Introduction to forensic science

Introduction to forensic science

INTRODUCTION TO FORENSIC SCIENCE Definitions and Background Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it Ignorance may deride it Malice may distort it But here it is. Winston Churchill What is forensic science? The study and application of science to matters of law Includes the business of providing timely, accurate, and thorough information to all levels of decision makers in

our criminal justice system The word forensic is derived from the Latin forensis meaning forum, a public place where, in Roman times, senators and others debated, performed, and held judicial proceedings. Criminalistics vs. Criminology Criminalistics The scientific examination of physical evidence for legal purposes Criminology Includes the psychological angle: studying the crime scene for motive, traits, and behavior that will help to interpret the evidence Crime Lab Services

Crime labs can be government-run at the federal, state, or local level, or they can be private consulting businesses. Most Lab Services: Physical science unit Chemistry Physics Geology

Optional Services: Toxicology unit Latent fingerprint unit Biology unit Polygraph unit Firearms and ballistics unit Voiceprint analysis unit Document examination unit Evidence collection unit

Photography unit Engineering The most common types of evidence examined are drugs, firearms, and fingerprints. Specialty Services Forensic pathology Forensic anthropology Forensic entomology Forensic psychiatry Forensic odontology Forensic engineering Cybertechnology Geology Environmental science

Polynology Polygraphy Voiceprint analysis Federal Crime Labs FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation DEA: Drug Enforcement Agency ATF: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms USPS: United States Postal Service U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Department of Homeland Security Department of the Treasury Crime Scene Responders A group of professional investigators, each trained in a variety of special disciplines Team members:

First police officer on the scene Medics (if necessary) Investigators Medical examiner or representative (if necessary) Photographer and/or field evidence technician Lab experts: pathologist serologist DNA expert toxicologist forensic odontologist forensic anthropologist forensic psychologist forensic entomologist firearm examiner bomb and arson experts document and handwriting experts fingerprint expert

Scientific Method (as it pertains to criminalistics) 1. Observe a problem or questioned evidence and collect objective data. 2. Consider a hypothesis or possible solution. 3. Examine, test, and then analyze the evidence. 4.

Determine the significance of the evidence. 5. Formulate a theory based on evaluation of the significance of the evidence. Types of Law Constitutional law: supreme document and final authority on laws Statutory law: legislative acts declaring, commanding, or prohibiting something Common law or case law: body of law made up of judicial opinions or precedents Civil law: law that deals with noncriminal suits brought to protect or preserve a civil or private right or matter Criminal law: regulation and enforcement of rights, setting the acceptable limits of conduct in society

Equity law: remedial or preventive (restraining orders) Administrative law: rules or laws established by agencies such as IRS, SSA, military Bill of Rights: gives individuals the right To be presumed innocent until proven guilty Not to be searched unreasonably To speak and present witnesses Not to be tried again for the same crime Against cruel and unusual punishment Not to be arrested without probable cause To due process

Against unreasonable seizure of personal property To a speedy trial Against self-incrimination Against excessive bail To fair questioning by police To protection from physical harm throughout the justice process To an attorney To trial by jury Against excessive fines To be treated the same as others, regardless of race,

gender, religious preference, country of origin, or other personal attributes Miranda Rights The following is a minimal Miranda warning: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at the governments expense. Types of Crimes Infraction: minor offense or petty crime; penalty is usually a fine

Misdemeanor: minor crime punishable by fine or jail Felony: major crime punishable by fines and/or more than one year in prison tiveCouncil/CLC/1251639217533 Federal Rules of Evidence In order for scientific evidence to be admitted in a court of law, it must be: Probative: actually proves something Material: addresses an issue

that is relevant to the particular crime The Frye Standard: 1923 case Frye v. US Scientific evidence is allowed into the courtroom if it is generally accepted by the relevant scientific community. The Frye standard does not offer any guidance on reliability. The evidence is presented in the trial and the jury decides if it can be used. The Daubert Ruling: 1993 case Daubert v. Dow The judge decides if the evidence can be entered into the trial. Admissibility is determined by:

Whether the theory or technique can be tested Whether the science has been offered for peer review Whether the rate of error is acceptable Whether the method at issue enjoys widespread acceptance

Whether the theory or technique follows standards The Expert Witness The expert witness presents scientific evidence in court. He/She will: Establish credibility through credentials, background experience.

Evaluate evidence. Render an opinion about the evidence. The judge may accept or reject the opinions significance. Facets of Guilt To prove a case, the MMO must be established; it must be shown that the suspect had: Motiveperson had a reason to do the crime (not necessary to prove in a court of law) Meansperson had the ability to do the crime

Opportunityperson can be placed at the crime scene INTRODUCTION TO FORENSIC SCIENCE Observation Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it Ignorance may deride it Malice may distort it But here it is. Winston Churchill Observation is a learned skill of Forensic Investigators Observation: everything we smell, see, taste, hear, and touch

The brain selects what information gets filtered. Investigators must observe, interpret, and report observations clearly at the crime scene and examine evidence in the crime lab without making any judgments about its potential importance. Perception Our perception is LIMITED and FAULTY Our brains fill in information that is not really there Apply knowledge we already have about our surroundings to new

situations Understanding these limitations of the brain helps to improve our observation skills Eyewitness Accounts According to The Innocence Project (2008) "Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing." Still, the criminal justice system profoundly relies on eyewitness identification and testimony for investigating and prosecuting

crimes (Wells & Olson, 2003). Eyewitness Testimony Juries heavily influenced by eyewitness identifications. Lots of innocent people convicted b/c of faulty eyewitness accounts. Some Issues: types of questions type asked by investigator

of crime Emotional response improves memory to a (Do you remember where you were when time frame of questioning after event Cross racial identifications difficult certain point 9/11 happened?) How to be a good observer Make a conscious effort to examine our environment systematically

1. Consciously decide to observe everything, no matter how small or how unfamiliar, no matter what our emotions or previous experiences. 2. This prevents the brain from filtering out unimportant information without your awareness. Concentrate first and foremost on gathering all of the available information and leaving the interpretation until we have as much information as possible.

3. 4. At a crime scene, start at one corner and run your eyes slowly over the place looking at everything you see. This prevents the brain from interpreting what we see by finding patterns and making connections. Write down and photograph as much information as possible. What do forensic scientists do? Find,

examine, and evaluate evidence from a crime scene Forensic scientists have analytical skills such as the ability to observe a situation, organize it into its component parts, evaluate it, and draw appropriate conclusions.

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