Technology has allowed our world to become much more advanced. This was never truer than in the field of forensic science. There was a time where the only evidence introduced at trials was the murder weapon and the testimony of an eyewitness. Now we have DNA, hair, fiber, and soil samples to analyze. We rely on forensics when decomposed bodies or skeletal remains are found to provide an identity and a cause and time of death. The field of Criminalistics has definitely come a long way from just questioning suspects but this still remains a critical part of any investigation.
It can be said that forensic science provides amazing answers but the results can never have 100% certainty due to human error. Traditional investigative methods must go hand in hand with forensic analysis in the process of ensuring that all possible evidence is acquired and a jury has proper information to make a fair decision. Forensic evidence provides many answers to questions that would otherwise remain a mystery. We can take the example of forensic anthropology, or the study of human remains.
Sometimes the remains are skeletal or so badly decomposed that it is impossible to even identify the victim until an examination is done by a forensic anthropologist. As we learned in chapter 1 of our text, studying remains as well as the insects and soil found in and around a human body can determine a time and cause of death. This is important information useful in finding and convicting a suspect. Every case is different, but evidence is always required to prove guilt. Forensic science has become so evolved that traditional methods might be seen as out dated; this shouldn’t be the case.
Interrogating a suspect should be just as important as submitting a DNA sample. No case should rely solely on one or the other. If we consider some of the cases from the past we can see how important it is to have a good combination of both. In the Wayne Williams case there was a huge amount of fiber evidence linking him to 12 different victims; however fiber evidence is only good when you have a source to match it to (Saferstein, 2007). If the Atlanta P. D. had not set up a surveillance team the night he allegedly dumped a body into the river, this case might remain unsolved.
An old fashioned stake-out provided a big break for this case. The Manson case is another high profile case that relied heavily on eyewitnesses and informants as opposed to forensics (Bugliosi, N. D. ). In this case the prosecution was able to prove through witness testimony that Charles Manson had almost complete control of his followers. Unfortunately juries do place a lot of credibility on forensic evidence which might be a cause of the “CSI effect” (Robbers, 2006). The CSI show has captivated so many people with its unrealistic techniques of solving crimes in less than 60 minutes.
Society has embraced its popularity and has come to expect something similar when they land in the jury box. Jurors should not base their decision solely on the fact that they have a forensic scientist confirming a DNA sample match with the suspect. Let’s not forget that the scientist making this analysis is human and susceptible to commit errors whether intentional or unintentional. . In recent years many lab scandals have been uncovered from innocent unknowing mistakes to faking tests results. I had come across the story of Mariem Megalla, a forensic scientist who is accused of falsifying evidence she tested.
She is accused of labeling a sample of a suspected drug as positive when it had actually come back with a negative test result (Mangan, 2010). Rather than having it retested, she removed the label off of a positive sample and placed it on the negative sample. Because of scandals similar to this the Justice for All Act of 2004 was created. This did require strict guidelines, frequent audits and more oversight in forensic labs but this still does not guarantee a mistake proof result every single time. Jurors must always keep this in mind when deciding how much weight to put on any type of forensic science evidence.
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