Criminal prosecutions rely on evidence presented in a court of law so it is vital evidence be correctly elected, well preserved, and uncontaminated evidence for a successful outcome. Using proper techniques is as critically important as it is apprehending the criminal. Without the use of proper techniques, evidence can be lost, overlooked or contaminated and can lead to the evidence being ruled inadmissible. It is imperative the crime scene and crime scene evidence be secured and preserved. Whenever a crime occurs, no matter what the nature of the scene, crime scene evidence is the most important factor the criminal leaves behind.
As far as forensic science goes, obtaining physical evidence is the biggest source of the crime scene. For an investigator, it gives insight into the way the crime was committed and is much like recreating the footsteps of the criminal through the clues left behind. Items of physical crime scene evidence are not always visible to the naked eye and may be easily overlooked so a systematic approach to collection and preservation of evidence is essential. The biggest problem that crime scene technicians encounter on the Job is crime scene contamination by curious officers, detectives, and supervisors.
Widespread trampling of crime scenes can prove very damaging to investigations cause of this prosecutors have lost cases due to crime scene contamination. When the integrity of fingerprints and sheepskins is Jeopardized, it is time for agencies to rethink their approach to crime scene work. A department’s written policy should provide a uniform procedure to restrict unnecessary access to crime scenes. It is imperative that preservation of crime scenes and evidence collected be the primary responsibility of initial responders. In order to have a uniform procedure, By infarcts pointless tourism.
Administrators should take advantage of the technical knowledge f laboratory and crime scene specialists when formulating department’s policy. The role of detectives and supervisors in protecting crime scenes cannot be overstressed. These individuals ultimately are responsible for an investigation. The simplest and most productive way for supervisors and detectives to discourage crime scene contamination is to set a good example by their own behavior. If a lieutenant walks around a crime scene at will, rifling through closets, opening drawers and contaminating the scene, what could the harm in other officers doing the same?
This paper will identify elements valuable to the preservation of crime scene evidence collection and contamination, address future problems and ways to reinforce good practices; written policies- roles and responsibilities; training and understanding the rules governing chain of custody and its importance. As well identify current handling procedures and practices; current issues and list cases lost due to contaminated evidence. Crime scenes often yield evidence that leads t the apprehension of dangerous criminals. Clearly written directives and training will help agencies resolve the problem.
Collection and Preservation Crime scenes often yield forensic evidence that can lead to the apprehension of dangerous criminals. The most important aspect of evidence collection and preservation is protecting the crime scene so that pertinent evidence can be recorded and collected. Today, more than ever, the quality of evidence in criminal cases is scrutinized because of contamination. Contamination is the introduction of something that physically corrupts a substance at a crime scene that was not previously there; it comes in many forms and most often times comes from the humans who investigate a crime scene.
It is imperative that prevention of cross- contamination is implemented when gathering evidence. Several of the more sensitive forensic techniques such as trace analysis, bloodstream interpretation, and DNA comparison are not being used to their fullest potential. Items of physical crime scene evidence are not always visible to the naked eye and may be easily overlooked so deliberate and methodical approach to collection and preservation of evidence is essential.
Prosecutors have lost cases due to crime scene contamination; this could be prevented by simple and productive behaviors. The U. S. Supreme Court, in a leading case on physical evidence, stated: “Physical evidence cannot be wrong; it cannot perjure itself; it cannot be wholly absent. Only its interpretation can err. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it can diminish its value. ” (Harris vs.. United States, 1947). A Question of Good Faith A man abducted a ten year-old boy from a carnival, took him to a house and sexually assaulted him.
The boy was later taken to a hospital by police. Tests were performed using a sexual assault kit. After receipt of the boy’s underwear and t-shirt, which maintained semen stains, the police failed to refrigerate these items. It was not until two years later that the underwear and t-shirt were examined forensically. Neither the clothing nor the test results from the sexual assault kit conclusively connected the defendant with the crime. Nevertheless, the defendant was convicted on the basis of other evidence; including the eyewitness identification by the boy.
On appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the defendant argued if the boys clothing had Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the defendant’s due process rights ad been violated by the police mishandling of the evidence, the simple majority focused on the “good faith efforts” of the police officers in preserving the evidence. Chief Justice Rehnquist stated it is unfair to “impose on the police an undifferentiated absolute duty to retain and to preserve all material that might be of conceivable evidentially significance.
A good faith standard limits the police officer’s duty to preserve evidence and protect the defendant in cases where the police themselves, by their conduct, indicate the evidence could form a basis for exonerating the pendant. ” (Arizona v. Youngling, 1988). Thus, under the good faith standard, if police actions indicate they realize the probative value of evidence that may potentially be used to determine the defendant’s innocence, and they maliciously destroy the evidence, there is a presumption the evidence would have exonerated the defendant.
If the police officer is merely negligent in failing to preserve evidence, there is no due process violation if he or she is acting in good faith. In another case, an appeals court ruled the lower court did not error in admitting audiotapes into evidence even though the record lacked proof of a chain of custody. The appellate court ruled that the lack of proof did not render the tapes inadmissible where eyewitnesses to transactions on tapes testified the tapes accurately depicted the transactions in question. (U. S. V. Brown, 1998).
Tainted or Ruined Evidence Crime Scene Technicians, identify some of the biggest problems they encounter are the curious onlookers, the contamination of evidence, accessibility and the removal of evidence. Curious Onlookers: they can cause major problems by interfering with a technician’s work. When the integrity of fingerprints and sheepskins is Jeopardized, it is time for agencies to rethink their approach to crime scene work. A sheriffs department was forced to conduct a mass fingerprinting of its detective unit after a particularly sensational homicide crime scene became overrun with curious personnel.
Considerable amount of time and effort went into eliminating officers’ fingerprints from the pool of legitimate supervisory personnel standing on a blood- soaked carpet. Evaluating a scene before anyone enters can be the key to keeping contamination at a minimum. Contamination, even in the presence of police investigators puts evidence in Jeopardy; crime scene technicians know the futility of collecting hair or fiber samples after a room full of officers have shed all over the scene. Shopping evidence is one of the best types of evidence for placing a person at a crime scene (Garrison, 1994).
The perpetrator has to walk in and walk out, unfortunately, shopping evidence is also one of the most neglected and abused types of evidence. Crime scene sheepskins have been trampled underfoot, usually unintentional and long before the crime scene investigators and the detectives have even arrived (Elsevier, 1990). Many trials involve highly technical testimony about the chemistry and biology of evidence and the physics of how it was analyzed. However, this can easily be thrown out when the method of actually collecting the evidence is in question.
On cases that go to court, any unexplained evidence collected at the scene needs to be identified (Harrington, 2005). Accessibility and removal of evidence in hard-to-reach areas also present a problem. Written Policy When the integrity of fingerprints and sheepskins is Jeopardized, it is time for department’s written policy provide a uniform procedure to restrict unnecessary access to crime scenes. A department’s written policy should provide a uniform procedure to restrict unnecessary access to crime scenes.
A crime scene policy should contain the following elements: The officer assigned to the crime scene’s main entry must log in all visitors, including name, rank, stated purpose, and arrival and departure times. Absolutely no undocumented visitors should be allowed in the crime scene area; every officer at the scene must complete a standard report describing their involvement and their specific actions while at the scene; all visitors just make available any requested exemplar (hair, blood, sheepskins, fingerprints, etc. For elimination purposes; the highest ranking officer entering a crime scene must assume responsibility for all subsequent visitors to the scene. This final element means that any supervisory officer who visits the scene to “have a look around” must stay at the site until either the crime scene technicians finish their work or a higher ranking officer arrives. Needless to say, this simple requirement goes a long way to discourage pointless tourism.
An officer attempting to secure a rime scene who finds the post regularly overrun by curious commanders must have the means to protect the scene, enforce department rules, and deal with superior officers. This is often a difficult balancing act. A clearly-written, well-enforced policy helps to level the playing field. New Crime Scenes- Same Old Problems Dry. Lee and Dry. Ramadan- while evidence collection and crime scene investigation education has increased, forensic teams are still encountering the same problems. Dry. Henry Lee, the most famous forensic scientist identifies ongoing issues with crime scene collection and procedures.
Being an expert in the Justice system us an important responsibility. Forensic scientists who work on criminal cases hold someone else’s life in their hands. Most scientists will readily admit that among the greatest moments of their careers is when their results eliminate a wrongly accused suspect. But, as in every profession, sometimes things go wrong. Among the more than two hundred Innocence Project cases in which the wrongly convicted have been exonerated, 11 percent involved “forensic misconduct. ” This misconduct can be intentional, no matter what the reason; the application of forensic science can have vegetating effects.
Fred Gain, a supervisor in the West Virginia State Police Laboratory, where he spent many years was the go-to-guy. He was well trained and had attended many workshops keeping up with the latest technology. It was discovered that tests he said were done were not completed, and that reports were written so that it looked like the results applied to all the evidence. He was charged with fraud and by the end of 1990, hundreds of cases had been reviewed. Jeff Pierce was released from prison in 2001 after serving 15 years for a crime he did not commit (Lee, 2009).
In another case, Joyce Gilchrest had been working for many years when the outrage concerning this incident made her infamous. She had testified about hairs in such a way as to imply that her microscopic comparison was truly a match even though every well trained forensic scientist knows that hair can only be similar. Her findings were not supported by the tests she conducted and her testimony was improper and outside the standards of forensic science. As a result of the Pierce case, seven of Gilchrest cases were reviewed by the FBI.
Five of those cases be reviewed in which Gilchrest evidence played a significant role. Joyce Gilchrest was fired from her Job in Oklahoma City in 2002 (Lee, 2009). In another case involving a forensic scientist was when Dry. Brian Mean, director of DNA Security of Burlington, a private company that was hired by North Carolina District Attorney Mike Knifing to test samples from a highly publicized sexual assault case in which three Duke University students were accused. Knifing sent DNA security twenty-two samples from evidence that had been collected during an examination of the accuser.
These students were charged with the assault. A limited report was issued that did not address complete finding. When the court ordered the state to turn over all laboratory documents to the defense, their review of the DNA results showed that at least four different males were identified in the samples tested by DNA security. None of those DNA profiles matched the accused students. Mean admitted in court that in discussion with Knifing he had agreed to provide a report that did not contain all of the DNA results obtained in the evidence.
Eventually all charges were dropped against the Duke students and Knifing was brought up on ethics charges before the state bar of association (Lee, 2009). The number of serious problems in Orenstein science laboratories is unknown. When individual forensic scientists choose to “create” results is heighten the significance of their findings, ego may be the issue. Sometimes investigators or scientists are convinced that the suspect is guilty, and they dry lab, or create evidence to obtain the results they are looking for (Lee, 2009). Forensic science has come a long way.
During the sass, although basic science informed investigative strategies, there was little concern about using gloves to avoid contamination or about preserving biological evidence. For the technology of the mimes these were not grave issues. Now, with further advances in instrumentation and artificial intelligence, techniques have been refined and many more have become automated. In the future, forensic innovation will continue to develop and expand. Beating the Devil’s Game Early in the morning of June 13, 1994, someone attacked and killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman outside Simpson home in Breadroot California.
Both had been slashed to death with a knife, and from the extreme brutality of the attack, Nicole appeared to have been the target. That threw suspicion on her estranged ex-husband, O. J. Simpson. His arrest and trial brought to the publics awareness the nature of evidence handling and scientific analysis in a criminal investigation, during an age when a number of sophisticated procedures were being utilized. Spots of blood turned up in Simpson vehicle and home and he had a cut hand supposedly from the same night as the incident, but he protested he was not guilty.
Still he did attempt to flee with a bundle of money and he penned a suicide note. He also had opportunity to commit the double homicide, as well as a history of threats and domestic violence involving Nicole (Ramadan, 2007). Detectives paid a visit to O. J. Simpson to his home at 36 North Rocking, however, found gates to be locked and no response. Detective Mark Fuhrman scaled the walls to get into the yard. There he noticed a white Ford Bronco, parked in the drive way, he notices bloodstain on the door.
A tail of blood also led up to the house, but Simpson appeared to be gone. It turned out that he had Just flown to Chicago. Investigators’ questions. Investigators notice a cut on his left hand and also noticed Simpson to be disturbed when asked about the cut. He mentioned several conflicting stories as to owe he had obtained the injury. The crime scene indicated the killer cut his left hand and trailed blood. In fact, these drops did not match either of the victims’ blood types; test analysis proved that they were in common with Simpson blood type.
In addition, the bloody size-twelve footprints nearby were made by an expensive shoe, a Bruno Magi- a type of shoe Simpson owned, in size twelve. Next to the bodies was a knit hat that turned out to have hair particles similar to Simpson and a bloodstained glove was found at Simpson house matched the other glove found at the crime scene. Traces of both victims were found in Simpson car and house, along with blood that contained his own DNA. His blood and Salesman’s were found together on his car’s console and on the carpet a bloody imprint of a bloody shoe impression.
Socks inside the home of Simpson had traces of blood- that of Nicole and Simpson himself. Simpson was notified that he would be charged with murder and fled in his Bronco, hinting in a noted that he would kill himself, a passport, fake beard and over $8,000 in cash. In the end Simpson was acquitted, while investigators, scientists and lab personnel were left to ponder their costly and embarrassing mistakes. What hurt the prosecution’s case were the endless explanations they presented via experts of the complex procedures involved in DNA analysis (Ramadan, 2007).
Mishandling evidence can affect a case which proves true in the case of O. J. And there for is imperative all evidence collected be safe and free of contamination. Working to eliminate some of these major issues can assist with forensic evidence that lead to the apprehension of dangerous criminals. Clearly written directives and implementing training for new officers will help agencies resolve the loss of potential evidence destroyed or rendered useless by careless behavior at the crime scene.