Debunking the “CSI effect”

 “On television, it’s the lab person running around doing it all, and that’s just not the way it is,” Rod Englert said. “That’s not the real world.”

 “On television, it’s the lab person running around doing it all, and that’s just not the way it is,” Rod Englert said. “That’s not the real world.”

Englert is a 43-year veteran of law enforcement, whose new book Blood Secrets reveals the process of solving homicide cases through forensics. And we’re not talking about what you see on CSI.

“I often testify to jurors and tell them that it’s not like what they portray on television,” Englert said. “DNA isn’t the catch-all to everything, either.” 

This idea that real life crime solving is just like what we see on crime shows can lead to unrealistic expectations about what’s supposed to happen in a trial.

“One thing that’s even more disturbing is when young people see that stuff and walk away with the expectation that they can do testing and interview people and work in the lab, and that is far from the truth,” Englert said.

Englert debunks these myths in his book, explaining that the people in the lab only work in the lab. They don’t carry guns or interview people. It’s the detectives, like Englert, that go out and solve the crime.

The expert says he became interested in crime scene reconstruction and blood spatter analysis after determining a murder weapon as an ax—before forensic evidence showed otherwise.

“They teased me, and so I decided to learn everything I could about blood spatter,” Englert said. “I started going to murder scenes—I just didn’t understand it.”

Englert recreates scenes and analyzes blood spatter to decipher what really happened at a crime scene. In the book, he shares stories of some high profile cases and how blood splatter and other forensic components played a key role in finding justice.

“Forensics are very important—the science of the problem that needs to be solved,” Englert said. “Blood spatter is just one little aspect of what I do. I find the pieces to the puzzle, so we can say ‘there’s one link,’ so I go and talk to that person.”

Englert’s examples come from real life cases that he has worked on. For instance, a dispute between a man and his girlfriend, where the man claims he was standing 40 feet away.

“He has tiny little specks on him, which is consistent with a gun spatter,” Englert said. “That tells me he’s lying because he had to be within three feet of her. The tinier the specks, the less distance it traveled.”

Or a person arrested with his partner for beating up a taxi driver in New York City. They beat him with a stick, and one man blames the other.

“From the clothes of both of them, one had a different kind of projected stain on his pants,” Englert said. “He says he was just standing by—well, it doesn’t happen that way.”

Initially, Englert thought his book would be boring. But now, Englert says he hasn’t had one critical comment about the writing of his book, and gives his credit to Kathy Passero who helped him bring his story to life.

“When she wrote the proposal my heart started beating,” Englert said. “It’s the way she wrote it that made it exciting. It’s a page turner, because you want to find out what’s going to happen.”

Englert hopes that readers will understand that solving real crime isn’t anything like what you see on television or in the movies. He wants readers to not think about these stories for shock value, and to know that there are a lot of good people in the world—in fact, a majority.

He dedicates the book to the ones searching for justice.

“The book is for people to realize the plight of the victims, and how hard we work in law enforcement to find justice,” Englert said. “We work just as hard for those that are falsely accused that are innocent, because they become the victim, too.”