Forensic science has surfaced as a critical tool in assigning guilt or establishing innocence in the criminal justice system. In the latter part of the 1980s, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis had been embraced by society. Novel technology in the arena of forensics has continually been unfolding and significant developments achieved since that initial time phase wherein DNA was the sole scientific application.
The veracity of this variable science is that has “undergone a sea change in the last 20 years, because what was traditionally an anecdotal profession has matured into a true laboratory science replete with accuracy and reproducibility in determinations of cause, manner, and mechanisms of death.” (Davis, 2006, ¶2.) The following paragraphs will discuss how important forensic science is to policing and criminal investigations, court processes, and security efforts at the various levels.
The Significance of the Relationship between Forensic Science and the Criminal Justice System
Forensic science is a recognizable component of policing and a determination in criminal investigations, court processes and security efforts at various levels. Critical components in a successful resolve at a crime scene spring from the well of an uncontaminated and pristine site, which, then in turn assures stellar evidence gathering thus an accurate interpretation of the event. Moreover, according to the New York State Trooper:
“advances in technology are being applied to the finite and exacting field of forensic science, a field in which technical competency is achieved only by the synthesis of a number of factors, including training, experience, supervision, continuing education, proficiency and an appreciation of scientific methods and protocols projected against a background of stringent professional ethics.”
The many facets of forensic science in criminal investigations include but are not limited to: bioscience, trace evidence, toxicology, photography, documentation, forensic imagery, forensic ID and SAFIS, evidence receiving, drug chemistry and ballistics. In addition, private forensic laboratories, such as Applied Forensics, are contracted and employed to assist in the judicial process in the analysis of documents in question and handwriting analysis. These forensic document examiners according to Applied Forensics, scrutinize “various physical details and elements of documents in order to identify their source or to determine their authenticity or integrity. Forensic document examiners, or FDE’s, help lawyers by examining and offering written opinions on a variety of disputed document problems.” (2007, ¶5.)
A Paradigm of legal instances benefiting from this type of scientific study would be medical malpractice litigation, probate proceedings, complex and commercial legal action and contract lawsuits. The following paragraphs attest to the accuracy of popular media representation of forensic science and influential presence on the public’s opinion on justice-related issues.
The Court of Public Opinion and Forensic Science
Society has always been fascinated with enigma and fancies living vicariously through the sleuthsayer. The accolades which follow at the successful resolution of a mind boggling mystery are the fodder for many individual dreams. The media and cinematic artists tapped into this desire both in the past and of late, with literary works such as Sherlock Holmes, CSI and many documentaries such as Cold Case files and Unsolved Mysteries urging the public to advance in the event they possess knowledge or speculation concerning the cases. In addition, soothsayers and paranormal experts have been brought into the fold such to assist in intuitive resolution of cold cases.
The effect that impeccable syncrhonicity of the investigator and successful outcomes portrayed in fictional arenas are contemporaneous with the public feeling dissatisfied with the criminal justice system not solving cases fast enough. The public then places astronomical expectations on medical examiners and real life investigators believing that a lack of competency may be at play when in reality, society has been provided a distorted view of the lengthy, painstaking process involved.
This essay has discussed forensic science in the 21st Century criminal justice system. Specifically, the importance of forensic science to policing and criminal investigations, court processes and security efforts. In addition, the accuracy of popular media representation of forensic science and the influence of popular opinion on justice-related issues. Forensic science will continually mature and develop with the dawn of the 21st Century; however, science cannot explain every situation. Therefore, the judicial process should strive to maintain a balance consisting of both emotion and logic, as the Caduceus, the Greek symbol illustrated by two snakes in the form of a double helix. Scientific measure is not infallible and humanistic intuition should remain present within a jury when the question of an individual’s life is at stake.
Davis, G. (2006). Forensic Medicine in the 21st Century: A Realistic View of Our Changing Science. Retrieved January 25, 2008, from BNET Web site: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3725/is_200609/ai_n16717323
(2007). Examiners. Retrieved January 25, 2008, from Applied Forensics Web site: http://www.appliedforensics.com/
(2007). Modern Forensics: 21st Century. Retrieved January 25, 2008, from New York State Trooper Web site: http://www.troopers.state.ny.us/Forensic_Science/Modern_Forensics/