Sunday, October 15, 2006

Preparing for Court

Having worked in Crime Scene Investigation for many years, I have also had my fair share of experience testifying for major trials. One of the most important things I have learned over the years is to tie up the loose ends. It's easy to do and easier to forget.

When I start working on a major case, especially a 'whodunnit', the only thing I want to do is to find that one piece of evidence that identifies the suspect. A bloody fingerprint, a smattering of DNA...whatever. While I'm looking for that Holy Grail of Crime Scene Investigation, I collect an awful lot of other stuff along the way. A tire casting, a hair fiber, or even a bunch of latent fingerprints. If I get lucky enough to find a piece of magic that links me to the bad guy and solves the case, I almost always have to take a break and catch my breath. Especially if I've been working for several days and nights with no sleep.

The problem comes when you have to start working on another case before you tie up all of the loose ends on the one before it. Sure, we caught the guy, but we still have to win that case in court. That means you need to take all that extra stuff that doesn't seem to matter anymore and analyze it anyway. The last thing you want to happen in the middle of a trial is for a defense attorney to bring out all of this evidence and ask you what you did with it. "Did you really have all of this evidence that could have proven the innocence of my client and you didn't bother to even look at it?" It doesn't matter how 'airtight' your case is. When it goes to a jury, it's what the layman believes. If he thinks you did a poor job, your airtight evidence goes out the window. However, if you can tell that defense attorney about all the tests you did on all that other stuff even though you had solved the case, then you'll look good in the jury's eyes and they'll be more apt to believe you.

After all, we don't have to convince ourselves, the prosecuting attorney, or even the judge. It's all up to those twelve people that sit in those chairs across from you that make the ultimate decision.