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District attorneys across the nation are grumbling about a new kind of “ CSI effect” that makes their jobs tougher. Not only are juries requiring more sophisticated scientific evidence linking defendants to crimes [ NLJ, 5-16-05], but suspects have learned how to destroy that evidence by watching the CBS “crime scene investigation” TV shows, according to prosecutors. Techniques such as bleaching away DNA, scrubbing away fingerprints-even those on a neck limp from strangulation-and torching bodies and crimes scenes top the list. Christie Stanley, a Santa Barbara County, Calif., assistant district attorney, said that as a result of such shows, the increasing sophistication of defendants in destroying crime-scene evidence requires more rigorous investigations, more preparation on the part of prosecutors, additional experts and longer trials. Triple homicide In a triple homicide case she won last year, the strangled and suffocated victims-a pregnant woman and her 2-year-old daughter-were found naked and washed in a bleached tiled shower and bath in a motel room. The bedroom had been vacuumed and washed, and all clothing, personal items and bedding had been removed. People v. Noriega, No. 1060102 (Santa Barbara Co., Calif., Super Ct.). These fingerprint-cleansed items, including the child’s toys, were found in a room down the hall rented by a paranoid schizophrenic, Stanley said. After some vacillation, he identified James Noriega from a photo spread as the person who had asked him to store the property. While there was plenty of evidence that linked Noriega to the victims and the motel room, only circumstantial forensic evidence linked him to the crimes. Stanley argued to the jury that Noriega had cleansed the crime scene to avoid detection. “Where could a 30-year-old man with minimum education . . . figure out how to thoroughly clean the crime scene and victims if not from watching TV?” said Stanley, referring to Noriega. Noriega’s co-counsel, San Luis Obispo, Calif., solo practitioner Bill McClennan has also observed this other CSI effect. When a crime scene has been cleansed and a jury still rightly expects hard evidence linking a defendant to the crime, prosecutors turn to pseudoscience, he said. “The net CSI effect was that whoever cleaned up the crime scene opened the door to the admission of junk science that could point the finger at almost anyone,” he said. Among many defense objections was that a scientist was allowed to testify that bleach stain patterns on a shirt belonging to Noriega were not inconsistent with the bathroom tiles. ” ‘Not inconsistent’ has no probative value as evidence,” McClennan said. “ Nor did all the ‘scientific’ evidence they introduced that couldn’t exclude Noriega, but didn’t connect him, either.” Hobby: ‘CSI’ TV Eric Zahnd, the Platte County, Mo., district attorney, spent years preparing a capital case against serial murder-rapist Wayne Dumond, who was already doing time for an earlier rape-murder when he died in prison last year. Dumond left his final alleged victim, Sarah Andrasek, a 23-year-old pregnant woman, in a bathtub with the water running, presumably to wash away DNA evidence-a story line in CSI‘s first season, Zahnd noted. Dumond listed watching CSI as a hobby when filling out a parole form. Among the many similarities in the last two rape-murders attributed to Dumond were: the lack of semen (Dumond was castrated); wrist and neck rope bruises, but only one short piece of cord was found; the use of latex gloves; and the removal of the bedding. “I am convinced Mr. Dumond taught himself to be a proficient killer, skilled at leaving little evidence at the scenes of his horrific crimes,” said Zahnd. “And that his desire to learn more about his evil craft was buttressed by his love of the CSI television show.” A CBS spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

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