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CSI Files

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Coroners Skeptical About 'CSI''s Science

By Kristine
June 1, 2004 - 10:01 PM

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spinoffs are drawing more people to the field of forensic science, but those working in the field believe it is creating a false picture of exactly what a career in forensic science requires.

Coroners sounded off on the issue in The Courier News Online. Coroner Dan Heinz stated that forensic science is a lot less slick than it is presented on television. "We have to find and actually handle bodies," Heinz said, going on to add, "And they're not all fresh."

Young forensic science hopefuls aren't the only ones who are misled by the ease with which the CSIs delve into their cases. The families of victims often want results faster than coroners can deliver them. Coroner Beth Kimmerling noted that, "[Victims' families] see on CSI somebody dies at 9:15, they've got the toxicology results by 9:20." That just isn't reality, according to Kimmerling. "For me, it's four weeks," she said.

Heinz also notes that families often wanted to exact time of death of their loved one pinpointed. According to Heinz, this just isn't possible. The best they can usually do is within a twenty-minute time period. "[One family] wanted to know if [the time of death] was quarter to 10 or five to 10," he commented. "On CSI they probably would have told them."

CSI has also led people to think that DNA testing is more common than it actually is. Heinz sees it as a buzzword they've picked up from the show. "They don't have any idea what it is, except it is an advanced way of finding things," he said. Kimmerling notes that it's also prohibitively expensive. "Every sample of DNA would cost me $1,500," she said.

Another detail that is far removed from reality is the infamous hummer that the CSI: Miami team zips around in. The Hummer might be a draw for potential forensic science intern applicants, but they're not likely to find it at their local County Coroner's office. "They all want to be GQ models driving around in a Hummer," coroner Patrick O'Neil noted.

"I'd like to throw a body in the back of a Hummer," Deputy Coroner Bill Fabian mused. "That would be a real trick."

To read the complete article, please visit The Courier News Online.

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