Criminal Justice Technology

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Date added: 17-06-26


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Technology within the Criminal Justice System has evolved through the years. DNA is one type of technology that has revolutionized the criminal justice system. Law enforcement uses this method to aide in the capture and conviction of criminals; at times have led to exonerate criminals who were wrongly convicted. There is still a lot that can be learned about DNA and all the possibilities that DNA may be able to prove. Fingerprints are not the only technology that has vastly improved within the criminal justice system. In 1984, Dr. Alec Jefferys, an English geneticist, discovered what is known as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) DNA fingerprinting or DNA Profiling ("DNA's Detective Story", 2004). Dr. Jefferys found sequences of regions of DNA repeated over and over again and the number of sections repeated could differ from person to person (DNA Basic History). With these DNA sequence variations, the ability to perform identity tests on humans were developed (DNA Basic History). DNA is a genetic material that can be found in a person's semen, skin cells, tissue, organs, muscle, brain cells, bone, teeth, hair, saliva, mucus, perspiration, fingernails, urine, feces, etc. (DNA Basic Biology). DNA such as sweat, skin, blood, tissue can be found on handles of weapons, hats, eyeglasses, facial tissue, dirty laundry and other various items (DNA Basic Indentifying DNA). Saliva can be found on items such as toothpicks, cigarette butts, postage stamps. Envelope flaps, bottle, cans or glass, pillows, and various other items (DNA Basic Indentifying DNA). Cytosine, Guanine, Thymine, and Adenine are the four building blocks for which DNA is comprised (DNA Basic Indentifying DNA) In 1985, Great Britain authorities were seeking to deport a teenager from Ghana who came to Great Britain to join his mother ("DNA's Detective Story", 2004). Mr. Jefferys was able to provide the court with DNA evidence showing that half of the teenager's bands matched his mother and the other half his father, thereby saving the teenager from being deported ("DNA's Detective Story", 2004). The first documented criminal case using DNA led to the 1987 conviction of Colin Pitchfork in England for the rape and murder of two people ("DNA's Detective Story", 2004). Tommy Lee Andrews of Orlando is the first person in the U.S. to be convicted in a 1987 rape case, using DNA profiling (Inman, Rudin, 2002 July 02). The DNA profiling proved Andrews was guilty of rape by a 10 billion-to-1 probability (Willing, N.D.) "In April 2001, a "cold hit" was made to the perpetrator's convicted offender DNA profile in the database" (DNA Initiative "Night Stalker"). It was a break Goldsboro Police Department, Goldsboro North Carolina had been waiting for (DNA Initiative "Night Stalker") The DNA hit was on Linwood Forte who was brought in after he was convicted of shooting into an occupied dwelling (DNA Initiative "Night Stalker"). After Mr. Forte a search warrant had been obtained and served for a DNA swap, it matched with a cold case in July 1990 (DNA Initiative "Night Stalker"). In July 1990, three elderly women were raped and stabbed to death (DNA Initiative "Night Stalker") One of the elderly women's husband had been stabbed to death as well (DNA Initiative "Night Stalker") This shows that DNA evidence that is properly collected and preserved can prove to be a an excellent tool in helping anyone in the Criminal Justice Field to solve cold case files. The first person to be exonerated by DNA evidence is Kirk Bloodsworth (Innocence Project, N.D). Mr. Bloodsworth was sentenced to death for a murder, sexual assault and rape of a nine year old girl, he did not commit in Maryland in 1984 (Innocence Project, N.D). Mr. Bloodsworths arrest came from an anonymous tip stating they had seen him with the girl the same day (Innocence Project, N.D.). Identification was made after a witness identified him as the man they had seen from a police sketch (Innocence Project, N.D.). After his conviction in March 1985, Mr. Bloodsworth lawyers were able to get a new trial based up on evidence that law enforcement had another suspect that had been withheld from Mr. Bloodsworth defense attorneys (Innocence Project, N.D.). Mr. Bloodsworth was again found guilty, but this time he was sentenced to two life terms in prison (Innocence Project, N.D.). The prosecution agreed in 1992 for a DNA test to be done by Forensic Science Associates (Innocence Project, N.D.). Even though the spermatozoa amount on the slide insufficient after Forensic Science Associates performed, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based testing (Innocence Project, N.D.). However, testing performed by Forensic Science Associates and The FBI on the victim's panties excluded Mr. Bloodsworth (Innocence Project, N.D.). After he had served 8 years in prison, in June 1993, including the two years he was facing execution Mr. Bloodsworth was released (Innocence Project, N.D.). In 2003, the Innocence Protection Act was introduced and establishes Mr. Bloodsworth DNA exonerating him and the act will provide funding for DNA testing (Innocence Project, N.D.). For more than 21 years, the Dereck Bachmann searched for his sister Marci, who had ran away from her Vancouver, Washington in May of 1984 (Ritter, 2007). Through the 21 years, Dereck searched newspapers, files of missing persons and hired a private investigator. (Ritter, 2007). In 2004 there was break in the case (Ritter, 2007). A cold case detective in Missoula, Washington sent a femur from the Deer Creek remains lab to the Center for Human Remains (CHP) for A DNA test to be ran (Ritter, 2007). After the test was performed, the scientist uploaded the information into the CODIS database (Ritter, 2007). In King County, Washington, detectives came across the case file of Marci Bachmann (Ritter, 2007). The detectives were able to track down Marci's mother, father and brother and obtained a DNA samples (Ritter, 2007). Closure for Marci's family on April 6, 2006 when the DNA samples made a hit on remains that had been found just a few months after Marci went missing (Ritter, 2007). In 1990, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) began as a pilot software project by FBI (CODIS Combined DNA Index System). The project served 14 state and local laboratories (CODIS Combined DNA Index System). In 1994 when the DNA Identification Act was formed, the FBI establishes the National DNA Index System for use by law enforcement agencies (CODIS Combined DNA Index System). CODIS software is used in over 25 countries laboratories and over 170-law enforcement agencies participate in the NDIS (CODIS Combined DNA Index System). The Combined DNA Index System is funded by the FBI in order for public forensic DNA laboratories to create a database of searchable DNA profiles (DNA Initiative DNA Databases). CODIS allows laboratories access and to be able to share and compare information (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). There are two indexes that the CODIS use: the convicted offender index and forensic index (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). Individuals convicted of crimes ranging from misdemeanors to sexual assault and murder have their DNA is stored in the convicted offender index (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). The DNA profiles stored in the forensic index come from evidence obtained from crime scenes (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). When a DNA profile is entered into CODIS, a potential match is automatically searched for (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). If a match is found in the forensic index, serial offenders can be identified and linked to other crimes scenes (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). If a match is made between both convicted and forensic indexes, it can indentify an offender and can give investigators probable cause to collect a new DNA sample from a suspect (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). CODIS DNA profiles are entered from local, state and national laboratories. Local laboratories maintain local forensic profiles in their local DNA index system and upload DNA profile information into the State DNA index system (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). The state uploads the DNA profiles to NDIS (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). The types of files that can be entered into the DNA database are forensic files, arrestee profiles, suspect profiles, unidentified human remains, missing persons, and relative of missing person profiles (DNA Initiative, DNA Databases). Just like fingerprints, DNA is unique to each person with the exception of identical twins (DNA Initiative, DNA Basics). Any DNA collected from a crime scene can either implicate or eliminate a suspect (DNA Initiative, DNA Basics). DNA can and has been used to identify human remains after comparing DNA taken from a relative (DNA Initiative Identifying Missing Persons). It can also be used in linking two or more crime scenes together DNA Initiative, DNA Basics). When the DNA evidence is compared using CODIS, it can link crime scenes locally, statewide and nationally to the same perpetrator (DNA Initiative, DNA Basics). As you can see, DNA can be a powerful tool used in a court of law. DNA has aided law enforcement agencies in the capture and conviction of criminal offenders. DNA has been used to solve cold case files and exonerate people who were wrongfully convicted. In order for DNA evidence to be upheld in court, the crime scene investigator has to make sure all evidence is collected, bagged and stored properly and free from contamination. Technology has come a long way. DNA is just one of the many technologies that are available to law enforcement. Technology in the criminal justice will forever be evolving with new ideas and developments. Someday, maybe, the criminal justice system will have the technology to obtain evidence from a suspect or crime scene and get results in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks.
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