KENTON COUNTY, Ky. - High tech crime shows like CSI often find the heroes discovering a minute piece of evidence which their vast arsenals of computers analyze virtually instantaneously.
The bad guy always gets caught before the last commercial.
"That's Hollywood television and Hollywood funds," says Dawn Bayless, a real crime scene investigator for Covington Police.
Her tools aren't like you see on TV.
She works in a cramped lab with a single computer in a corner next to piles of cardboard boxes filled with evidence.
Finding unique characteristics to a fingerprint must be done with her eyes, not a computer. Only after she has found seven such traits on a print, can she have the equipment process it for a match.
Because only a minority of crime scenes yield usable fingerprints, juror expectations from TV shows put Bayless in an awkward position. "I spend a lot of time explaining what I don't find. Because they expect it."
Jim Redwine is the 1st Assistant Commonwealth Attorney for Kenton County. He says he has seen murder suspects acquitted because of the CSI Effect.
"After the cases, I've spoken to jurors as to 'how could you have ignored all this evidence?' And their answer was, 'well you didn't have any science behind it."
Redwine's colleague, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Stefanie Kastner ran into a similar problem when the DNA lab refused to test a sample taken from a rape suspect's own bedsheets, because the results would be meaningless.
Despite convincing eyewitness testimony from the victim, she lost the case. "A man who I believe raped his daughter got off. I couldn't convict him because I didn't have the DNA evidence."
Both attorneys look forward to a day when their juries fully understand the difference between TV and reality.
"I think people should be educated, but I'm not sure how to do it, unfortunately," says Kastner.
In the meantime, Kastner feels the best they can do is screen potential jurors and remind them which world they are living in.
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