Trenita L. Raney
Instructor: Terri Miller
September 23, 2014
Reliability of Forensic Tools
What’s reliable and what’s not so scientific when it comes to forensic tools? Forensics is relating to the use of science or technology in the investigation and establishment of facts or evidence in a court of law. Forensic tools examples are forensic photography, forensic ballistics, forensic toxicology, computer forensics, hair analysis, DNA analysis, and fingerprint evidence. Forensic tools can be used rhetorically in debate or argument. There are American TV shows that feature CSI’s using forensic evidence to solve murders; however these CSI’s show impractical interpretations of the abilities of forensic science.
Forensic photography is the art of producing an accurate reproduction of a crime scene or an accident using photography for the benefit of a court or to aid in an investigation. Film and digital photography are both used for documenting crime scenes. It is part of the evidence collection process. Crime scenes should be recorded with a minimum of four photographs: an overview photograph, a medium-range photograph, a close-up photograph, and a close-up photograph with a scale. Special techniques and considerations are needed when photographing indoor scenes, outdoor scenes, night scenes, arson scenes, sexual assault victims, impression evidence, bloodstain evidence, and latent fingerprint evidence. Many digital cameras have far exceeded the common film camera in resolution and ease of use, admissibility issues may still exist in the use of digital images during legal proceedings. Video documentation is helpful for showing possible paths and for including note narration with photography. Still pictures are still required for detail and especially for close-up views of evidence. (Saferstein, 2009, pp. 69-78)
Forensics ballistics experts look at certain characteristics of firearms that relate to the bullets fired from them including the caliber of the firearm and the rifling pattern contained in the barrel of the firearm. Jonathan Jones states, “The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) recognized the logic involved in trying to compare firearms-related marks by noting, although they are subject to numerous sources of variability, firearms-related tool marks are not completely random and volatile; one can find similar marks on bullets and cartridge cases from the same gun.” The NAS found there have been no scientific studies to answer questions regarding variability, reliability, repeatability, or the number of correlations needed to achieve a given degree of confidence. (Jones, 2012)
Forensics toxicology is the use of toxicology (the science dealing with the nature, effects, and detection of poisons) and other disciplines such as analytical chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical chemistry to aid medical or legal investigation of death, poisoning, and drug use. The mature forensic science discipline and one of the areas with strong scientific underpinnings developed along the lines of classical analytical chemistry. The NAS report found that there exists an adequate understanding of the uncertainties and potential errors in the analysis of controlled substances due to rigorous scientific testing. (Jones, 2012)
Computer forensics is a branch of digital forensic science pertaining to legal evidence found in computers and digital storage media. It involves preserving, acquiring, extracting, analyzing, and interpreting computer data. In today’s world of technology, many devices are capable of storing data and could thus be grouped into the field of computer forensics. Computers have flooded society and are used in countless ways with innumerable applications. The role of electronic data in investigative work has realized exponential growth in the last decade. Users of computers and other electronic data storage devices leave footprints and data trails behind. In...
Cited: Government, A. (n.d.). Australian Goverment/ Australian Law Reform Commission. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from www.alrc.gov: www.alrc.gov.au/publications/44-criminal-proceedings/reliability-dna-evidence
Jeeg. (2012, April 19). Genetic Watchdog. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from www. councilfor responsiblegenetics.org: http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/blog/post/Is-Forensic-DNA-10025-Accurate.aspx
Jones, J. (2012, April 17). www.pbs.org. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from Frontline: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/real-csi/forensic-tools-whats-reliable-and-whats-not-so-scientific/
Saferstein, R. (2009). Forensic Science: From the Crime Scene to the Crime Lab. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
Tam, J. (2014, January 2014). Legal Match. Retrieved July 27, 2014, from www.legalmatch.com: http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/forensic-evidence-the-reliability-of dna-testing.html
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