The early history of Oklahoma, dating back to its original status as a territory, is part of the tale of the “Wild West.” In the old days, law enforcement had none of the modern means of evidence gathering and analysis that it does today, although if you ask anyone at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s forensic science laboratory they will likely tell you that what they do is not like what you see on television in the “CSI” crime dramas.
Nonetheless, if you are charged with a crime in Oklahoma nowadays, the technological apparatus of the state can be impressive in the scientific weight that it can bring to bear against you. This post provides a glimpse of some of the ways that modern technology helps state and local police and district attorneys to build a case for criminal prosecution.
Physical reconstruction: Human remains can be virtually “reconstructed” into life-like images for identification purposes, even if all that is left are badly decomposed bodies or even bones.
Drug testing: The OSBI Forensic Toxicology Unit can analyze blood and urine samples to look for evidence of drug use, with a claimed 100 percent rate of accuracy.
DNA analysis: Related to the Forensic Toxicology Unit is the Forensic Biology Unit, which collects blood, semen and other bodily fluids and materials to develop DNA samples and to match those samples against a nationwide index to identify matching profiles.
Ballistics: In a way similar to how each person’s fingerprints are unique, so too are firearms individually distinguishable based on factors like rifling marks left on a bullet when it is fired, and the bullet cartridge will also have unique marks left on it at the time of firing. The Firearms Identification Unit can use these “signatures” to determine whether a firearm that is suspected of having been used in a shooting was in fact linked to the crime.
Latent prints: Even fingerprinting technology has improved from its early beginnings, and indeed the types of “prints” that can be collected and analyzed by the Latent Print Unit goes far beyond just fingerprints. Shoe prints, tire tracks and more can now be used to narrow down what a suspect was wearing or driving at a crime scene, even if no fingerprints are left behind.
Although the array of technological means to bolster a prosecutor’s case can seem formidable, that does not mean that it is infallible. The high degree of complexity of the new technology means that even a slight degree of carelessness can have an effect on the accuracy, and therefore the reliability of forensic evidence. Lapses in the chain of custody can also create openings to call such evidence into question. And as a recent revelation about the FBI’s use of questionable expert testimony with regard to hair sample evidence shows, sometimes human error or even human lack of candor can reduce the effectiveness of “scientific” evidence.
This is where having an experienced and savvy defense attorney can still make a key difference for anyone accused of a crime. Knowing the potential weak points in forensic evidence gathering and analysis, including its weakest link – the human beings involved with it – is important for any defense against criminal charges.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, contact the Hunsucker Legal Group today for your free consultation.