In many criminal cases, the police rely on the testimony of an eyewitness to the crime. Eyewitnesses may have crucial information about what happened, of course. They are also frequently used to identify a suspect. These identifications are typically done by having the eyewitness look at a lineup or an array of photographs.
The National Registry of Exonerations recently issued its 2018 annual report. One hundred fifty-one people were exonerated in the U.S. last year after having been wrongfully convicted of various crimes ranging from traffic offenses to homicide. Together, the exonerees lost 1,639 years of their freedom.
Sometimes, the non-court consequences of criminal activity are as serious as the consequences of a conviction. These "collateral consequences," however, have traditionally come as the result of criminal prosecution. Most of the time, society doesn't inflict serious consequences on people who have never been convicted.
The case involved South Carolina bank robbery. Witnesses were unable to ID the robber and the bank's surveillance video turned out to be too grainy to help. When the FBI finally arrived at a suspect, the man countered that the robber had been his brother. With only low-quality video to go by, how could investigators tell which brother had committed the crime?
"You have nothing to fear if you're not going to be a criminal," said a spokesperson for the Bensalem, Pennsylvania police.
The idea that ballistics -- marks made on bullets and casings by the gun they are expelled from -- can be relied upon as evidence is something most of us are familiar with. We've seen it on the CSI shows.
Recently, the Des Moines police became the first Iowa police department to install an in-house machine that can analyze shell casings and access a federal ballistic imaging network to identify potential matches with firearms. Now, that system has been used to match a particular handgun to shell casings found at a robbery scene. As a result, an 18-year-old Ankeny man is facing criminal charges.
Recently, about 1,400 forensic pathologists, fingerprint examiners and other crime scene investigators from across the country met in San Antonio for the International Association for Identification's annual International Educational Conference. At the top of the agenda was improving the standards for collecting, testing and presenting forensic evidence.
With marijuana now legal for either recreational or medical use in the majority of states, drugged driving appears to be on the rise. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward way to test whether someone is actually impaired by marijuana. It's easy enough to test for the drug's metabolites, but those remain in the system for weeks, while the drug's "high" only lasts for a couple of hours. Law enforcement has been seeking a so-called 'pot breathalyzer" that could test for actual impairment, not just exposure to the drug.