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Forensic Testimony in Court

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Examine Forensic Testimony Forensic evidence has become more and more important in the court case for proving the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant. Due to new technology the world of forensics is becoming more and more advanced providing law enforcement with all types of new investigatory tools and ways for the court to prove or disprove guilt. It is essential for law enforcement agencies to have trained forensic personnel with the skills to properly collect the evidence first to ensure the evidence does not become lost, destroyed, or damaged and the forensic evidence is accepted in a court of law. Improper collection of evidence is only one of many potential challenges associated with forensic evidence but it is an important challenge that must be addressed. Forensic evidence is collected at the crime scene. If the evidence is not properly documented and collected it can be found to be unreliable in the court process. In order for forensic evidence to be accepted in a court of law it must be documented through sketches, photographs, and video tapings and it must be collected using accepted standard forensic collection methods. If evidence is not properly documented or collected the chain of evidence is broken and the court will exclude the evidence from the court case. The chain of evidence refers to an important aspect of forensic involving the movement of evidence. In order to show the court the evidence was located and collected at the scene and then taken directly to the lab for analysis as well as being stored properly at the lab there needs to be clear documentation. This starts with photographing the evidence located at the scene and clearly documenting each step of the collection and analysis process. When forensic evidence is presented in court it must be able to meet a specific legal standard before it can be accepted as reliable evidence in a court of law. The legal standard that is applied to testing reliability is either the Frye or Daubert Standard. In the Frye standard forensic evidence must be collected and analyzed employed widely accepted scientific methods. The Daubert standard came after Frye and requires not only that the evidence be collected and analyzed using widely accepted forensic methods, the scientific must be tested using the scientific method, and the evidence must be reliable and relevant. Each state applies a different standard. States with Frye have less of requirement for reliability than states with Daubert. The CSI Effect is the one of the biggest problem facing courts in the 21st Century. Due to shows, such as CSI, showing a glamorized version of the forensic process, juries expect prosecutors and defense attorneys to present forensic evidence, showing guilt or innocence but most of this burden is put on the state not the defense (Vergano, 2011). The truth is most cases are tried and won using circumstantial evidence and most police departments do not have the high tech forensic tools available to television police departments. Prosecutors are tasked with convincing juries to accept circumstantial evidence over the sought after forensic evidence. Juries are hesitant to convict a criminal without forensic evidence, such as DNA, showing they committed the crimes. Shows like CSI constantly tell the audience a criminal suspect cannot be at a crime scene without leaving evidence behind of their presence. When criminal investigators do not find this evidence at the scene or do not have the money to test the thousands or hairs or fibers located at the scene juries are convinced it because of the failures of police and do not convict. Prosecutor Misuse Forensics has brought many benefits but it has also brought many other challenges. There are many issues impacting the presentation of evidence within the court setting. The prosecutor plays an essential role in the criminal justice process. For one they are adversaries of the defense fighting to prove the guilt of the defendant while on the other hand they play a quasi judicial role. Prosecutors have more discretion than any other member of the court. They have the discretion to give any defendant a plea deal or even decide who will be charged and tried. In their quasi judicial role they can abuse their power by misrepresenting forensic evidence. A prosecutor has a duty to seek justice. The duty of the prosecutor is to seek the truth derived from several different sources (Gershman, 2003). The first source is the prosecutor’s obligation to protect the defendant’s due process rights. This means the prosecutor must share all evidence with the defense. Suppressing evidence is misuse of the evidence. The second source is a legal duty to act ethically and not to abuse the extended power of their office. Because prosecutors have greater discretion than other members of the court they must not abuse their power. Since the prosecutor has greater discretion over the evidence it can create a larger concern over the fairness of the process especially in presenting forensic evidence. If the prosecutor present evidence as valid forensic science while knowing the science is not trusted the fact finding process is flawed. Prosecutors must fight for the victims and the community but never use their authority to violate justice in order to win. The prosecutor must be under the same scrutiny as the defense in presenting reliable evidence and ensure the process is not only fair but just. Justice cannot be served if the prosecutor abuses their power by presenting false or misleading forensic evidence.
Judicial rulings regarding forensic science Judges plays the most important role in the presentation of evidence because if judge deems the evidence to be unreliable then it will not be presented in a court of law. The judge will be presented with forensic evidence which will be evaluated based on the Frye of Daubert Standard. As discussed previously the Frye and Daubert standards are the legal standards applied to assessing forensic evidence before it can be presented in the court. The standard applied in the court is dependent on the standard accepted in the state. States with more rigid evidence standards employ Daubert. Even with the Daubert and Frye Standards there are still different application of evidence by judges. One judge may be more lenient in the allowance of forensic evidence while another judge may apply stricter standards. For example in a state with the Frye Standard a judge may accept forensic evidence as widely accepted by scientific community but under the Daubert standard the same evidence would not be acceptable. Bite mark evidence is a good example of evidence accepted by some courts but not by others. When judges accept forensic evidence in one state as reliable and valid but not in another state it creates confusion especially when the case reaches the federal courts. All evidence has a different level of acceptance in courts but especially forensic evidence. Courts that see forensic evidence on a continuous basis will be far more likely to accept that evidence than a judge who has never or rarely sees evidence developed though forensic processes. The difference in acceptance in courts comes into the question the evaluation processes being used by judges. Judges must see through the deceptive practices of some prosecutors and get educated abput the science being presented.
National Framework for Reform of Forensic Science Forensic science has created a new type of evidence collection and analysis practices that assist police in identifying criminal suspects and proving their guilt. The problem with the forensic word is due to new technology it is always changing and evolving requiring an evolution of the acceptance of forensic evidence in court. Standardized methods are essential to ensuring the way evidence is collected and analyzed the same. If the collections and analysis methods are the same every item it will be easier for judges to give the same ruling on the same evidence in every court. In current society this is just not the case. Standardized methods would be beneficial but can be difficult to ensure these methods stay the same. Technology and forensic methods are constantly changing and adapting requiring a different approach (Lissitzen, 2008). In order for these methods to become more standardized the methods for collecting and analyzing the evidence will need to stay the same. This will not happen in the technological revolution with forensic methods constantly becoming more and more effective. Currently collection methods are standardized leading to wider acceptance in courts. This is the same for some forensic analysis methods.
Forensic evidence has forever changed the court process and the types of evidence proving guilt. Through forensic evidence the identity of criminal offender can be determined or the evidence can be used to prove guilt or innocence. In order to ensure forensic evidence is used properly and the evidence is accepted by the judge standardized methods must be developed and employed by all law enforcement agencies.

Gershman, B. (2003).Scientific Evidence by Prosecutors. Oklahoma City University Law Review, Vol. 28(1): p.25
Lissitzen, C. (2008). Forensic Evidence in Court. Carolina Academic Press, Durham, North Carolina
Vergano, D. (2011). Judges growing critical of 'CSI' evidence. Retrieved February 23, 2014 from

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