So if I was a man making this presentation
rather than beginning my talk with the unpromising announcement “I don’t watch CSI” (which is what actually happened), I might instead select some episodes which relate to my avowed academic interest in the ‘CSI effect’. I’m sure everybody who reads this blog will know what that is but if you don’t, in summary the CSI effect is the idea that the success of CSI has not only made students desperate to become forensic scientists because they have a false idea of the glamour of the career, but that it has had the more serious consequence of giving jurors unrealistic expectations about scientific evidence. Apparently (the theory goes), prosecutors find it harder to get a conviction in cases where they don’t have DNA evidence (as is often the case), because jurors think life should be like CSI where you can narrow down hairs from every crime scene to a single criminal. Now what this dude was saying in his paper is that this effect seems to be a myth rather than an actuality – but what I thought as I watched it was that CSI is actually somewhat more self-referential in addressing this problem than all the people who are moaning on about its lack of realism (of course it’s unrealistic, it’s a TV show) ever acknowledge. And (finally getting to the point) this is one of the episodes where CSI does deal with the issue of evidential reliability. That is, they acknowledge that they don’t always have a watertight case or, necessarily, the right guy in the dock.
So, the case in question concerns this little dude
who seems to be guilty as can possibly be after a random ranger type finds him hastily burying not one, but two murdered bodies in a handy stretch of desert.
With a little help from their magic lawnmower
the CSIs are soon in possession of all the evidence – OR ARE THEY? Nick and Sara certainly think so, making a super-smooth presentation to Grissom
and pressuring him into asking the DA to file charges, even though he’s not yet 100% convinced about the suspect’s guilt.
OF COURSE, Grissom is right (snore) and before long the kid’s evil brother makes an appearance
… but it is TOO LATE, the WONKY WHEELS OF JUSTICE have been set in motion, the STUPID PUBLIC will surely convict the wrong guy (at least that’s what Gretchen from Dawson’s Creek seems to think)
Lawyer (Gretchen): A jury doesn’t understand epi–whatevers, OK? They understand a twisty tie, and blood all over Ben’s car seat.
and before you can say ‘Patented Petersen Pout’, weedo brother has self-destructed
leaving Grissom with BLOOD ON HIS HANDS. Yes, literal blood.
All very grim. (As well as fodder for DEEP AND IMPORTANT THOUGHTS about forensic evidence and the place of CSI within the justice system.)
HOWEVER! Don’t despair! There are laughs along the way (if not as many as usual)! Notably, this (which reminds me of the car door moment in this episode):
Griss: Sometimes, when I leave a crime scene where I’ve been particularly involved with a dead body, I sit in my car, and it hits me – how close I was. How heavy the body is. The texture of the body. How it feels.
After that Grissom’s weird and inappropriate sexualness kept playing on my mind, so that I couldn’t help reading too much into his relationship with the oddly intense Catholic priest who appears throughout the episode:
… and I enjoyed this demonstration of expertise, harking back to Grissom’s secret fatboy past.
Sara (finding a substance on the victim’s forehead): Flour maybe?
Griss: But what kind? All-purpose? Self-rising? Pastry? [*salivates*]
Also, finally, a brief note from elsewhere. Warrick and Catherine work on the case of a girl found dead in a hotel spa (they hear the world’s most unconvincing story ever from her best friend, concerning a torn blouse), and Warrick gets the kind of look from the receptionist more usually directed at a certain Mr Stokes.
(That’ll be why I’m not the one presenting academic papers.) (Not on CSI, at least.)
PS Many apologies for the delay to this post – got off schedule and then cos this ep was quite scarce on the laughs it took me a while to get down to writing up. I will sort my life out and be back on track for next week, I promise!