“TRACE EVIDENCE: ISSUES AND THE ROAD AHEAD”
TRACE EVIDENCE : ISSUES AND THE ROAD AHEAD
Trace evidence forms the core of forensic science, having played a very crucial role in the development of forensic science, prompted and promoted by the seminal work of researchers all across the globe. At a crime scene, there are often tiny fragments of physical evidence such as hairs, fibers from clothing or carpeting, or pieces of glass that can help frame the story of what exactly happened. These tiny fragments bear significant importance and are referred to as trace evidence, and can be transferred when two objects touch or when small particles are disbursed by an action or movement. A noted and careful collection of materials from a crime scene can yield a plethora of information about where a sample originated and eventually helps in taking the story ahead. Forensic experts scrutinize the physical, optical and chemical properties of trace evidence and use various of tools to understand and compare samples, and look for sources which have a common origin point.
WHY AND WHEN IS TRACE EVIDENCE USED?
Every case potentially has trace evidence to consider, and investigators must use their knowledge, training and experience and expertise to thoroughly examine the scene, identifying and properly collecting the most probative evidence, including traces. A through examination for trace evidence could take place at a crime scene, on victim’s or suspect’s clothing, or a location the victim or suspect may have been recently. For example, trace examiners may be on the lookout for ligature fibers in the case of a strangling to identify what weapon or object have been used to commit the heinous crime, or gunshot residue around a bullet hole to indicate the distance between a shooter and a victim. The body, clothing and jewelry and other belongings on the body of a crime victim are investigated thoroughly for possible trace materials using the same precision methods as would be used at a crime scene.
In the investigation of a brutal crime scene, investigators must prioritize on what items will be collected and sent to the lab, and in what order it should be processed. Investigators using a holistic approach to the scene will gather evidence and prioritize each item by assessing its value based on the level of identification it may provide. Trace examiners use tools such as tweezers, tape, specialized vacuums, swabs, alternate light sources, and lasers to find and collect trace evidence.
ADMISSIBILITY OF TRACE EVIDENCE AND ASSOCIATED CASES :
Criminal activities shake the very welfare and development of a society. Such activities can be curbed and cut down by competent investigation of crime and successful prosecution. In this process the physical and scientific evidence plays very subordinate role in criminal investigation. These evidences especially trace evidence in crime detections have been recognized since antiquity.
Being citizens of the 21st century, we should not have any qualms in admitting the fact that in this age of science and technology where the awareness of human rights and constitutional rights of criminal suspect is increasing very fast, and this points towards the overwhelming reliance on forensic science as a significant investigation tool. Actually, the recent advancement in modern, biological research has revolutionized forensic science resulting in a radical impact on the administration of justice.
In order to make the role of trace evidence more visible with utmost clarity, some recent highlighted cases and instances can be described.
The Nirbhaya Case : On 16th December 2012, a girl named Jyoti Singh and her friend, were returning home by bus at night. On the same day, at about 11 P.M., they were found on road by a passerby. At that time, the partially clothed victims (Jyoti singh and her friend) were injured. There were six other persons in bus, including the driver who allegedly assaulted and raped the girl and beat her boyfriend with iron rod brutally. The girl died on 29th December 2012 due to her injuries, while treatment was going on a hospital. During the course of investigation, that bus was detected. Two blood-stained metal rods were found from bus. Police arrested some suspects within 24 hours. After due investigation, the police arrested the accused persons among whom one was juvenile. At the end of trail, the juvenile was found guilty of rape and murder under the Juvenile Justice Act, and was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a juvenile reform shelter. The remaining four adult accused were found guilty of rape, murder, unnatural offences and destruction of evidences and sentenced with capital punishment. Role of forensic science: Here, the bus was detected from the recordings of highway CCTV along with the description made by the victims about that vehicle. The police also used a cell phone stolen from the two victims to find out one of the accused. The seized metal rods and clothes of victim were sent for examination. It was found that the victims were beaten with iron rod by examining blood -stain found on that iron rod. By collecting and examining the blood, semen, tissue of accused persons and vaginal secretions, tissue, clothes of girl, it was found that, the accused persons committed the rape of the victim.
The Sheena Bora Murder Case : At the first instance, the police could not identify the body of deceased, which was the basis for establishing the evry facts of the case. Here forensic science helped in identifying the deceased and in tracing out the cause of death from skeletal remains in the crime scene. The Forensic laboratory had played a great role in detecting small traces of fibres and other minute materials stuck to the deceased’s body which helped in collecting evidences against the accused persons. In due course of investigation, it also helped in collecting other evidences and in finding out the truthfulness in the fact.