14 December 2009

Is Adultery a Crime?

Leaving aside the moral implications of my question, what I am really asking here is does the act of adultery violate a criminal law. At the turn of the century . . . the 19th century . . . all states had laws punishing adultery. The punishment ranged from flogging to imprisonment. But today no one talks, for instance, of charging Tiger Woods with a crime. But could we? Apparently, the answer is yes, at least in some states. The Associated Press has more.

13 December 2009

The CSI Effect

For years now prosecutors in the United States have been saying that crime shows such as CSI create unrealistic expectations as to what forensic evidence can prove in a criminal trial. Academics have dubbed this the "CSI Effect," and some wonder whether the fictional depiction of the court system is now negatively impacting how the real court system functions. So it should not be surprising that criminal defendants now also feel that fiction may be interfering with their right to fair trial. This was the argument that was made last week before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, where a man convicted of murder claimed that the jury that convicted him was unduly influenced by the CSI Effect. The Boston Globe has more, but here is a hint as to how the justices responded to this appeal:
Margaret H. Marshall, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, expressed frustration while hearing an appeal in a Lowell first-degree murder case in which the defense claims a trial judge committed an error when he referenced the television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. . . .’’

Marshall, however, noted from the bench that a 2006 Yale Law Journal study concluded the “CSI effect’’ was legal fiction and that jurors were not influenced to be against prosecutors. As such, she said, talk about “CSI’’ should be banned in courtrooms across the state.