DNA and Privacy

DNA is one of the best ways to identify a person, considering that each person’s DNA is completely unique to them. There is a DNA data bank, CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), run by the FBI. It has four indexes, all for different purposes. They are Convicted Offender Index, Forensic Index, Unidentified Human Remains Index, and the Relatives of Missing Persons Index.

Some people worry about law enforcement and their personal privacy and rights when it comes to DNA collection. There is special concern about the relatives of missing persons because the people in that section are subjected to “lifelong genetic surveillance” even though they did nothing wrong. This can be one of the reasons a person refused to give a sample of their DNA. Some consider it to be invasive and do not want their personal information in a nation-wide database and can be matched to someone at any time.

Sometimes DNA evidence sends the wrong person to jail and the truth doesn’t come out until years later or may never be revealed. This can be caused by mixing up samples, labeling mistakes, and misidentification of a sample. Samples can also be unknowingly contaminated. This is why the person handling and collecting the DNA must be extremely careful.

Law enforcement has to be careful not to cross any boundaries when they collect DNA. Personal privacy is very important to some and the decision to not consensually give a DNA sample must be respected.

Source: Krimsky, Sheldon, and Tania Simoncelli. Genetic Justice. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Print.

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Crime Scene Procedures

No two crime scenes are exactly alike. Even though some may seem extremely similar, there is always something different. Crime scene investigators (CSIs) are usually one of the first people on a scene and their job is extremely important.

One aspect of a crime scene is location. Crime scenes can be located anywhere, but special procedures are required for each one. For example, if a crime scene is outdoors, a CSI should use stepping plates so they are not stepping directly onto the ground and possibly contaminating evidence. They also must take wind strength, weather, and length since discovery of the scene into consideration when collecting evidence. If a crime scene (such as burglary) occurs indoors, a CSI must be prepared to talk to the homeowners. Additionally, the CSI has to know whether to take items from the home for further examination based on the crime committed there.

If a crime is committed in a car, the CSI may need to take extensive evidence, sometimes going as far as to take a seat covering or taking the carpet of the car out to examine and take evidence. Fingerprints are often taken from cars and tape is used to lift evidence from the materials of the seats and carpets. If the crime scene is a car or somebody’s property, the CSI must be prepared to be respectful of the property and consider carefully if they need to take an object as evidence or not.

Although no crime scene is the same as others, some procedures remain the same. A CSI is a crucial part of evidence collection as usually, the evidence collected will lead back to the person who committed the crime and help bring that person to justice and closure to the family or victim of a crime.

Source: “Introduction to Crime Scenes.” University of Derby. 10 July 2014. YouTube clip. 9 November 2015.

History of Forensic Science

The history of forensic science is very long and involved. It started from nothing and has been built up over the years to become the complex and advanced field it is today.

In any violent crime, it will most likely include blood, and a good amount of it. In the beginning, though blood might have been found, it was impossible to prove whether the blood was human or animal or who the blood even came from as there were no tests in place. Eventually, tests were introduced that could distinguish animal from human blood. Today, a sample of blood can be taken from a scene and using DNA, investigators can match the blood to the person it came from. DNA is also an important aspect of any crime. DNA samples can be tested hundreds of years after it has been found or taken from a scene. Many cold cases have been solved in the past years as DNA testing has become more advanced, and samples from years old cases have been taken from storage and retested. This can bring the criminal to justice and closure to the family of the victim whose murderer had been living free for years.

On the topic of ballistics, guns started out very rudimentary. At first they were slow to load and could only fire one shot at a time. After the shot had been fired, the gun had to be completely reloaded again, so they were seen as a waste of time even though they were quite deadly. However, as guns have changed and become more efficient, so have the methods used to identify the guns used in murder cases. As the barrel of a gun is shaved down and formed, scratches are left in it. These scratches leave unique grooves on a bullet, which can then be matched back to the gun it was fired from. This advancement was extremely helpful as investigators can identify who owns the gun that was used to kill or injure someone. Even if the owner has an alibi for the time of the crime, ownership of the gun can still provide clues to who had possession of it if not the owner.

Poisons were often used to kill someone because it left no violent marks on a body and the cause of death could be mistaken for a sickness. Arsenic used to be the most popular method of murder by poison because it is a colorless and odorless powder, and was untraceable using old methods. Over the years, tests for finding and identifying poisons have appeared. Today, a wide variety of poisons can be tested for and identified.

Forensic science has evolved over the years to become the advanced and involved field it is today. With the steps forward that have been made, forensic science helps immensely to bring criminals to justice.

Source: McCreery, Nigel. Silent Witnesses. Chicago: Chicago Review Press Incorporated, 2014. Print.

Senior Project 2015-2016

Welcome to my Senior Project blog! This blog is for the purpose of documenting my research and will be the final product for my project. My project consists of researching criminal justice (specifically the coroner) and doing an internship at the local coroner’s office in January after I turn 18. I will be involved with investigating deaths, be present at death scenes, and have the opportunity to view autopsies. The topics I am researching will be helpful when I am actually involved with the coroner and seeing the work they do.

The information on this blog will come from online articles, videos, interviews, pictures, books, or any other source that has helpful information.

Thanks for stopping by!