FORENSIC SCIENCE AND THE LAW

INTRODUCTION

Simply put, forensic science is the application of science to the law or legal matters. This field of science is much more well-known today, thanks to shows like CSI and Forensic Files. It is often overlooked as a result of Hollywood’s determination to wrap up every case in a single episode of pseudo-life-drama-action, advertisements included. Some well-known scenarios are from the series Lucifer, or the crime drama Forensics, How to Get Away With Murder, Sherlock, Breaking Bad and Mentalist where an old-fashioned detective work gets done within the day and the results are staggering.  A forensic scientist is often called over to introduce “science into the courtroom when the real-life justice system requires it to answer a question”. Science and law make odd partners. Science is a method of learning based on empirical evidence and based on the concepts of observation and discovery.

THE JURISPREUDENCE AND FORENSIC CONNECTION

The rule begins with at least two opposing parties who use the courtroom as a war zone to debate the issues with the facts within the framework of legislative and decisive law.

In jurisprudence, forensics entails the application of information and technology from various scientific disciplines. Biology, pharmacy, chemistry, medicine, and so on, and each of these applies in today’s increasingly complicated legal cases, on which specialists from these fields are required to prove offenses. Now most of us might get clarity on why we had to gear up and study biology, physics, and chem as a part of our law entrance prep. Well, this is no joke, the lawyers taking up the case should have complete knowledge or at least to figure out the missing piece of the puzzle in the case.

SCIENCE AND ITS ROLE IN LAW

Serological and DNA analyses of physiological fluids in the human body are used in forensic biology to classify and individuate humans, animals, and microorganisms. It is worth noting that some techniques have been used since the beginning of medicine, and they’re still in use today. DNA testing identifies a molecule made up of nucleotides that contain the elements that govern the formation and function of all living things. DNA analysis is used to make criminals commit crimes using their blood, hair follicles, saliva, or sperm.

In the criminal context, DNA research confirms a key theory of modern criminology: “there is no such thing as a perfect crime.”[1]

Science’s role in the legal system is essentially one of reconstruction or attempting to figure out what occurred, where it happened, why it happened, and who was involved. When research is used in this manner, the word “forensic” is added, indicating that it can be used in a legal setting. The proof is subjected to forensic examination to assist the court in determining facts to settle criminal or civil disputes. The forensic scientist’s task is to transform the legal inquiry into a scientific question that can be answered, as well as to educate the judiciary on the strengths and weaknesses of current techniques.

The first few minutes of entering a crime scene are the most crucial in the whole case as the detectives or the police involved will the closest to the moment of crime than they will ever be. The scene will be untouched and hence not contaminated with new evidence and the evidence present are the sole of the suspects. One may even call this the golden hour because the scene is just too pristine and pure and hence accurate. Evidence such as tire marks, hair of the criminal involved, footprints, fingerprints is authentic in the first few minutes of entering the crime scene and the most informative.

 A PEEK INTO THE PRACTICAL REAL WORLD

One of the very best is the case of the dissolved wife[2], where the husband of the victim dissolved her body in lye completely in his factory and played the victim to the police lodging a missing person complaint. The police suspected foul play on the part of the husband after eyewitnesses confirmed seeing Luetgert with his wife the night she went missing. After a thorough search of their factory, the police discovered the body of the wife with the vat leaking of hair and bones, bits of cloth, and even jewellery. The police traced the bills of Luetgert purchasing arsenic and potash, substances used for burning and disposing of stuff, and traced him as the culprit. But in those days, it was hard to identify remains as such and prove but it was an early forensic scientist who confirmed that the remains recovered belonged to Louisa, the victim.

Forensic odontology deals with cases where the bodies of the victim are beyond recognition. This forensic dentistry confirms the identity of the victim by examining teeth, mouth alignment, and mouth structure. This also comes in handy where there are bite marks involved. The case of the Vampire Rapist[3], in the late 1960s, is a classic example of this method. In this case, the accused left a trail of sexually assaulted and strangled to death women with bite marks on their breasts. This was confirmed after the police recovered a series of bodies with similar bite marks on their bodies. With another evidence leading to Boden, the accused in this case, the forensic scientist matched the teeth pattern and mouth structure taken from the bite marks on the victims and matched it to Boden thus getting solid evidence.

AREAS OF FORENSIC SCIENCE

Forensic toxicology deals with controlled substances, which are substances legally recognized as having the potential to abuse. Drugs such as cocaine or meth or heroin need no introduction to the present generation as they have a wide exposure of those through social media and entertainment as such. Detecting such substances in the scene of crime help authorities deal with law enforcement for drug-based violence and opioid usage. The toxicology report provides details such as the amount of substance in the person and the incidence of drug abuse which play an important role in cases of sexual assault, road accidents, and poisoning, etc. This field of the forensic area is dynamic since new medications and drugs are created every day and hence scientists have to come with new methods of approach to keep up with the changing times.

Anthropology in the forensic area of expertise helps with human remains that are damaged to identify the age, gender, height, etc. Evaluation of injuries helps in determining the time of death and how old the injuries might be. This helps in getting clarity on when the crime would have occurred. The part of forensics helps in providing identification for bodies that are damaged beyond recognition.

Blood patterns are usually quite helpful in homicide investigations by helping the police determine the weapon used or if the attacker was left or right-handed. Characteristic patterns to remember to include passive rises, transfer patterns. The blood source, if at a 90-degree angle from the body’s surface in passive fall, it is also called 90-degree blood drops. Blood drops with a temperature of 90 degrees are unlikely to be the victim’s blood and hence should be documented. Blood patterns such as transfer/contact patterns are also significant. “When a bloody surface is moved to another surface, these patterns emerge”.

Ballistics is a type of forensic science which deals with motion, movement, behaviour, and effect of projectiles such as bullets and bombs. A bullet found at a crime scene, for example, may reveal the type of gun used to shoot it and whether it had been involved in any previous crimes. The ballistic details are stored in a massive database that law enforcement agencies all over the world can access.

CONCLUSION

Over the past two decades, the number of crime labs around the world has risen dramatically. India established the first official crime laboratory in 1952.[4] There are currently about 35 forensic laboratories in the country that are limited to specific facts[5]. The rise in the number of crime laboratories is due to the rising rank and file in the field of forensic sciences, as well as the critical role forensic evidence plays in many criminal cases. The media emphasizes the importance of forensic science while also focusing on forensic science mistakes in high-profile cases.

Both criminal and civil cases rely heavily on forensic observations and judgements. Forensics techniques in cases, as well as the conclusions of their work, must be present during the process for which they are contracted, according to identical legal standards. Expert testimony is considered to be of high quality if the expert witness is familiar with the relevant legal regulations, among other things.

Forensic science is advancing swiftly due to the rapid expansion of modern science and technological developments. As a result, forensics has evolved into a simple, dependable, and low-cost approach to the criminal investigation.

Author(s) Name: Uthra Varadharajan (Student, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad)

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[1] Sinisa Franjic, Legal aspects of forensics, (Peertechz Publications, 2018) < https://www.peertechzpublications.com/index.php/articles/legal-aspects-of-forensics.pdf >

[2] Strageremains, The case of sausage vat murder and the dissolved wife, (Strange Remains, 2014) < https://strangeremains.com/2014/08/31/the-case-of-the-sausage-vat-murder-and-the-dissolved-wife/ >

[3] 10 cold cases solved,(Forensics college, 2013) < https://www.forensicscolleges.com/blog/resources/10-cold-cases-solved >

[4] Tewari RK, Ravikumar KV, History and development of forensic science in India, (Bio line International, 2000) < http://www.bioline.org.br/request?jp00100 >

[5] Exploring the history of forensic science through ages, (Incognito Forensic Foundation) < https://ifflab.org/history-of-forensic-science/ >