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February 23rd, 2009

Evidence Collection Problems


Oh God. I don’t want to believe this is even possible. A February 23rd Los Angeles Times article by Harriet Ryan about the Phil Spector trial begins, “When it came to hiring expert witnesses for his murder defense, Phil Spector went for the top of the line. The scientists he retained to analyze evidence in the fatal shooting of an actress are a who’s who of American forensics, the men who wrote the textbooks for their fields and whose faces stare out from the television when a criminal case goes national.

“But if the conclusions of this high-profile scientific team have helped Spector’s cause, the conduct of two members has left his defense vulnerable to criticism. In his first trial, a judge concluded that Dr. Henry Lee, the criminalist who gained worldwide recognition for his work on the O.J. Simpson murder trial, hid or destroyed a potentially important piece of evidence from the death scene.”

I have posted that I believe evidence should no longer be stored and held by law enforcement, but instead by a disinterested third party.  I never thought about evidence collection, but maybe a disinterested third party should be collecting crime scene evidence as well.

Before I forget, I want to thank retired detective Mike Bosak for his regular police related email. Every day he clips article about law enforcement and sends that around.  I would miss so many pieces, like this one, if it weren’t for Mike Bosak.  Thank you, Mike!

[The picture is from the Los Angele Time article.]

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→ 6 CommentsTags: Crime Science ·

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Slamdunk // Feb 23, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Interesting topic. I had not considered having an agency outside the police be responsible for evidence. When you say a “disinterested” third party, do you mean privatizing the collection and storage of evidence?

    If so, there are positives and negatives (cost-driven being the strongest) associated with that idea–similar to the arguments involved in private prisons.

    If it would be another state agency taking control of this action, it seems that the “state” would still be responsible for case evidence–just another agency outside law enforcement.

  • 2 Stacy Horn // Feb 24, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Hi. Disinterested is probably a poor word choice, but I do mean an agency that doesn’t have a vested interest in the outcome of an investigation and trial.

    It seems to me the costs would be mostly transfered from one organization to another, I don’t see why they should go up significantly, but maybe I’m not considering something?

  • 3 Slamdunk // Feb 25, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I was not clear. With my comment on privatization being cost-driven, I was referring to the cost being reduced as non-governmental agencies competitively bid on the contracts. As with the concerns over private prisons, these awarded firms are motivated by profit and accused by opponents of such practices as forgoing quality (through staffing levels, equipment, supervision, training, etc.) to increase margins.

  • 4 Stacy Horn // Feb 26, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Ah. Good points.

  • 5 Patty // Apr 7, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I am a crime scene Detective and I do not have a vested interest in the outcome of a case. I am only concerned with the facts of a case and certainly do not want to explain in court that a piece of evidence is missing. Unfortunately it happens not because of a vested interest or not, but because of the amount of evidence that is collected from all scenes. Our property room is overflowing and most of the time we are notified at the last minute of a trial. Getting that evidence out takes time and a lot of searching. I know it is there but finding it is a different story. So I do not want a private party responsible for my evidence, if I have to testify to where it went I rather know it went to a police department representative.

  • 6 Stacy Horn // Apr 7, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Hi Patty! I’ve visited a number of property rooms. I don’t know what part of the country you’re in, but have you seen the one run by the suffolk County Police out on LI, NY?

    I understand the problems you raised, but what if the third party did a really excellent job?

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