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An Episode of CSI May Teach A Lesson

ask instead of assumeI was watching an old episode of the T.V. show CSI-Las Vegas, when Dr. Gil Grissom was still in charge and Warrick Brown was still a cast member. But, I digress for those of you who don’t know this show or care about the cast. The show is about a group of investigators and forensic scientists who investigate crimes in the Las Vegas area.

So what does this have to do with autism spectrum disorders? The show wasn’t about any special needs individual, but the end of the show had me thinking…

The episode was about a crime that occurred on an airplane. A man dies in the first class cabin and the investigators try and re-create the scene from the forensic evidence and the interviews from the other passengers, which don’t seem to be adding up. Each person seems to be telling a different story and complaining about the man who died as having been ‘a jerk’ of one sort or another.

He irritated the other passengers with his attitude, his complaining, kicking the back of another passenger’s seat, running up to the cockpit door, and eventually trying to open the airplane door.

The investigators were able to figure out that the other first class passengers eventually ‘took down’ this man, fearing he was going to kill them all when he attempted to open the airplane door. Their “group” attack on him ultimately resulted in his death. The coroner found evidence that the man was suffering from encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain, usually due to an infection).

So again, you might be asking, and this has to do with ASD, how?
I’m getting there…

At the end of the story, there is a discussion amongst the investigators about whether the passengers should be charged with murder. Some say “yes,” of course, the man died and he wouldn’t have, had these people not ganged up on him. Others say “no,” they were simply defending themselves and given the context, that’s human nature.

The conversation ensues over whether the context is important and what the situation would have to be like in order to know whether you would be willing to kill someone.

Would you have to be personally threatened? Would you kill to protect a loved one? Would you have to be at 30,000 feet? And the questions continued.

The investigators are asking each other these questions when Grissom, the professional father figure in their lives and outstanding forensic entomologist, is asked the question about what he would do.

And here it comes – wait for it – the connection to ASD.

He responds that they are all looking at it from the wrong perspective. Instead of looking at the individual passengers and how they responded to the man, he asked why doesn’t anyone look at it from the dead man’s perspective?

Grissom goes on to say, (I paraphrase here); it took all these people to take the man down and yet it would have only taken one to ask the man if he was alright? What was going on? Could someone do something to help him?

The encephalitis is what caused the bizarre behaviors on the plane and had someone taken the moment to help figure out what was wrong with this man, to look at it from his perspective, maybe the outcome would have been different.

Photo by contraption, available under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license.

An Episode of CSI May Teach A Lesson

Diane Yapko, MA

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APA Reference
Yapko, D. (2010). An Episode of CSI May Teach A Lesson. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Dec 2010
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