Crime Scene Photography
This paper will examine crime scene photography. Across the United States, law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating crimes, arresting suspects, and providing necessary evidence to attorneys, judges and juries. To objectively do this, police need to gather accurate information and clearly explain the crime scene and physical evidence in a court of law. Some of this information includes the accurate documentation of the incident.
This paper will examine such documentation using photography. Specifically, it will examine two issues. First, it will provide an overview of crime scene photography. Second, it will discuss how, in federal and state courts, a photo can be admitted into court as evidence. The Purity Knight case will be used as part of that section.
Everyone knows the saying, “one picture is worth a thousand words” is true with crime scene photography. No matter how well an investigator can verbally describe a crime scene, photographs can tell the same story better and more easily. Police officers know this better than most people. One article stated that:
Almost every day photography provides new evidence of its value as a powerful weapon in the war against crime. More and more departments are coming to realize that—even in routine incidents—simple pictures taken with simple cameras can make an impressive difference in Court. Furthermore, police departments are continually finding new ways to use photography, both as a tool for investigation and as a means to record data quickly and accurately (RCMP Website, 2002, paragraph 1,2 ).
Before a detailed examination of the crime scene is made or before any items are moved or even touched, the crime scene should be photographed. The photographs should be taken to clearly and accurately depict the actual scene, the path taken by the criminal to the scene, the point of entry, the exit, and the escape route. Detailed photographs should be taken to show items of physical evidence before they are removed in the condition they were found (Svensson, 1981).
Many people ask, “How many pictures should be shot?” This is a normal question in crime scene photography. There is no single answer to this question. As a general rule it is better to overshoot in a crime scene. Time is, however, important. Certain evidence needs to be collected as quickly as possible. Usually, the experience of the crime scene photographer determines the quantity of photos (Svensson, 1981).
Because of the importance of scale, distances, and perspective in interpreting the photographs taken at crime scenes, it is a good idea to include a ruler or other scale measurement in the photograph, when this is possible. However, because some courts have not allowed even this minor change to the scene, another photograph without the scale should also be taken (Dienstein, 1984).
High quality photographs must show the scene, persons, or objects exactly as they were found. There should be no people working within the scene at the time it is photographed. Also, no other objects, such as police equipment, should be included in the pictures (Svensson, 1981).
Photographs serve a number of purposes. They help refresh the memories of witnesses and investigators. Photographs show the relationships of evidence at the crime scene. A very important purpose of crime scene photographs is that they help convey the crime scene and the circumstances of the crime to the jury.
Some Important Factors to Consider
Location. Photographs of the location of the crime scene should be made. In the case of a residence, for example, the outside of the home or apartment should be taken including the locations of doors and windows. Photographs of surrounding areas of the house should be included such as the front and backyard, views in each direction, etc. In some cases an aerial photograph is useful to show the location of the residence...
References: Crime Scene Investigator Website (2002). Retrieved June 13, 2002, form the World Wide Web: http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/admissibilityofdigital.html
DiCarlo Law Office Website (2002). Retrieved June 14, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://www.dicarlolaw.com/RulesofEvidenceSummary.htm
Dienstein, W. (1984). Tecnics (sic) for the crime scene investigator. Thomas Publishing: Illinois.
Federal Rules of Evidence Website (2002). Federal rules of evidence. Retriieved June 14, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre
Royal Canadian Mouted Police Website (2002). Retrieved June 14, 2002, from the World Wide Web: http://www.rcmp-learning.org/fr-welc.htm
State v. Purcell, 711 P.2d 243 (Utah 1985).
Svensson, A & O. Wendel. (1981). Techniques of crime scene investigation.
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