Forensic science and the law

The results of scientific examination of evidence in the forensic science arena often ended up in courtroom. Forensic scientists must be familiar not only with the scientific principles that guide their analyses, but also the rules and regulations that govern their conduct in a civil or criminal court (Houck and Siegel). In the U. S. legal system the admissibility of all evidence is guided by rules of evidence. These rules determines what evidence may be admitted, for what uses, and under what conditions.

This is true of scientific evidence as well. In addition, scientific evidence also has an additional layer of rules that must be obeyed in order for it to be admitted. The culmination of a forensic scientist’s efforts is to write a report on the examinations performed and then, if needed, testify to those results in a court of law. Professional forensic scientists must be able to explain the theories, methods, procedures, analyses, results, and interpretations of the scientific examinations performed.

And the scientist must do this without being an advocate for either side in a case: Impartiality is the hallmark of science, and this is especially true of forensic science (Houck and Siegel). Forensic science is introduced into court in a way class characteristic evidence that does not reference a particular suspect, and individual-linking testimony that inferentially associates a particular individual with the commission of a crime (Pyrek). These class statements are essential investigative links in the chain of circumstantial evidence pointing toward a particular suspect.

The success of such efforts is directly related to the integrity of the crime-scene preservation (Kiely). Body excretions, hair, fiber, ballistics and toolmarks, soil, glass and paint, footwear and tire impressions, fingerprints, blood spatter, DNA, and forensic anthropology and entomology are can be used as physical evidence for prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges (Kiely). The drawback of criminal investigation and forensics In a statement on its Web site the Innocence Project asserts, however, “The American criminal justice system fails sometimes.

One price of these failures is the loss of life and livelihood for those unfortunate enough to be wrongfully convicted. The cases of those exonerated by DNA testing have revealed disturbing fissures and trends in our criminal justice system…the pace of post-conviction DNA exonerations continues to grow. Not only has DNA testing proven that these individuals are innocent, it has also shown that our criminal justice system makes mistakes that leave true perpetrators on the street while the innocent are incarcerated or face execution” (Pyrek).

The Innocence Project also pointed out that DNA testing is indeed a powerful tool but its limitation would be on the availability of any biological evidence that once lost, or destroyed, or too degraded to get a conclusive result, could lead wrongful convictions (Pyrek). To answer these complain, the National Research Council (NRC) recommended various policies and practices to improve the quality of DNA-typing information and its presentation in court: Completion of adequate research into the properties of typing methods to determine the circumstances under which they yield reliable and valid results

Formulation and adherence to rigorous protocols Creation of a national committee on forensic DNA typing to evaluate scientific and technical issues arising in the development and refinement of DNA-typing technology Studies of the relative frequencies of distinct DNA alleles in 15 to 20 relatively homogenous subpopulations Proficiency testing to measure error rates and to help interpret test results Quality assurance and quality control programs Mechanisms for accreditation of laboratories Judicial notice of the scientific underpinnings of DNA typing

Databases and records freely available to all parties An end to occasional expert testimony that DNA typing is infallible and that the DNA genotypes detected by examining a small number of loci are unique (Pyrek). Several of these recommendations have been put into practice while some are still under process. The old techniques have been improved and new techniques have been used and have increased the power and reliability of DNA data. However, controversy over the forensic application of DNA has continued.

The most debatable issues have involved statistics, population genetics, and potential laboratory errors in DNA profiling (Pyrek). Trends of forensic science In 2003, the FBI opened its new 500,000 square feet laboratory building in Quantico, VA. The new building has some of the most advanced forensic research equipment in the world, and is headquarters to more than 650 examiners and technicians. The new lab cost about $130 million to build and provides free analysis of any type of physical evidence for international, federal, state, and local policy agencies.

A new analytical instrument such as mass spectrometer is quickly becoming the premier detector in the analytical laboratory. The threat of terrorism is a prominent concern for any forensic scientist nowadays. Criminologists will need to be trained to detect and handle weapons of mass destruction. The forensic scientists of the future will require training in the fields of bioterrorism and ionizing radiation (Trimm). Truly, the combined force of forensic science and law has been a very important tool in our search for factual truth and justice pursuits.

Forensic science in the courtrooms and public safety organizations is generally considered a modern phenomenon, with the development of the great profession of forensic pathology and the availability of university-trained criminalists, crime scene specialists, toxicologists, and laboratory doctorates. Forensic scientists are now the most popular heroes of current television, if you look at the astounding ratings of shows such as Law and Order, Crossing Jordan, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and NCIS (Wecht and Rago).

Works Cited

Camenson, Blythe. Opportunities in Forensic Science Careers. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001. Holden, Henry M. To Be a Crime Scene Investigator. Zenith Imprint, 2006. Houck, Max M. Forensic Science: Modern Methods of Solving Crime. Greenwood Press, 2007. Houck, Max M. , and Jay A. Siegel. Fundamentals of Forensic Science. Academic Press, 2006. James, Stuart H. , and Jon J. Nordby. Forensic Science: An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques. CRC Press, 2005. Kiely, Terrence F. Forensic Evidence: Science and the Criminal Law.

CRC Press, 2006. McCartney, Carole. Forensic Identification and Criminal Justice: Forensic Science, Justice and Risk. Willan Publishing, 2006. Pyrek, Kelly. Forensic Science under Siege: The Challenges of Forensic Laboratories and the Medico-Legal Investigation System. Academic Press, 2007. Trimm, Harold Henry. Forensics the Easy Way. Barron's Educational Series, 2005. Wecht, Cyril H. , and John T. Rago. Forensic Science and Law: Investigative Applications in Criminal, Civil, and Family Justice. CRC Press, 2006.