Real Life Crime Labs Not At All Like TV

The crime lab procedural has been among the most popular genres at least since “CSI” debuted in 2000, and devotees of blood-spatter patterns and advanced DNA analysis have no shortage of programming to choose from. There’s “Person of Interest,” “The Good Wife,” “Blacklist,” “Castle,” and “The Mentalist.” All are in the top 20 best-rated shows on television. And let’s not forget “Bones,” “Dexter,” “CSI: Las Vegas,” “Cold Case Files,” “The Real NCIS,” and “Forensic Files.”  But you ought not believe any of the fancy (not to mention instantaneous) forensic “results” shown on these TV dramas.  Television writers give the public a perception of forensic science that is anything but accurate.  Sadly, the public believes it – and that includes jurors.  (Fairness Admission: I have used that very misperception to the great advantage of several clients at trial by pressing police witnesses to explain why they “didn’t bother” trying to get fingerprints from this or that piece of evidence, why they didn’t conduct various tests as seen on TV everyday — and the jurors frankly were very impressed each time.)

If only the country’s real-life crime labs were half as effective as those portrayed on TV, and if only there weren’t so many lying, cheating and corrupted lab “specialists” around the country being caught regularly for out-and-out falsification of lab “results” to shore up an otherwise weak prosecution case – whether the defendant is guilty or not.

Read more: