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Forensic Science in the 21st Century

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Forensic Science in the 21st Century

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Aug 2012

Forensic Science in the 21st Century

Forensic science is regarded as an essential component in the resolution of crimes and law enforcement. Collecting and deciphering evidence properly and preserving crime scenes are two of the most important elements in crime-solving. Consequently, technological advances are relevant to the limited and challenging forensic science field. Also, it is a field wherein technical aptitude is attained only by the amalgamation of various dynamics. For example, supervision, continuing education, proficiency, training, experience, coupled with appreciativeness of scientific protocols and methods proposed against a setting of harsh professional beliefs. This submission delves into forensic science’s contributions to policing and criminal investigations, court processes, and security efforts. Also it explores the media’s representation of forensic science, influence on popular opinion for justice-related issues, and “CSI” effect on the judicial process.
Forensic Science Contributions to Policing and Criminal Investigations

The geneses of criminalistics or forensic science are mainly European. Forensic science is an amalgamation of various disciplines, such as chemistry, mathematics, geology, physics, and biology to examine physical evidence associated with crime. Previously, the employment of forensic science methods was focused mainly on severe crimes like homicide and rape. However, forensic methods are being positioned throughout a broader spectrum of crime groupings. Additionally, it is routinely being used to assist the investigation of volume crimes such as robbery, vehicle crime, and burglary (Bradbury & Feist, 2007).
Forensic Science Contributions to Court Processes

In the court process, forensic science may diminish the amount of cases entering the overloaded court system by assisting the decision-makers before a case reaches the court. The truths uncovered by forensic science may persuade a judge, a grand jury, or defense or prosecuting attorneys that a particular issue does not warrant a court hearing. Also forensic science, on occasion, makes connections to a crime or corroborates the existence of a crime. Furthermore, forensic science bestows informational and professional views to judges, attorneys, juries, and investigators that are beneficial in establishing the accused’s guilt or innocence (American Academy of Forensic Science, 2012). In addition, the rule of law is centered on the principle that legal processes bring about justice. However, this principle has received criticism in recent years. Needless to say, forensic science cannot alter distrust and cynicism alone. Moreover, it can contribute to reestablishing faith in court processes by employing technology and science in the hunt for fairness during criminal, regulatory, and civil adversities (American Academy of Forensic Science, 2012).
Forensic Science Contributions toward Security Efforts at Various Levels

The forensic science principles used to assist investigations, intelligence, and operations in the interdiction, deterrence, and prosecution of terrorism are deemed critical element of homeland security. During the 1980’s and 1990s, many terror campaigns in the United States and overseas persuaded the U.S. government to enhance federal forensic science and investigative agencies’ abilities to react more efficiently. For example, forensic science performed a significant role in analyzing the Pan Am Flight bombing (1988), the World Trade Center’s first bombing (1993), the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), Trans World Airline Flight 800’s attack (1996), the USS Cole bombing (2000), and U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania’s bombings (1998) (The National Academic Press, 2012). The disposition of homeland security necessitates the assimilation of forensic science into the investigative protocol sooner than criminal justice’s justification. Furthermore, forensic science executes not only its customary role of surmising what transpired at a crime scene criminal involvement, but also gives exhaustively to spawning investigative clues and directing, testing, and redirecting investigative lines. In this function, forensic science adds to the assembly of timely and applicable investigative and intelligence information on terrorist groups and clandestine cells. Additionally, this warrants enhanced and specialized forensic analysis, information sharing, and traditional forensic science tools. These innovative tools are being created predominantly by the United States’ defense and intelligence communities, with every community altering the innovative tools to its specialized missions and needs (The National Academy Press, 2012). Another homeland security forensic science component is located in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which organizes the Intelligence Community’s different components. Also, inside that agency is a National Counter-proliferation Center that toils in bio-forensics. The substantial risk of the development, procurement, and exploitation of weapons of mass destruction has steered U.S. government organizations toward cultivating innovative forensic science competencies (Cooke, 2007). This development initiated the creation of a dedicated forensic hazardous materials division in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in 1996. Furthermore, the division formed when there was trepidation over weapons of mass destruction in terrorists’ hands while preparing for the Atlanta Olympic Games. Investment and curiosity in this kind of capability has expanded and diversified since its origin in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Also, the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy have increased their use of forensic science capabilities. As such, the programs illustrated above are observable proof of the government’s dedication to forensic science and substructure as fundamental elements of homeland security (Cooke, 2007).
Media Representation of Forensic Science

Forensic science has recently been thrust into the public eye through media exposure. New technologies have enabled cold cases to be revisited and solved. Past convictions have been re-examined and innocent people have been released based on new forensic techniques. This has led to an increased demand for the use of forensic science and for qualified forensic scientists. According to Owens (2009), “The Nielson Media Research concluded that 10 of the 20 most watched programs on broadcast and cable television during the first week of 2009 were criminal justice themed. During broadcast primetime hours in 2009, 18% of shows on ABC, 30% of shows on NBC, 37% of shows on FOX, and 48% of shows on CBS described the investigation and prosecution of, or evasion from, the criminal justice system. An important implication of this phenomenon is that most of the knowledge that the average American has about the criminal justice system comes from watching fictional television shows” (p. 2).
Media Influence on Popular Opinion for Justice-related Issues

In an American Bar Association poll asking respondents to identify "extremely or very important" sources of information on the criminal justice system, 41% of respondents identified television news, 37% identified primetime newsmagazines, and 36% identified local newspapers. Most people also trust the accuracy and fairness of the information received from these sources. At one extreme, some scholars have argued that the news media is extremely powerful, and that it can inject particular points of view into its audience. At the other extreme, scholars have contended that the media has minimal effects on individuals because of various mediating conditions, including their selective exposure to media they find congenial to their views, selective perception in accordance with preexisting beliefs, and selective retention of material consistent with their own views and preferences. At present, the data do not appear to support the strongest view of the media as being able to completely determine the attitudes and opinions of media consumers. However, strong evidence indicates that the media plays an important role in increasing the importance of crime to the public, and both experimental simulations and survey research support the view that the contemporary media coverage increases support for punitive policies. Although the news media is certainly not the only influence on public opinion, the media interacts with and reinforces other key influences, such as American culture and politics, to increase punitiveness.
Influence of the “CSI” Effect on the Judicial Process

The “CSI” effect receiving the majority of media interest refers to exaggerated jury viewpoints a propos a consequential boost in the prosecution’s onus and evidentiary support. In a classic CSI scene, each crime is unraveled with forensic science analyses, and these analyses always determine the perpetrator’s identity. This sequence of events idealizes forensic science, thereby producing irrational optimism in the juror’s minds. As such, jurors become accustomed to every crime being elucidated via forensic evidence in addition to forensic evidence of culpability subsisting in all crimes (Podlas, 2006). As with criminal trial evidence, jurors will anticipate seeing forensic evidence in every single case. Also, it will be necessitated before they will reach a verdict. Where forensic evidence is scarce, jurors may deduce that the proof essential to substantiating a guilty decision does not exist, or infer its nonexistence as vindicating an acquittal (Podlas, 2006).
Conclusion

Detectives once relied on a suspect’s confession and well-honed instincts as the best methods of solving a crime. In the late 1800s, fingerprinting changed all that; however, it was the advent of forensic science’s blood and DNA analysis techniques that transformed police work into a true science. Forensic science has shaped the world of justice, fuelling crime investigations and signifying the progress of modern technology. The history of forensic science is a fascinating one, just because of how important this practice is in modern day crime scene investigation. Without forensics, we would still have an array of criminals on the streets because we could not figure out how a crime took place. Theories can only go so far in a court of law. People need evidence to prove that a certain person committed a certain crime. Forensic science provides that kind of evidence so that crimes can be solved accurately. The events that led up to the discovery of forensic science has shaped the way crimes are solved today.

References

American Academy of Forensic Science. (2012). Choosing a career: So you want to be a

forensic scientist! Retrieved from http://www.aafs.org/choosing-career

Beale, S.S. (2006). The news media's influence on criminal justice policy: How market-driven

news promotes punitiveness. Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/

wmlr/vol48/iss2/2

Bradbury, S.A. and Feist, A. (2005). The use of forensic science in volume crime investigations:

A review of the research literature. Retrieved from Http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/

Publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/police-research/

hoor4305?view=Binary

Cooke Jr., C.L. (2007). Microbial forensics: Gaps, opportunities and issues. Office of the

Deputy Director for Strategy & Evaluation, National Counterproliferation Center.

Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12589&page=282

Owens, E.G. (2009). Media and the criminal justice system. Retrieved from

http://www.law.northwestern.edu/colloquium/law_economics/documents/Owens.pdf

Podlas, K. (2006). “The CSI effect:” Exposing the media myth. Received from

http://iplj.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Article-THE-CSI-EFFECT-

EXPOSING-THE-MEDIA-MYTH.pdf

The National Academy Press. (2012). Homeland security and the forensic science disciplines

http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12589&page=280

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