Evidence tracking in forensic investigation is of paramount importance. Specifically, evidence is at the center stage of all the operations because it accredits the decisions that are made by the investigators at different levels as well as the ultimate decision that is made by the judge. For this reason, it is imperatively important for the vital procedures to be flowed accordingly. The purpose of this paper is to review evidence racking in light of a burglary case. The pieces of evidence would include the wad of chewing gum, blood stain and DNA from the beer can and so forth. The investigating team would need to follow all the outlined procedures to avoid contamination or loss of evidence that results from mishandling the information.
In all criminal investigation, evidence is vitally important for accrediting the decisions that are made by the law enforcers at different stages. There are certain distinct procedures that are employed for collecting, preserving and interpreting evidence and different levels of criminal investigation. Usually, different parties tend to be involved in the process from the time the crime is reported to the time that the criminals are convicted. Besides the law enforcers and crime investigators, the technicians that are responsible for interpreting and storing the evidence are also involved. In essence, the process of tracking evidence is complex an all inclusive. The ultimate decision is always reflective of various procedures as well as sources of evidence. It is based on both physical and reported evidence and conclusions are always drawn after all the stakeholders have analyzed the respective evidence. It is against this background that this paper evaluates the procedures that are followed during the tracking of evidence in the case of a burglary.
The crime that has been reported in this case pertains to burglary at 2518 NE Angelfire Circle. Reportedly, the couple went away for the weekend and when they came back, their house had been broken into. The thieves stole the lady’s box of jewelry and left her lingerie strewn all over the place. In addition, they left a wad of chewing gum on the floor upstairs as well as a can of beer. Physical examination of the place indicates that the point of entry was probably the rear door. Seemingly, this is a typical burglary and robbery case that has been experienced in the region for the previous couple of months. There are different evidences that can be collected from the scene. To begin with, DNA samples can be collected from the can, dresser, panties and wad of chewing gum. Then, the blood stain is evidence and can be collected from the shattered glass of the rear door.
With respect to the collection of evidence, this would need to be undertaken effectively in order to avoid tampering with it that can culminate in incorrect decision making. To ensure this, certain procedures need to be followed accordingly. To begin with, the team needs to collect general information on the interior as well as exterior of the house. Then, Houck and Siegel (2003) indicate that they need to proceed to determining the condition of the respective evidence. This is based on various factors and the evidence is considered to be either stable or fragile. In this regard, they need to put in consideration various weather conditions that might affect the crime scene or the evidence that is found within the respective crime scene.
In addition, they need to evaluate any scene management considerations that may contaminate or alter the respective evidence in different ways. In this respect, Byrd (2001) indicates that certain behaviors by the owners or other officials have the capacity to affect the evidence. At this point, they need to determine other additional procedures that might need to be undertaken or techniques that might need to be conducted in the process of collecting the evidence. The team should ensure that all the collection equipment that would be employed during collection is sterile. Most important, the collection should employ appropriate equipment or tools to optimize results.
The various equipment that would be employed in the process of collecting evidence in this case would include latex gloves, forceps, swabs, tweezers, paper bags, wrapping paper, hand tools, plastic bags and thermometer (Fisher & Fisher, 2003). As indicated earlier, the team would be required to use appropriate methods of collection in order to obtain optimal results. The collection procedure would also employ different methods to collect the varied types of evidence that is available in the scene. For instance, the swabbing collection method can be employed for recovering biological evidence such as saliva on the swab and blood on the shattered door glass. In this respect, the material is probably dry and therefore, the following procedure should be employed.
To begin with, using gloved hands, the technician needs to moisten the swab being used using distilled water. S/he should then proceed to thoroughly rubbing the area that is stained with a single moistened swab. If the blood stain is large, she should use multiple swabs. This should then be followed by air drying the swabs. After air drying them, the swabs should be packaged differently and the package placed in a paper envelope. Finally, the technician should collect a control or substrate sample form an area that is unstained using similar techniques.
All evidence including the beer can and wad of chewing gum should then be inventoried and packaged appropriately before the team leaves the scene. This according to Swanson, Chamelin, Territo and Taylor (2008) is instrumental in preventing loss of the evidence or cross contamination of the same. If possible, all evidence should also be marked. The evidence that can not be directly marked such as hair, stains, soil, wad of chewing gum need to be place in an envelop or container then marked accordingly. Packaging in this regard is useful because direct marking of such items might interfere with forensic evaluation. This can be used to explain why it is advisable to always mark the external packaging. In cases where the evidence is marked directly, critical information pertaining to the item number, agency case number, initials of the investigator and the date that the evidence was received or recovered need to be included (Swanson et al., 2008). All the packaged and inventoried evidence should then be sealed with the evidence taps and marked with the initials of the investigator before release or submittal.
With regards to establishing the chain of evidence, the investigator needs to take notes detailing the recovery location, the date of recovery, complete description of each item, the condition of the respective item and any unusual alterations or markings on the given item. The investigator would then collect, mark, preserves and package the evidence accordingly. This also includes sealing the evidence and creating an inventory list. The respective information would then be transferred in a property room to undergo documentation before being submitted to an ideal crime laboratory for analysis.
During this process, formal procedures would be followed and details of all individuals handling the evidence would be documented. In addition, the respective individuals would need to provide the reasons for their handling of the respective evidence. In particular, critical information including the list of evidence, all transfers and their date sand time, signature of the individuals receiving and releasing the evidence, signatures of individuals transporting the evidence and reasons for the respective transfers would need to be documented (Byrd, 2001).
With respect to processing protocols, the team would need to interview the couples, examine the scene, and photograph it to attain more evidence, sketch the scene and process it to attain both testimonial as well as physical evidence. The evidence would then be interpreted based on the theories and factual information provided. This evidence would need to be preserved for it to be presented during courtroom procedures. Besides the crime scene report, the investigating team would need to provide laboratory reports that are undertaken by experts. As indicated earlier, mishandling evidence has far reaching implications on the accused as well as the victims. Fundamentally, mishandling evidence can lead to its contamination or loss. This affects the final decision that is made by the judge. Based on the quality of the evidence, this can lead to conviction or acquittal of the actual suspects. The negative psychological implications to both the accused and the victims if the wrong judgment is made are immense.
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Fisher, B. & Fisher, D. (2003). Techniques of crime scene investigation. USA: CRC Press.
Houck, M. & Siegel, J. (2010). Fundamentals of forensic science. USA: Academic Press.
Miller, H. (1992). Indelible evidence: True crimes solved by forensic science. USA: BBC Publications.
Swanson, C., Chamelin, N., Territo, L. & Taylor, R. (2008). Criminal investigation. USA: McGraw-Hill Humanities.