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Presentation of Evidence, Research Paper Example

Pages: 2

Words: 656

Research Paper

Introduction

In a very real sense, the entire criminal justice system is completely dependent upon evidence. Without the factor of evidence, a meaningful application of justice is virtually impossible, for evidence establishes, at its most effective, proof of the identity of the criminal.

“The principles of good evidence are standard across all legal forums and disciplines” (Ireland, Fisher, 2010, p. 109.) Unfortunately, just what constitutes “good” evidence is an area open to continually fresh interpretation, as well as what technology may reveal. As crucial as the component of evidence is, so too is its integrity usually the most contested part of any trial.

Forms and Applications      

People typically think of evidence as tangible realities, such as murder weapons, surveillance results, fingerprints, and the like. Simple witness testimony, however, is the most commonly applied evidence there is, and is by its very nature subject to intense scrutiny. Laws have evolved which placed extreme parameters on witness testimony, and reflect both modern concerns for human rights as well as ancient codes of conduct. For example, regarding the latter, a spouse may not be compelled to testify against his or her spouse. This law is debated in today’s courts; its standing sets marital obligations above the needs of the people, and this is a striking exception in any republic’s legal framework.

Then, “hearsay” remains a problematic form of evidence, where a second party reports on conversations or activities known in a removed way. With all witness testimony, uncertainty usually prevails. “Honest witnesses may sometimes give evidence that is inaccurate; mistaken evidence of identification by eyewitnesses is a classic example” (Gabbay, 2010, p. 304).

Physical evidence is introduced in a trial when the evidence of testimony is occurring, to substantiate or refute the witness’ claims. This is carefully watched. Absolutely conclusive proof of a crime may be thrown out by the court if the evidence has been obtained illegally. Then, there are strict guidelines set down, that the opposing counsel must be made privy to what the other side is intending to produce.  Both sides do their utmost to obtain valuable evidence, relying on the police crime scene teams: “The reconstructionist at the crime scene will see relationships that can quickly lead to other evidence” (Mozayani, 2010, p. 114)

Evidence in Action

In 1989, and after years of serving time and undergoing multiple arrests, a man named Gary Dotson became the first person declared to be innocent because of DNA testing. Dotson’s legal history is, again, lengthy and disturbing; in 1977,  a young woman named Cathleen Crowell asserted that she had been raped upon leaving her job in a Chicago suburb, and she identified Dotson as the assailant from police mug shots. At the trial, both the girl and the state police forensic scientist were unequivocal in their certainty that Dotson had been the rapist. He was convicted to a sentence of not less than twenty-fours years.

Some years later, the girl confessed that she had fabricated the rape story. There were also disclosures made as to the veracity of the forensic evidence, but what ultimately freed Dotson was his attorney’s having read an article about innovations in DNA testing. The court approved the procedure and “…on August 15, 1988, the governor was informed that the…tests conclusively excluded Dotson…” (Krimsky, Simoncelli, 2010, p. 126).

Conclusion

Despite the many difficulties brought on by determining the rightness of evidence, it is the cornerstone of the legal system. Evidence, in any form, both provides counsel with substance, and fuels the adversarial process by demanding thorough examinations as to its integrity and relevance.

References

Gabbay, D. M. (2010.) Approaches to Legal Rationality. New York, NY: Springer.

Ireland, C. A., and Fisher, M. J. (2010.) Consultancy and Advising in Forensic Practice: Empirical and Practical Guidelines. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Krimsky, S., and Simoncelli, T. (2010.) Genetic Justice: DNA Data Banks, Criminal Investigations, and Civil Liberties. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Mozayani, A. (2010.) The Forensic Laboratory Handbook Procedures and Practice: Second Edition. New York, NY: Springer.

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