Protecting evidence from contamination

Chain of custody is a significant practice, which involves proper handling of exhibits through the justice process. The practice determines the direction that a court case takes during the trial process. Perhaps, for worse, Dr. Jeffrey R. MacDonald, who was a professional surgeon in the military before being convicted of murder charges in 1979, is alleged to have suffered an injustice following poor handling of exhibits by the FBI. The attorneys of the convict lamented that the law enforcement agency tabled compromised forensic evidence to pin down their client on a crime he is alleged not to have committed. The convict was accused and jailed for knowingly participating in the execution of his spouse and their two children. But MacDonald has repeatedly maintained his innocence (Shalit, 1997).

Protecting evidence from contamination

The chain of custody may have had an affect the outcome of the murder charges that MacDonald faced, by implicating him for the heinous crime (Attah et al, 2010). This calls for protection of the evidence from contamination to avoid an injustice on the part of the police. Juries and jurors tasked with unraveling justice are obliged to corroborate the consistency of the chain of custody and issue verdict based on the proof that pieces of evidence presented before the court are not tampered with. In view of this, an uninterrupted transfer of proof, backed by proper security and authenticity of the officers under whose custody the evidence lay is enough proof of the safety of the exhibits.

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Appropriate techniques for handling evidence

Functional justice systems demand the practice of appropriate techniques for handling criminal evidence. For instance, Attah et al (2010) suggests the corroboration of chain of custody is an imperative aspect that directly affects the fate of the evidence, may implicate or exonerate a suspect from criminal charges (Schum, Tecuci, & Boicu, 2009). For instance, in the MacDonald trial for murder crime; police officer A, recovered a weapon from the accused; A handed over the weapon to police detective B; B then handed over the firearm to ; who would carry out an examination of the weapon; C gave the weapon to , who carried the firearm to court.

Proper and improper chain of custody

The consistent statements of A, B, C, and D would comprise the weapons valid chain of custody, and the trial would require a statement by each individual in the sequence to ascertain both the state and integrity of the proof, unless the accused indicated otherwise, to expedite the trial process. Nevertheless, MacDonalds defense team of lawyers believes the chain of custody was improper. The attorneys maintain that, though, this chain of custody was expected to be beyond reproach in the MacDonald case, the FBI forensic department allegedly compromised the evidence during the examination process, resulting in the jailing of the suspect for a crime he may not have committed. In spite of the significance of the chain of custody, in some cases, the practice may not be necessary, in case a piece of substantial evidence is received by the prosecution. Additionally, tangible proof that can be easily identified by court witness should not necessarily be reinforced by . A perfect example is the case involving exhibits that bear a serial number or one that contains the signature of a police officer who gathered the proof. Similarly, exhibits that are intrinsically typical or unforgettable, such as a hold-up note inscribed in purple colored chalk might be adequately unique and recognizable that they reaffirm the reliability of the facts (Twinning, 2010).

Latent and visible evidence

Visible evidence can be seen with the naked eye by a keen look. For example, visible fingerprints can occur when an individual touches a thick liquid such as oil, blood, or glue and then makes contacts with the soiled hands on another surface. Latent evidence has a dissimilar composition compared to visible proof, a feature that can only be resolved by incorporating chemical reagents and magnifiers (Twinning, 2010).

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