Homicide Crime Case Study
In this case study, a lady was murdered at Old Annapolis Road in Columbia. The lady who was later identified as Ashley was murdered was murdered and her body disposed of in the woods adjacent to 9170 Old Annapolis Road. The investigating officers established that the victim died due to stud wounds on her neck and back as well as strangling. The investigators established a tip line that enabled members of the public to offer valuable insight that could aid this investigation. Through the insight obtained the investigators narrowed down their investigations to two main suspects. The two suspects were Scott Jory Jones and Fredrick James Johnson. The two suspects were charged with first-degree murder.
This analysis examines the crime scene and the evidence obtained at the crime scene. It examines the strength of this evidence in connecting the suspects to the crime scene. Secondly, it analyses the steps and strategy employed by the investigating team during this investigation and the efficiency of these strategies in identifying and prosecuting the suspects. Furthermore, the paper seeks to discuss the evidence presented by the witnesses in this case and how defense team is likely to suppress such evidence presented. Lastly, the correlation between the case study and the coursework is examined.
Crime Scene Investigation
As already noted this crime took place along the old Annapolis road. The evidence collected at the crime scene includes pictures of the victim’s body before she was moved from the scene. Secondly, the clothes that the victim was wearing at the time of the crime were also collected. The weapon of murder was not located at the scene of the crime. Moreover, the picture of the blood in the parking lot and its sprinkling towards the position of the victim’s body in the woods was also taken.
The crime scene investigation, as well as the evidence collected at the crime scene, led the investigators to establish several facts. First, the face of the victim and her fingerprints were very instrumental in the identification of the victim. This victim identification was crucial in setting the foundation for this investigation (Bell, 2012). It helped the investigators to know the victim and hence commence the process of interrogation. Securing and obtaining the body was important in the investigation. The autopsy to be conducted on the body would reveal the actual cause of the victim. This is important evidence that would be useful in proving that the alleged murder actually took place before a criminal court. Moreover, the body and the cloths would further be subjected to a forensic study that could reveal the fingerprints on the cloths and the body of the victim. This would help in connecting the suspects with the crime scene. Secondly, securing the scene of the crime was crucial in preserving the integrity of the evidence to be collected from the scene. The investigators were able to secure the crime scene and hence prevent anyone from interfering with the evidence collected. The integrity of evidence collected at the crime scene is critical in aiding the investigation as well as proving the prosecutor’s allegations during the prosecution process.
In this case this case study the investigators identified a couple of neoprene skull capes near the victim’s body. This was marked as an exhibit to be used in further investigations (Cox, Hutter & Adair, 2011). The collection and examination of the capes would be useful in the investigation process in two ways. First, the investigators could seek to tie the confession of the witnesses to these caps. Secondly, a forensic study on the caps could give an indication of its own and hence aid in the investigation (Bell, 2012). Lastly, the investigators collected the victim’s skin swabbing to further help the investigation.
In summary, the investigation conducted at the crime scene was sufficient in collecting evidence and in aiding further investigation to identify to identify the people involved. The scene was secured in a proper manner and investigated thoroughly for the crime in question. The thorough examination of the scene is helpful in finding the facts in any given case. As such, the crime scene investigation presented in this case study played a critical role in the success of the overall investigation process.
Steps in the Investigation
As presented in the case study, the investigation was successful because of the steps followed. Each of the investigation stages had its critical importance to the overall investigation. The first step was the collection of evidence at the crime scene. The crime scene always presents important evidence that could be helpful in pointing both to the nature of the crime as well as the suspects of the crime. The investigation in this study begins at the crime scene. At this stage, the investigators gather as much evidence as possible that can prove the occurrence of a crime and equally point to the suspects of that crime (Wilson, 2003). The investigation at the crime scene in this case study involved studying the body of the of the victim, collecting forensic evidence such as skin swabbing and fingerprints on the clothing and the victim’s skin and examining the victims clothing and body found at the crime scene. An analysis of the exhibits at the crime scene helps in aiding further investigation and providing evidence for the prosecution. Therefore, this was the right point to begin the investigation.
The second step in the investigation of this case study was the victim identification. In crimes of first-degree murder like this one, it is often hard to identify the victim since the victim is dead and hence cannot identify himself or herself. As such, scientific and forensic experts conduct the process of identification through fingerprints and DNA testing. Moreover, the victim could be merely identified by family members in the event their body is an identifiable state. Documents and other material around the crime scene that was initially possessed by the victim could equally be used to identify them (Kennedy-Kollar, 2015). In this case, the face of the victim was covered by blood making it hard for the investigators to identify the victim. Moreover, the investigators did not use any documents or other material at the crime scene to identify the victim. The investigators used the ran-away report made by the victim’s mother in the identification process. Moreover, the definition of the jacket that Mrs. Smith claimed her daughter was wearing at the time of her disappearance marched the one found at the crime scene. More precisely, the investigators used inked fingerprints of the body to identify the victim.
The third step involved conducting interviews with various witnesses with the view of establishing the facts of the case. Interviews with victim’s close associates and witnesses to a murder crime are often the primary indicators of who could have committed the crime (Monaghan, 2014). As such, interviews are a critical component of any criminal investigation. Moreover, the investigators interviewed several key people that could account for the victim’s whereabouts during the time prior to the crime. The people interviewed included the victim’s mother and the victim’s best friend Heather Thomas. The two interviews provided critical information about the victim’s associates just before her death. It was further a pointer to trace the movement of the victim during the period prior to her murder.
The fourth step in the investigation process was conducting an autopsy of the body of the victim. The autopsy was conducted to reveal the exact cause of the murder (Loveless, 2012). In criminal investigations, dealing with murder an autopsy is often used to show the exact cause of death and hence prove the occurrence of a crime. The autopsy revealed that the victim had died due to stab wounds and strangulation. This would serve to prove that the alleged crime actually happened.
The fifth step involved conducting a search around the crime scene. The surrounding areas in the crime scene may contain important cues that can aid the investigation and the identification of the potential criminals. The perpetrators may leave behind personal belongs of tools used to execute the crime. Such materials are important in aiding the overall investigation (Bell, 2012). Therefore, investigators should search in areas surrounding the scene of the crime. In this case study, the investigators conducted a search along the roadside. During this search, they got information about a truck driver that had identified and picked a knife stained with blood around the crime scene that could have possibly been used to perpetuate the crime in question.
The investigators in this case study used different strategies in the investigation. First, they used the strategy of interrogation. The interrogation strategy is where the investigators question the key suspects as well as witnesses with the view of obtaining sufficient information about the case (Loveless, 2012). In the investigation of this case study, the investigators interrogated witnesses such as the victim’s mother and the victim’s best friend Heather Thomas. The two suspects Scott Jory Jones as well as Fredrick James Johnson were also interrogated. The second strategy involved observation. The investigators observed several aspects of the crime. First, they observed the crime scene as well as the body of the victim. Secondly, they observed the surrounding area to the crime scene. Moreover, they observed the funeral of the criminal. The one involved the scientific strategy. This included the autopsy conducted on the body of the suspect. Scientific strategies are increasingly becoming popular in a criminal investigation. DNA screening, fingerprint screening, and autopsy are some of the popular scientific strategies often employed in criminal investigations (Kennedy-Kollar, 2015). These scientific strategies have widely been used in the investigations presented in this case study. Lastly, the investigators, in this case, used cash rewards and unanimous numbers to encourage members of the public to volunteer information to the investigators.
The investigators in this case study widely used interviews with both witnesses as well as the suspects. The main witnesses interviewed in this investigation included the victim’s mother and her best friend Heather Thomas. The victim’s mother was mainly interviewed to provide information that could be helpful in tracing the movements of the suspects during the period just before she was murdered. This witness gave a chronological account of events as they happened between November 1st and 3rd. This interview was insightful in identifying further witnesses in this case as well as giving the lead to the key suspects in the case. The initial stages of interviewing are primarily aimed at gathering information. Every person interviewed at this stage is mainly treated as a witness to the case in question. The aim is to obtain sufficient information about a case (Wilson, 2003). In this case, both Heather and Mrs. Smith are treated as witnesses to the case. The interview was conducted in the most ethical manner without intimidation or coercion. More importantly, the witness account provided under duress or through circumstances of intimidation cannot be admitted in a criminal court of law as evidence. The subsequent interviews conducted on these witnesses was mainly aimed at establishing facts that had been collected during the first interview, the interview with other witnesses as well as observed facts. Therefore, the subsequent interview clarified on issues that had been identified such as the relationship between the victim and Jay. During the subsequent interviews, the investigators obtained further leading to this investigation. The interview with the victim’s psychotherapist also revealed important information about the psychological state of the victim at the time of the crime. This helped the investigators to further figure out what could have happened that led to her murder.
The leading obtained from the phone calls coupled with prior witness statements and evidence from the scene helped to the narrowing down the investigations to two main suspects identified above. The two suspects were subjected to questioning with the view of establishing their role in the crime. This interview and subsequent questioning helped the investigating officers to establish the link between the suspects and the crime. Therefore, the interrogation of the suspects and the missing links in their explanations was very instrumental in aiding the investigations to locate the suspects to the crime scene at the time when the crime was happening. Overall, the suspect interviews were being conducted after substantial evidence had already been gathered through the forensic studies, witness testimonies, and several observations at the crime scene (Loveless, 2012).
There are several factors that the defense team could consider in watering down the evidence presented by the prosecution in this case. First, the defense can claim that the evidence presented by the unanimous callers as well as the statements from people who claimed to have heard about the murder from a third party be treated as hearsay. Hearsay can be defined under law as the statement out of court that asserts to be a statement of fact. Hearsay statements are not admissible as evidence in a court of law and particularly in criminal proceedings. If the defense team can justify what certain sections of the prosecution testimonies are hearsay, then the court will be obligated to strike out such evidence and declare such statements as non-admissible in the court. As such, the defense attorney would have substantially reduced the evidence presented by the prosecution and offered a constitutional challenge to the proceedings in this case.
Secondly, the prosecution can assert the fact that some of the statements provided by both the witnesses such as the inmates as well as the statements of the witnesses were under duress. When a suspect or a witness gives statements under pressure or is coercion, such statements cannot be admitted in a court of law. The defense attorney can argue that a substantial section of the statement from the accused people was taken when the people were under custody. The statements from the inmates were equally taken when the people were in custody. Police custody environments are generally intimidating and could coerce someone to give statements that are not essentially true. This constitutional challenge will equally help in striking out a substantial amount of evidence that the prosecution brings to the court.
Lastly, the defense attorney could claim potential compromise to the evidence collected at the crime scene. For instance, the defense could site the time span between the time when the murder actually happened and the actual time the sample was taken. If the defense can challenge the integrity of the evidence presented successfully, they could be the admissibility of such evidence in the present court proceedings. Scientific evidence derived from samples whose integrity cannot be ascertained is not admissible as evidence in criminal proceedings. Therefore, challenging the evidence from the DNA samples and fingerprints will offer a strong constitutional challenge to the prosecution case.
Leanings from Class
This case study exemplifies several factors learned in class. First, it exemplifies the importance of securing the crime scene as learned in class. From the class readings, the crime scene often possesses great evidence that could be helpful in the criminal investigations. In this case study, the investigators began the investigation by securing and examining the crime scene. Secondly, this case study exemplifies the importance of employing scientific technology in criminal research. From the class readings, scientific technology is a critical factor in criminal investigations. Scientific aspects such as DNA testing and fingerprint screening have wide applications in criminal proceedings. This case study provides an example of how such scientific aspects can be employed in criminal investigations. The victim’s and the suspect’s DNA were tested through such scientific aspects. The glaring differences between this case study and the class learning are the sequence of events during a criminal investigation process. While the class readings provide for a sequential chronology of events, the sequence followed in this case study does not march that chronology. For instance, interviews with the same suspect and witnesses are conducted multiple times. On the other hand, the class reading seems to suggest that suspect and witness interview in a one-time event.
Use of Modern scientific and Technological approach in Criminal Investigations
Technology and scientific approaches have a wide application in the contemporary criminal investigation process. As technology becomes infused in different aspects of society, it has equally been widely used in criminal investigations. Several aspects of science find application in a criminal investigation as evidenced in this case study. First, the DNA technology is widely used in the identification of both victims as well as suspects in cases of murder (Engdahl, 2011). Items found at the crime scene such as hair could be used for DNA testing against the DNA of the suspects to ascertain if the hair at the scene is indeed, the suspects hear. This is critical in locating the suspect in the crime scene at the time when the crime was taking place. The precision of this scientific technology has also enhanced its popularity in criminal proceedings (Cox, Hutter & Adair, 2011).
Fingerprint screening is another technological approach that has been widely adopted in this case study and in the overall field of criminal investigations. Whenever a person touches a surface, his or her fingerprint is left on that surface. Screening of fingerprints is a technology that is widely used in identifying people who touched a victim of murder at the time of the murder (Engdahl, 2011). As exemplified in this case study, fingerprint technology is effective in identifying suspects in a murder or any other criminal activity. Lastly, computer technology has made it easy to identify the names and faces of the individual in this digital age. This ease of identification is largely used in criminal investigations.
Bell, W. (2012). Practical Criminal Investigations. Practical Aspects of Criminal & Forensic Investigations, 3(14), 123-135.
Cox, M., Hutter, T., & Adair, T. (2011). Forensic science and criminal investigations. Criminal Psychology and Forensic Technology, 12(7), 135-151.
Engdahl, S. (2011). Forensic technology in criminal investigations. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
Kennedy-Kollar, D. (2015). Use of crime analysis in criminal investigations. The Detectives Handbook, 163-176.
Loveless, J. (2012). Homicide 1: Murder. Complete Criminal Law. Text, Cases, and Materials. Oxford University Press. 271-293.
Monaghan, N. (2014). Murder and voluntary manslaughter. Criminal Law Directions, 14(6), 93-126.
Wilson, J. B. (2003). Criminal investigations: A behavioral approach. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.