Photography in modern criminal investigation
Advancements in technology have transformed the lives of many people, organizations, and the criminal justice system. Modern criminal investigation is highly dependent on photography and chemistry. It is imperative that every judge knows the difference between an authentic and a doctored photograph. Although most digital photographs have been held inadmissible in court because of the high possibility of alteration, a single photograph can convince a juror that an individual is guilty. A prosecutor just needs to show the juries a single picture and the opposing lawyer will spend very much time trying to convince them otherwise but photographic evidence cannot be disputed or explained. This research paper presents an insightful yet factual correct discussion of photography in modern criminal investigation
Photography plays a fundamental role in modern criminal investigations. Photographs are used to record evidence at a crime scene. Through the photographs, the prosecutors can recreate the situation on the crime scene for the jury and judge. The camera itself is not capable of falsifying but with expert manipulation of equipment, a photographer can create a misleading photograph. The camera will only portray what a skillful photographer wants it to reveal.
According to Nickell (98) factors such exposure time, developers, film, and filters can affect the accuracy with which a photographs portray a situation. It is therefore imperative that the jury and the judge understand the science and art behind photography before relying on photographic evidence to decide the innocence or guilt of an individual on trial. Police photographers need to be highly skilled in photography with thorough understanding of lenses, light sensitive material, cameras, and processing chemicals. Although a skilled photographer is just as capable as police photographers, the police use slightly different equipment when documenting evidence at a crime scene.
Crime Scene Photographs
Crime scene photographs include all pictures at the crime or about a criminal offense such as a robbery, murder, or burglary. Crime scene photography play various roles including presenting evidence which cannot be physically brought into the courtroom, it permits presentation of all available evidence for the review by the juror after the evidence has been presented in the courtroom (Dempsey and Forst 435).
In addition, photographic evidence permits reconstruction of the situation of the crime scene for the judge and the jury, for example, photographs of blood sputter can be used to create the presiding events or position of a victim before he or she was killed. The blood sputter evidence is usually recorded in several color photography’s which forensics blood pattern analysts use to reconstruct the position of victim when he or she was shot. When solving cases investigators come up with many assumptions on what might have transpired at the crime scene. According to Nickell (98), forensics crime investigators to evaluate every assumption use the photographic evidence. During investigation, photographic evidence of the crime scene is the only fact that the criminal investigators have and they evaluate every assumption until they can prove one using the photographic evidence.
Police investigators handle a multitude of cases some of which take months before they can be solved. Photographic evidence plays the fundamental role of refreshing the facts for an investigator who must testify months after the crime occurred. Photographic evidence also plays a fundamental in solving of cold cases or when evidence presented in court is inadequate to prosecute investigators use photographic evidence to look for clues, which might have been initially overlooked.
Photography and Modern Criminal Investigation
Some basic criterion is inherent if crime scene photographs are to be effective in modern criminal investigation. According to Nickell (100), the photographer should ensure that his or her equipment is ready at all times. It is imperative that the photographs are taken immediately because in some situations some objects which may be critical in solving the case undergo certain changes with time, for example if a victim is shot and left for some time blood flowing from the body of the victim may conceal some evidence on the location the body is lying. Time is of essence, and the photographs should be taken before anything is moved or further investigations commence.
It is critical that the photographer takes photographs of the entire crime scene with every item photographed from different angles. The photographer should be skilled in identifying objects, which might have a bearing on solving the crime, and it is imperative that he or she takes close up photographs of those photographs. When photographs are taken at the crime scene analysis of camera position and exposure should be recorded as on site notes on the crime scene report. The photographs should be as comprehensive and effective as possible for example, the photographs should constitute overlapping segments that flow in one direction in one direction. The photographer should ensure that he or she maintains proper photographic to avoid reducing the photographs evidentiary value.
Some courts object to photographic evidence, which incorporates extraneous items such as ruler for scale or arrows because they consider such items as modifications (Hess & Orthmann 45). The photographer should ensure that photographic evidence contains photographs with the extraneous items ad without to reduce the chance that the jury or judge might reject evidence with bearing to solving the case.
Photographing of physical evidence
Before items of evidence such as the murder weapon, bloodstains, fingerprints, and hair fibers are removed from the crime scene should be photographed at close range than in the context of the crime scene. Fingerprints and hair fibers play a fundamental role in identifying individuals present at a crime scene. Fingerprints are photographed using special fingerprint camera. Trace evidence such as fibers or hair are photographed using a microscopic camera. Sometimes evidence is usually taken away from the crime scene, to increase evidence value of such evidence that photographer should use a photographic copying stand to facilitate taking pictures of other photographs and small objects.
Modern criminal investigations are procedural and highly dependent on clues collected when investigators first arrive at the crime scene (Gilbert 22). The photographer should include photographs, which the suspect used to approach and get away from the crime scene. He or she should include photographs and adjacent areas such in case of a homicide in the victim’s home photographs of the yard. Photographs of the entrance and exit that a suspect could have used to access and exit a house in the case of a homicide burglary or robbery should be taken.
In addition, the photographs of all possible routes that the suspect could have used to enter or leave a crime scene should be taken up close. The photographer should also take a general scenario photograph showing the crime scene such as the room where a victim of homicide is lying, destruction caused during robbery or a burglary in relation to the room where the crime happened. In case of a homicide, the photographers should take at least, two photographs of the bogy from different angles. In addition, the photographer should take close up photographs of the body to reveal visible injuries such as bullet entry point or a stab wound. The photographers should also take photographs of the surrounding environment in which the body is lying in case of a homicide. In case of a robbery it is imperative that the photographer takes the position of all items taken had been kept.
Finally, after removal of the evidence it is important that the photographer take photographs on the surface underneath the evidence to capture any marks or stains left by the evidence. Before removal of evidence, it is imperative that the photographer takes photographs of all latent photographs, which are likely to be destroyed through lifting. After all physical evidence is removed; the photographer should begin photographing trace evidence. In case of homicide he or she should begin with blood spatter and stains in color. Modern criminal investigators use special technology on all surfaces in a crime scene to reveal all fingerprints in the crime scene; the photographer should take pictures of all fingerprints in the room. In situations which a homicides case involves a buried body it is critical that the photographer takes pictures any evidentially items on the way to the crime scene. Photographs of tire marks clothing items
After photograph of the crime scene are taken it is imperative that although analysis of the photographs is done to reveal clues which might be substantive to solving the case. Photomicrography is technology used to make enlargements of minute details on photographs, which might not be obvious to the naked eye. According to Nickell (104) photomicrography is used for magnification of the negative lens while photomicrography is used to magnify using a microscope. Photomicrography is used to identify details of a firearm or identify a mark left behind by a suspect using a tool.
A camera contains special spectral properties, which enables a photographer’s ability to enhance certain features of an object in crime scene, which might lie unnoticed through use of electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum stimulates the sense of sight. Criminal and scientific investigators use the electromagnetic spectrum to photograph fingerprints on plastic media, striations on a bullet, scratches indentations and embossment on paper.
Digital photographs in Modern investigations
According to Nickell (104) use of digital photographs in criminal investigations has been brought under debate in many states in the United States of America. Digital photographs are usually rejected as evidence representing the crime scene because of their likely hood to be altered. To avoid reducing the evidentiary value of photographs it is imperative that the photographer checks the admissibility of digital photographs in a state as evidence or use film-based cameras. In situations when the authenticity of digital photographs is questioned a witness at the crime scene may be called into testifying that the photographs are a true representation of the crime scene.
Dempsey, John and Forst, Linda. An Introduction to Policing. New York: Cengage Learning. 2011. Print.
Hess, Karen and Orthmann, Christine. Criminal Investigation. Ohio: Cengage Learning. 2009. Print. :34-103
Gilbert, James. Criminal investigation. Pearson/Prentice Hall. 2006. Print.
Nickell, Joe. Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation USA: University Press of Kentucky. 2005. Print.