11.07.2012

Today’s Investigative Special Report – November 7, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “The Innocence Project – Law Enforcements Reminder Of Past Failures”


By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc
Skulls on a Beach:
Skulls on a Beach: "Currents carry many dead things to Punuk Island making it the graveyard of the Bering Sea." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Forensic Expert – Senior Author
The difficulty with analyzing a crime scene is having the skills, abilities, knowledge, education, and training in understanding what it tells you as a law enforcement officer. If it is your first crime scene your emotions will be out-of-sort due to the up and down feelings you have when you are viewing your first dead body. A body which is sometimes so violently ripped apart that you will never know what the person looked like when he was alive.
Once the crime scene is processed and all the evidence is identified, protected, photographed, collected, stored, and then analyzed, the investigator assigned to the case begins the ‘hunt’ to identify, apprehend, prosecute, and imprison the individual who committed the heinous act against an innocent person.
Sometimes even with the best intentions law enforcement officers don’t do what they are supposed to do. Although major and significant changes have been made over the past century in how to process a crime scene some officer’s novice and experienced will fail to take the right steps in 
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  (L-R) Innocence Projec...
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck, film subject Betty Anne Waters and actress Hilary Swank attend the screening of 'Conviction' hosted by the Innocence Project at The French Institute on October 13, 2010 in New York City. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
obtaining and collecting the evidence which could identify the perpetrator.
During the ‘hunt’ to find the perpetrator, there will be a series of interviews which will need to be performed in order to understand who the victim was. A police protocol and procedure sometimes known as ‘Victimology’ will be conducted by multiple investigators. In performing the ‘Victimology’ it is always the hope of the investigators that during this investigative process the perpetrator will be identified.
A reverse timeline of events is necessary to understand what the victim had been doing prior to his death. The events should provide an overall picture of who the victim had contact with, any girlfriend/boyfriend problems, spousal issues, business problems, and so forth.
During the Victimology the evidence collected at the crime scene will be processed by the crime scene technicians, investigators, and eventually taken to the State Crime Laboratory for analysis.
Common analysis which are performed are blood comparisons to anyone the victim may have known or the DNA will be identified and processed through a multitude of databases for comparisons. The initial process will be to try and match the blood found at the crime scene to the potential perpetrators that have been identified in the initial investigation.
This investigative process has much value to the investigator as like fingerprints no one has the same blood make-up; each person has their own DNA. If the DNA does not match the potential perpetrators then the investigator will either find another route to identify the perpetrator or begin pursuing other leads. The investigative results and the next steps the officer takes are cyclical in that the same process has to be repeated. Eventually, the officer will find the correct perpetrator. Blood comparisons will be made and if there is a match then the officer will then build his case around the perpetrator.
A law enforcement officer must demonstrate patience at all times during the investigative process as the investigative steps initially taken may direct the investigator to a dead end. The officer then must re-evaluate the evidence and facts of the case. With new hypotheses of who may have wanted to harm or murder the victim the investigator may pursue up to two dozen hypothesis until there are positive and successful findings.
The Innocence Project was created in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. The purpose of the project was to utilize experts in the field of the criminal justice system who have expertise in such professional fields as serology, fingerprinting, profiling, lawyers, and so forth. Utilizing their expertise provides indigent individuals who are in prison for crimes they state they did not commit.
An investigative process generally includes a review of the defense and state discovery, including State Crime Laboratory results, evidence, witness statements, autopsy reports, and other relevant information. This process will assist those at the Project to determine if there are any significant issues they may be able to bring to the courts attention.
Let me provide you with a few examples of significant issues which courts have heard from the Innocence Project:
On November 2, 2012 in Jefferson City, Missouri a Cole County Judge today vacated the 
English: forensic DNA evidence
English: forensic DNA evidence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
murder and rape conviction of George Allen Jr. based on the failure to disclose numerous pieces of evidence pointing to Allen’s innocence. Allen was convicted in 1983 and has served more than 30 years behind bars. (Innocence Project, 2012)
On August 24, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas with the consent of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, a Texas judge today vacated the conviction and freed David Wiggins based on new DNA evidence proving him innocent of a 1988 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl. Wiggins walked out of the Tarrant County Court House today after serving 24 years for a crime he always maintained he didn’t commit. (Innocence Project, 2012)
There have been 300 individuals exonerated from comparing DNA evidence to the that which was found at the crime scene. Since DNA evidence was established in the late 1980s officers collected evidence prior to the DNA being utilized as a tool to compare blood types did not exist. Once the Innocence Project is made aware that such evidence exists there are legal arguments to have the blood tested or retested.
No one is pointing the fingers at law enforcement officers prior to the 1980s for failing to compare DNA evidence. However, after DNA evidence was developed law enforcement officers who failed to have the evidence analyzed because they were afraid the evidence findings would not match their theory of the case is not only incompetence at its best, but criminal.


Lawrence W. Daly
206-650-0229
Kent, WA


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