to the victim’s house, they identify him as Zack Fisk. While collecting evidence, the murder weapon is found to be a statue that matches the indentations on the hamster ball. The CSIs also learn of the victim’s weird sexual fetishes, claustrophobia. They find a video in which the victim is seen engaging in claustrophilia with a woman who is later found dead in a sealed box and mailed out with Zack’s fingerprints on the label. They question her husband, who admits to allowing his wife to engage in acts of claustrophilia with the victim.However, the special-blend horse feed found on the murder weapon places him at the scene of crime and implicates him. He later confesses to killing Zack Fisk.

Comparison of the Investigation of Crime Scenes and the Tools used in CSI and The First 48

The most conspicuous difference between the two shows is the personnel involved in investigating a particular case and the tools and techniques that are used to ensure the offenders are apprehended and the case holds up in a court of law.

In The First 48, the people carrying out the investigation predominantly are police officers. The police are the first to arrive at the scene of crime, securing the scene and begin on-cite questioning that may collect invaluable information to the entire picture of a particular crime. The reality show does not include intricate investigation techniques such as the use of DNA or other scientific techniques, but mostly relies on following of clues and suspects interrogations. The detectives demonstrate real skills in interrogating suspects and most of the time they are able to get a confession or pointer,despite the fact that most of the suspects usually lie at the beginnings before being cornered. However, the show does not always have a satisfying end as some cases simply are too tough to solve, or the police department fail to gather enough evidence to hold up in court to get a guilty sentence on an apparent murderer. Therefore some murderers walk free or the murder remains unsolved.

CSI is a TV series that has shaped the way the public views police investigations. Key ways in which CSI compares to The First 48 is the personnel doing the investigations. In CSI, the show’s characters who are all CSIs carry out everything in a case. They investigate the crime scenes, conduct suspect’s raids, engage in suspect pursuit and arrest, interrogate suspects and ultimately solve cases. In real life, most of these processes are carried out by uniformed police officers and detectives, and not CSI personnel, whose role is usually restricted to laboratory analyses.

In CSI, the CSIs predominantly rely on scientific tools and techniques to get a suspect. They reconstruct the crime and the scene of crime, identifying the person who carried out the crime and safe keep the evidence for analysis and collect it in a manner that will allow it stand in court.CSIs collect evidence such as body fluids, Hair and Fibers, Fingerprints , and trace evidence through the use of tools such as tweezers, plastic containers with lids, filtered vacuum devices, smear slides, a UV light, protective eyewear and luminoland also will make use of Biohazard kits.

Influence of Fictional Crime Shows on the Investigations of Real Crime Scenes

The influence that fictional crime shows have on the public, including law enforcers, the public and the judicial system has been referred to as “The CSI Effect” (Johnson & Byers, 2009, pp. 32-33).There has been disquiet among forensic science and law enforcement communities that the expertise, technology and procedures presented in fictional crime shows have resulted to unrealistic expectations about police competencies among the public at large, as well as potential jurors. They have been said to have a negative effect on real life crime investigation and forensic operations.

The timeline that these television shows portray as enough to solve a case has been stated as unrealistic and an unfair portrayal of forensic science(Portland State University, 2013). Fictional crime shows, present a scenario where it takes a few days at most to solve a crime, however, it is an unrealistic expectation that the same person will attend to a scene of crime, analyze the evidence and then present it to court. In real life, the investigations take more time. This lapse of time acts as a strong deterrent for victims to follow through the entire investigation process. It upsets the victims as they expect the investigation to be complete in a week while it can take years. This places the police and detectives under pressure and might eventually result to the presenting to court of an innocent person, or when presenting evidence that does not hold in court (Vardos, 2011).

The CSI effect also has an influence on jurors. It gives them unrealistic expectations about the dependability of forensic evidence (Johnson & Byers, 2009, pp. 32-33). Jurors expect the results which they have viewed on Television, results which modern science has no capacity to provide and in the occasion that they are obtainable, it can take several weeks to produce. This has the effect of forcing crime scene investigators to falsify evidence which can meet the expectations of the juror to get a conviction (Buckles, 2006, p. 254).

Conclusion

In conclusion, if someone is keen on pursuing a career that is based in law enforcement, the first 48 would be the show to watch. It presents a real portrayal of what the daily life of a police officer and detective entails.

 

References

Buckles, T. (2006). Crime Scene Investigation, Criminalistics, and The Law. New York: Cengage Learning.

Johnson, V. M., & Byers, M. (2009). The CSI Effect: Television, Crime, and Governance (illustrated ed.). LanhAm: Rowman & Littlefield.

Portland State University. (2013). The Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Effect. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from Portland State University Online CCJ: http://criminaljustice.ccj.pdx.edu/ccj-careers-resources/criminal-justice-resources/news/the-csi-effect-800586335/

Vardos, A. (2011, November 8). Crime shows harmful and unrealistic: forensic experts. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from School of Journalism, University of Canberra: http://www.nowuc.com.au/2011/11/crime-shows-harmful-and-unrealistic-forensic-experts/

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