Evaluating Evidence: Photographs

Photograph (Photo credit: www.robertorey.es)

by Tabetha Cooper

When a crime has been committed, the first goal of the detective is to collect evidence.  Evidence is paperwork, photographs, and any additional things encountered at the crime scene that could be used to determine the perpetrator and prove he committed the offense.  I have been presented with three photographs of a vandalism crime, that was committed at the St. Louis cemetery, to evaluate.  Within this paper we will explore what the photo is telling us.  This will be done by discussing whether each photo is reliable, additional information is needed for the photo to be conclusive, the photo is misleading, and if the photo implies anything.
            The first photograph is of the tomb with the markings from the vandal(s).  It collaborates the witnesses statement that XXX was written on the tomb, along with other spray painted markings.  Due to the collaboration of the witness statement this photo is a reliable piece of evidence.  There is a need for some additional information.  The detective needs to determine what, if any, markings were present on the tomb prior to the vandalism.  Nothing misleading appears in this photograph.  Clearly the photographer effectively captured the work of the vandal(s).  The only implication in this photograph is that a crime was indeed committed.
            Photograph two shows us each, individual mark on the tomb.  It also measures each mark individually.  With measurements precisely given, the photo can tell us what type of paint was used IE. spray paint, paint brush, etc.  It can also imply the time it took to complete the entire vandalism act.  This photo shows that there were markings that were made hastily as well as some that took time to do for example, the numerous XXX's on the tomb.  This photograph is reliable as it gives us the exact measurements as previously stated.  There is no additional information needed for this photograph since the primary purpose of this photo is to detail each marking.  This photo is not misleading, it represents an accurate placing of each mark upon the tomb.
            The third photo shows the escape route that the vandal(s) used.  The photograph reliably shows the supposed route of escape, although works best for those familiar with the lay out of the cemetery.  Additional information is needed for this photograph; such as the rest of the lay out of the cemetery and a witness statement that details the exact way he/she passed through this escape route.  The photo can be misleading if there is not additional statements to back up that this was his/her route of escape.  It can also be misleading if you are not familiar with the passages between the vandalized tomb and the point of exit the vandal(s) utilized.  The only implications in the photo is the exact place the vandal(s) escaped the cemetery, which is what it was meant to infer.
            Photographs are wonderful pieces of evidence that can visually help someone to determine what took place during a crime.  As could be seen in these photographs, the crime was vandalism and time was spent to perpetrate this crime.  Even though a photograph provides a visual aid, one must be careful of what they are viewing because if information is missing a photo can be misinterpreted, leaving it unreliable and misleading. 

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