CSI: George Mason University

Students in a forensic DNA analysis class participated in crime scene investigation role play last week, hosted to illustrate the importance of science in prosecuting a suspect. (Ezekiel Watkins)

UPDATED 5:25 p.m.

Crime scene investigation teams, or CSI, are well known to the public through hit television shows. In almost every court case involving murder or violence, a CSI team, has to come up with accurate evidence to fully prosecute the suspect.

Last week, Mason students got to play the role of detective.

Individuals enrolled in the Forensic DNA Analysis class Biology 509 put together a mock trial last Thursday at Innovation Hall, where students and faculty participated in a crime scene investigation.

“This is an opportunity to apply my knowledge of DNA in the legal community,” said Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, a professor of forensic DNA analysis.

McClintock started a consulting firm in 1993 that handled cases pertaining to murder and violence. He has also been working at George Mason University for over 11 years and has been publicizing this event for five.

The mock investigations last week included opening statements from both a defendant and prosecutor. Witness testimonies also took place under very strict guidelines set by the judge, played by McClintock.

The forensic DNA analysis class at Mason hosted this event to inform students about the importance of science and how it relates to prosecuting a suspect.

“Technology is critical in some cases because it could render a verdict. About 200-250 cases have been affected by faulty evidence in the past,” said McClintock.

The defendant’s and prosecutor’s closing cases will be continued this Thursday at Innovation Hall, room 103, from 7:30 to 10 p.m.

“Students at the trial present information learned throughout the semester and apply it to a real world scenario,” said McClintock. “Students talk about DNA analysis that can be applied in the courtroom.”

McClintock presents the case in a very realistic court case setting. He helps students understand any questions, concerns or unknown knowledge about proper courtroom procedure.

“ I watch CSI Miami or whatever is on Spike, but those shows are not a study tool,” said Tom Morrow, a junior biotech major.

Shows like CSI Miami and Dexter are entertaining and glamorous to attract viewers, but a real crime scene investigation is far from the sitcom norm, said McClintock.

“I feel sorry for them. No lab looks like that, and a case can’t be solved that fast,” said McClintock.

According to the website Ballot Stub, a poll from Sept. 9, 2009 to April 2010 ranked the shows Bones and CSI: Miami among the top 20 watched television shows in America.

“I like CSI: NY, Bones, Without a Trace, and Law & Order. They spark my interest, but I like the more real side like the show The First 48,” said Fatuma Barqadle, a senior biology and English major.

This event also shows the steps and necessary procedures that the defendants and prosecutors need to follow to charge the suspect.



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