DiscussionPrompts on Firearms Evidence
DiscussionPrompts on Firearms Evidence
Question1: Characteristics obtained from firearms evidence and databaseavailable
Firearms unitsscrutinize and compare casings, shells, and bullets to determinewhether they were fired from a specific firearm. To match a casing,shell, or a bullet to a specific firearm, an examiner looks atindividual and class characteristics (Erol-Kantarci & Mouftah,2013). Class characteristics refer to structures of a specimen, whichusually result from design factors and specifies a circumscribedgroup source while individual characteristics refer to features ormarks generated by the random anomalies or faultiness of toolsurface. Riva and Champod (2014) assert that on a bullet, the classtraits are the rifling conditions of the cask from which the bulletwas fired and include the number of grooves and lands, caliber,widths of grooves and lands, and the direction of twist of thegrooves and lands. Erol-Kantarci and & Mouftah (2013) assert thatthe common class traits found in casings include breech face markingsor inscriptions on the head of the cartridge, the marks of themanufacturer’s name, and the shape and caliber of the cartridge. Onthe other, Girard (2013) and Riva and Champod (2014) assert thatindividual traits are usually generated incidentally during theproduction process and are unique to a firearm. These featuresinclude signs of wear and impairment, for example, the impressionleft by infrequent markings on a bullet or a fragmented firing pin.An examiner usually concludes that a bullet was fired from thesuspect weapon once class and individual features match.
Today, examiners solve old, cold, and formerly unsolved firearmevidence by utilizing DNA analysis and computer technology.Currently, enhanced databases containing improved profiles make useof evidence composed before. Song (2016) argues that IBIS (IntegratedBallistics Identification System) linked to NIBIN (nationalIntegrated Ballistics Information Network) is the most used databaseused by firearms’ examiners as it manages to relate digital imagesof casings found at crime scenes against digital descriptions ofcasings found elsewhere. Moreover, the database allows examiners tocompare images stored in the database against those found in anycrime scene. CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database is alsoutilized to compare DNA profiles collected, firearm evidence,forensic indices, and match the collected profiles.
Question2: Use of Questioned Document Evidence
Although misconstrued and disregarded by many, QDE (questioneddocument evidence), potentially disputed can offer valuable evidencein a criminal case (Zedeck, 2010). The questioned document used inthe court was handwriting samples especially the signature on the carrental form. However, the court ruled that the QDE assessor couldpresent evidence on handwriting inconsistencies and similarities, butcould not draw conclusions to the authorship of the samples. Theruling seemed to undermine the evidentiary value of the assessor’shandwriting scrutiny evidence. Because of the ruling, the prosecutordecided not to call a handwriting expert, but the issue ofhandwriting samples was significant enough to the determination ofthe ruling (Zedeck, 2010). The defense sought to exclude thehandwriting samples or hinder a handwriting expert from giving anopinion arguing that handwriting was unreliable. However, Matsch, thepresiding judge said that the handwriting samples could be admittedarguing that a difference existed between practical skills andscientific knowledge such as handwriting scrutiny (Linder, 2007). Theprosecutor lacked physical scientific proof to tie the bombarding toTimothy thus, the admission of the judge that questioned documentcould be admitted in the court although with a caveat helped theprosecution greatly. During the trial, Timothy refused to pen hiswriting with his attorneys arguing that it would beself-incriminatory. However, the car rental forms linked him to thebombing and together with other evidence helped determine the case inthe prosecution’s favor (Jones & Hillerman, 2015 Linder,2007). It is imperative to note that although the court limited theuse of the handwriting samples, they linked Timothy to the car usedto ferry the bombs. As such, despite the challenges surrounding theuse of questioned documents in the court, they ultimately providedtangible and valuable evidence in the case.
Erol-Kantarci, M., & Mouftah, H. T. (2013). Smart grid forensicscience: applications, challenges, and open issues. IEEECommunications Magazine,51(1), 68-74.
Girard, J. E. (2013). Criminalistics: Forensic science,crime, and terrorism. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Jones, S., & Hillerman, H. (2015). McVeigh, McJustice, McMedia.InUniversity of Chicago Legal Forum (Vol. 1998, No. 1, p.4).
Linder, D. (2007). The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Trial of TimothyMcVeigh. Available at SSRN 1030565.
Riva, F., & Champod, C. (2014). Automatic comparison andevaluation of impressions left by a firearm on fired cartridgecases. Journal of forensic sciences, 59(3),637-647.
Song, J. (2016). A review of NIST projects in surface and topographymetrology for firearm evidence identification in forensicscience. Journal of Scientific and Industrial Metrology.
Zedeck, M. S. (2010). Expert Witness in the Legal System: AScientist’s Search for Justice. Dorrance Publishing.