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Forensic Evidence
Atty. Sheila Catacutan-Besario Silliman University

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Kinds of Forensic Evidence

Biological Evidence
blood, semen, saliva, vaginal secretions, sweat, epithelial cells, vomitus, feces, urine, hair, tissue, bones and microbial and viral agents.

Blood, semen and saliva are the most common biological samples.
These samples are analyzed for nuclear DNA and in some instances mitochondrial DNA.

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Biological Evidence

DNA analysis is scientifically sound. It has a high probative value, though it can still be subject to errors in handling that can invalidate the analysis
The NRC committee basically gave DNA analysis the highest rating, to the extent of it being the standard for all forensic disciplines in terms of accuracy and error rates Id. at 133.

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Analysis of Controlled substances (Forensic Toxicology)

Controlled substances are “illicit” or “illegal” drugs. It is sometimes referred to as abused drugs, street drugs and in the U.S. “controlled substances”.

The analysis of controlled substances has sound chemical foundations. Uncertainties and potential errors are adequately identified in the methods of analysis.

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Forensic Toxicology

Forensic toxicology encompasses the measurement of alcohol, drugs and other toxic substances in biological specimens and interpretation of such results in a medico legal context.
ABFT (American Board of Forensic Toxicology) aims to establish and enhance voluntary standards for the practice of forensic toxicology and for the examination and recognition of scientists and laboratories providing forensic toxicology services.

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Friction Ridge Analysis (Fingerprints)

Fingerprints, palm prints, and sole prints all involve friction ridge analysis. Of importance in the field of friction ridge analysis is fingerprint examination.
Under prevailing standards, the technique used to examine fingerprints made by friction ridge skin is ACE-V: “Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation and Verification.” The NRC report categorically states that ACE-V is not specific enough to qualify as a validated method for conducting friction ridge analysis. ACE-V does not guard against bias; it is too broad to ensure repeatability and transparency; and does not guarantee that two analysts following it will obtain the same results. Claims of zero error rates are not scientifically plausible – zero error rates are unrealistic

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Fingerprint Analysis

Although some scientific evidence supports the presumption that friction ridge patterns are unique to each person and persist unchanged throughout lifetime; uniqueness does not guarantee that prints from two different people are always sufficiently different that they cannot be confused or that two impressions made by the same finger will also be sufficiently similar to be discerned as coming from the same source

+ Other pattern/ Impression Evidence:
Shoeprints and Tire Tracks

Pattern evidence or impression evidence occurs when an object such as shoe or a tire leaves an impression at the crime scene or on another object or a person.
The basis for the evaluation of impression evidence is that mass-produced items pick up features of wear that, over time, individualize them. However, there is no consensus as to the number of individual characteristics that must match in order to have any particular degree of confidence about the source of the impression. In addition, judgment by examiners is experience-based. It is difficult to eliminate bias in these experience-based judgments NRC Report, supra note 1, at 145.

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Toolmarks and Firearms Identification

Toolmarks are generated when a hard object (tool) comes into contact with a relatively softer object. The marks left by an implement such as a screwdriver, crowbar, or wire cutter is used or when the internal parts of a firearm make contact with the brass and lead that comprise ammunition. Because not enough is known about the variabilities among individual tools and guns, there is virtually no way to determine how many points of similarity are necessary for a given level of confidence in the result.

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Toolmarks and Firearms Identification

Sufficient studies have not been done to understand the reliability and repeatability of these methods. Lastly, the NRC report identifies that the fundamental problem in tool mark and firearm analysis is the lack of a precisely defined process.
As was the case for friction ridge analysis and in contrast to the case for DNA analysis, the specific features to be examined and compared between tool marks cannot be stipulated a priori

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Analysis of Hair, Fiber Evidence, Print and Coatings Evidence

One the hardest hit forensic science discipline in the 2009 NRC Report is microscopic hair comparison.
“The committee found no scientific support for the use of hair comparisons for individualization in the absence of nuclear DNA.” Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis can be used in tandem with microscopic hair analysis, but, to date, there are no studies quantify the reliability of this tandem use.

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Analysis of Hair, Fiber Evidence, Print and Coatings Evidence

The basis for hair analyses as forensic evidence stems from the fact that human and animal hairs are routinely shed and are thus capable of being transferred from an individual to the crime scene and from the crime scene to an individual.
Similarly, fiber, print and coatings are useful to forensic science on the same principle – that they may be left at a crime scene by the perpetrator or conversely, a fiber, print, coating may be transferred from the scene of the crime to the perpetrator.

+ Analysis of Explosives Evidence and
Fire Debris (Arson Investigations)

The main objective of an explosives examination is the identification of the kind of explosive material used. The components can be analyzed and identified.
The NRC Report pronounced that the scientific foundations exist to support the analysis of explosions as the same is based on well-established chemistry

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Arson

Arson investigation, on the other hand, the NRC report states that much more research is needs on the natural variability of burn patterns, damage characteristics and how are they affected by the various accelerants.
The report points to testimony made before the National Research Committee that many of the rules of thumb that are typically assumed to indicate than an accelerant have now been shown not to be true. More experiments should be done to put arson investigations on a firm scientific footing

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Forensic Odontology

Forensic Odontology is the application of the science of Odontology to the field of law.
Bite mark comparison is useful in criminal cases. This field is one of the forensic sciences put to the crucible by the NRC Report. The NRC report slams bite comparison analysis by stating that “no thorough study has been done conducted of large populations to establish the uniqueness of bitemarks.” There is no science on the reproducibility of the different methods of analysis that lead to conclusions about the probability of a match Id.

+ Questioned documents examination and
handwriting analysis

Questioned documents examination involves the comparison and analysis of documents and printing and writing instruments in order to identify or eliminate persons as the source of the handwriting; to reveal alterations, additions or deletions; or to identify or eliminate the source of typewriting or other impression marks. Questioned document examiners are also referred to as forensic document examiners of handwriting experts.
Scientific basis for handwriting comparisons needs to be strengthened. The NRC report makes note that terminologies used in expressing the subjective conclusions of handwriting comparison and identification. The NRC Report also acknowledges that there may be some value in handwriting analysis.

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Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

Appreciating how a particular bloodstain pattern came about can be important physical evidence.
The NRC report states that scientific studies support some aspects of bloodstain pattern analysis. The criticism on blood pattern analysis is two-fold. One that the “opinions of bloodstain pattern analysts are more subjective than scientific” and second that there seems to be a misguided emphasis on experience rather than scientific foundations