Forensic science in the courtrooms and public safety organizations is generally considered a modern phenomenon, with the development of the great profession of forensic pathology and the availability of university trained criminalists, crime scene specialists, toxicologists, and laboratory PhDs. To be sure forensic scientists are now the most popular heroes of current television, if you look at the skyrocketing rating of shows such as Law and order, crossing Jordan, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, New York and NCIS. (Katherine M. Ramsland, 10-12)
Modern forensic sciences and their practical applications originated in the middle of the nineteenth century. Previously, because of lack of sophistication in chemistry, physics, biology and medicine, investigation of trace evidence and suspicious poisoning deaths was largely subjective, which led to great controversy and legal challenges during court trials.
The development of photography into a mobile form of documentation, applicable to both crime scenes and laboratories.
The evolution of these new techniques and instruments to the analysis of chemical evidence, including poisons in body fluids and containers.
The refinement of application of the microscope to the routine study of plant and animal tissues and trace evidence from the crime scene, victim or suspect.
The advances in medical pathology enabling definitive knowledge and documentation to be obtained from routine dissection and analysis in cases of unnatural death.
Progress in the forensic sciences has not been uniform throughout the world. In some European countries there has been a century of development, predominantly in forensic centers devoted to the education of physicians, lawyers, and law enforcement officials. Forensic medicine developed quite rapidly from the beginning. The study of questioned documents also emerged in this era. With the further development of laboratory instruments and techniques forensic toxicology and serology became important at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Criminalistics as a science arose less than 65 years ago, paralleling the recognition by the major police departments in the 1920s that they should have a branch devoted to highly technical examinations by skilled specialists, forensic odontology and anthropology are relatively recent forensic specialties, although there were isolated instances of their forensic application in the past. Education in the various fields of the forensic sciences varies from on-the-job training in bench work in a small law enforcement department’s crime laboratory to a year of special training in forensic pathology and special certification of pathologists already board certified in general pathology.
Most serial killers look just like normal people. Some of them are good looking. Ted Bundy for example was handsome and could be charming. Inwardly these killers feel alone and powerless. But they become all-powerful and have feelings of complete control and dominance when they take a victim. Ted Bundy once said to his captor that no greater power could a man have than over the life and death of someone else. Serial killers are mostly men. Serial killers of other races are rare, and female serial killers are just as rate. The FBI forensic profilers use crime scene characteristics to help them come to a decision as to the type of serial killer at work. And yes, there are several types: organized killers, disorganized killers, or a combination of both. The table below illustrates just a few of the differences in the crime scene characteristics of organized and disorganized serial killers. You may recognize that many of the characteristics of organized killers are the mirror opposite of disorganized killers. (Brian Lane, 19-21)
Crime Scene Characteristics of Serial killers
Organized Serial Killer
Disorganized Serial Killer
The victim was a target stranger
The victim was a spontaneous stranger
The crime scene resonates control
The crime scene is messy and disorderly
Restraints may be used
No restraints are used
Sexual acts may occur before the killing
Sexual acts may occur after the killing
The victim’s body may be hidden
The victim’s body may be left in open
Since its emergence, several terms have been used to describe the technique of offender profiling – for example psychological profiling, criminal profiling, and criminal personality profiling and criminal investigation analysis. However despite the descriptive label applied, profiling as an investigation tool today represents a less than educated attempt to provide lay enforcement agencies with detailed information about the behavior of an unknown individual who has committed a crime. Most published accounts of profiling, especially those of serial murderers, have tended to take the form of semi-auto biographical books and journalistic articles rather than systematic work and, therefore are difficult to evaluate from a scientific point of view. In the past decade, social scientists have turned their attention to profiling serial murderers by grouping their crime scene actions into theoretical categories but now this task is done by forensic investigators
In forensic science the term “Trace Evidence” is used to describe any small items of evidence. It’s rather generic term, because it signifies a variety of objects, excluding primarily serological might miss on first examination. It can also be microscopic items that can be seen only with the aid of a Microscope. In many instances, trace evidence has proved to be the means of solving the case – of identifying a suspect or connecting the suspect to the victim. This was demonstrated dramatically in 1982 in the case of Wayne Williams in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1982 Atlanta was a city terrorized by a serial killer. The bodies of many young boys and teens were discovered. They had been strangled or smothered, apparently by the same person. The police were stymied, and the cases were the leading news stories of the time. This fact led to the belief that the killer was following police activity through the media. For example, when the information was released that the police had discovered hair and fibers on several victims, bodies began to show up in rivers and ponds, just as the FBI had predicted. This suggests the killer believed that water would wash away the evidence. Following this lead, police found Wayne Williams, a self employed music producer, on a bridge over the river where a body was dumped. Hair and fibers taken from the victims matched fibers from William’s home and car and hair from his dog. William was arrested, charged and convicted on multiple murders. Trace evidence is based on the scientific theory known as the “Locard Exchange Principle”.
Fingerprints are the most important and most common evidence of criminal investigation. The use of fingerprints as a criminal investigative tool is known to nearly everyone. You hear of fingerprint evidence in the movies, you read of it in mystery novels. If you have ever been a victim of a burglary, the police who come to your house look for them. But there is much more to finger prints than that simple realization.
Finger prints are ridges of skin called “Friction ridges”. They are formed during embryo stage in humans, and they remain unchanged naturally until death. Decomposition is the only natural way that finger prints change their shape. These friction ridges form on our fingers and palms and the soles and toes of our feet. Finger prints are unique to every person. No two people have ever been found to have identical fingerprints.
Finger prints are one way to identical people – in many cases, people accused of committing a crime. The individual characteristics of these friction ridges are classified in what is known as the Henry system of Fingerprint classification. When police search crime scenes for prints, they are looking for evidence of Henry’s seven different classifications of fingerprints. (Katherine Ramsland, 121)
Print come in the following three types:
Plastic fingerprints. These are fingerprints left in pliable material such as painter’s putty. The material is firm enough in its elastic nature to retain the fingerprints. Examples of common everyday pliable substances are silly Putty partially dried oil-based paint, soft cheese, and peanut butter.
Foreign matter fingerprints: these are fingerprints made with a foreign substance and left on a surface, such as a fingerprints stained with blood. Other common examples of foreign matter are wet paint, ink and mud.
Latent fingerprints. This is the most common type of fingerprints left at crime scenes. “Latent” means “Hidden”. It’s sometimes sitting there in plain sight, but it can’t really be seen. This type of print is made up of the oils and acids that we exude from our bodies, usually through perspiration that accumulates on our hand. We can add oil to our hands by our face, making in some cases very good latent prints just waiting to be recovered. Because latent prints are difficult to see without some form of acid, care should be taken to locate and properly recover them for future analysis. There are many different ways to recover latent prints. The most common is powders and brushes. This method is used to recover latent finger prints on the dust surfaces with graphite powder, then to recover the print onto a plain white index card.
Clothing often provides an excellent source of trace evidence for forensic profilers because of the fibers that fall from it. Footwear is equally important, because small items tend to cling to the soles of shoes, sandals, and slippers. Fibers evidence on the bottom of shoes can tie a suspect to a crime scene. A tremendous amount of evidence can be recovered from a human body. In crimes in which there is a physical contact between suspect and victim, the possibility is great that an exchange of items between the two people will occur.
DNA: Thank you, God, for acronyms, because it would be very cumbersome to say deoxyribonucleic acid each time I needed to. Go ahead, try it again: deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is a biological condition of our body’s chemical composition that makes us different from one another. You probably have seen a representation of DNA in the form of a double helix, which looks like a ladder that has been twisted. The steps of this ladder, or double heli, are bases of chemical information known as guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine. (Burning V cross, 211)
The advent of DNA profiling or so called DNA fingerprinting as a forensic tool has created considerable excitement in legal circles and has led to a flurry of recent and proposed legislative amendments. DNA profiling techniques are designed to dissect the chromosomes found in most human cells and isolate particular sequences within them which may be unique to be individual. Evidence based on these techniques will usually consist of a comparison between the DNA profile derived from material left at the scene of a crime e.g. blood, sperm or even hair roots and that derived from the chromosome of a suspect, usually from a sample of his or her blood. However in a recent Victorian case, samples from blood of his estranged wife and daughter were used to establish a DNA profile for the accused for comparison with that obtained from material left at the scene of four separate rapes. (CCH, p1)
There are likely to be two main obstacles to the presentation of identification evidence based on DNA profiling in criminal trials. First, there are common law and statutory limits on the powers of police to secure samples from suspects. While the securing of forensic evidence is breach of the law will not automatically render that evidence inadmissible, the courts have a duty to consider whether the balance of public interests requires them to exercise discretion to exclude evidence so obtained. (Burning V cross, 641). Second the results of DNA profiling depend for their force on the conclusions that genetic scientists and population statisticians are able to draw from them. (Ian Freckelton, 465-538) The law places certain qualification on the admissibility of such opinion evidence. The police have two distinct functions in the legal process. The first is an investigative foundation. The second is prosecutorial function.
In a criminal investigation, the interpretation of a match that has been declared between DNA profiles of residue and suspect requires an estimation of the probability of the match being a coincidence. We need to ask the question: what is the chance that an individual selected at random from the population would have a similar matching profile? The answer depends on the frequency of the particular profile. If the profile is common in the population the probability of coincidental matching is high. On the other hand, if the profile is rare the probability is low. Estimation of a coincidental matching probability thus requires prior knowledge of the population frequency of the DNA profile, or at least information from which this can be estimated.
There are various ways to classify types of criminal homicide. State statutes distinguish between criminal and non-criminal homicides, degrees of murders, and types of manslaughters. Law enforcement agencies often categorize homicides according to the characteristics of the offender e.g. gang versus non-gang, the victim e.g. child murders, teen violence, elderly victims, or situation context or attributes e.g. domestic violence, stranger assaults, robbery, road rate or workplace homicides. Lawyers, social scientists and law enforcers also classify homicides in terms of motive. Common motives for homicides include trivial altercations, jealousy, revenge, romantic triangles, robbery, sexual assault, burglary and disputes in drug transactions. (John H, p101)
Decision making in the linking of Serial murders: Deciding on the links between offender patterns or crimes in one of the most crucial decisions faced by any investigator. Recognizing similar patterns early can lead to increased resources for the police agency, improve clearance rates, and ultimately save lives. Positive linkage can also help to narrow down the search area for potential suspects. Knowing that one offender is responsible for several murders will allow investigators to make crude estimations of the offender’s home base, which then can be used to narrow down the search area for potential suspects. Knowing that one offender is responsible for several murders will allow investigations to make crude estimations of the offender’s home base, which then can be used to narrow down the search area. When there is only one offender and one offense location, it is difficult to make similar estimations. (Colin Wilson, 192-194)
The use of Modus of Operandi to link offenses: The traditional use of Modus Operandi (MO) as a basis for linking offenses is premised on the forensic profiler’s deductive reasoning that the MO is static and uniquely characteristic to a particular offender. MO is traditionally defined as distinctive actions which link crimes together. As evidence by this definition, often investigators confuse the offender’s MO with his signature.
Conclusion: In sweeping aside traditional tenets of justice under the banners of ‘modernization’, ‘rebalancing’, ‘narrowing the justice gap’, or ‘security for all’, the government has attempted to align criminal justice priorities with those prominent in the risk society; taking greater account of the ‘risk’ of not convicting guilty offenders, while downgrading the importance of avoiding miscarriages of justice. Managerialism and efficiency concerns focus solely upon the risk of resource depletion, or increasing costs beyond public acceptability, at the cost of concern with system moral integrity or process legitimacy. The promise held out by forensic science for the successful discovery and appraisal of the substantive truth during the criminal process has promoted the pursuit of substantive justice above procedural justice. As discussed in the above sections, police powers have been extended to facilitate the use of forensic identity technologies as they have developed. The truth is increasingly revealed utilizing forensic techniques, rendering obsolete traditional protections against unreliable or partial evidence. Forensic science is playing a crucial role in the development of more accurate and perfect criminal investigation and evidence gathering developments, which demands analysis of the development of forensic identity database.
See CCH, Australian and New Zealand Criminal Law Letter No. 10, October 1982 p1.
Bunning v Cross (1978) 19 ALR 641.
Ian Freckelton, ’DNA Profiling: forensic science under the microscope (February 1990): 465-538
 1 NSWLR 608 at 612
The crimes (Police Powers of Investigation) Bill and the Crimes Legislation.
Profilers: Leading Investigators Take You Inside The Criminal Mind by Don Denevi and John H. Campbell (2004)
The Criminal Mind: A Writer’s Guide to Forensic Psychology by Katherine Ramsland (2002)
Forensic Science of CSI by Katherine M. Ramsland (2001)
Tracker: Hunting Down Serial Killers by Maurice Godwin and Fred Rosen (2004)
Serial Killer Investigations: The Story of Forensics and Profiling Through the Hunt for the World’s Worst Murderers by Colin Wilson (2006)
Encyclopedia of Serial Killers by Brian Lane (1995)