Forensic Science: Veracity Voyage in Pursuit of Truth

~Mimansa Srivastav, M.sc Forensic Science, Semester 2, RSU1919025, SFSRM RSU

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” ~ Sherlock Holmes

The Sherlock Holmes stories have presented a phenomenon of universal appeal. The master detective employing observation, deductive reasoning, and scientific knowledge has fascinated the young and the old, the rich and the poor.

Serial crime sprees, whether fictional or real, send shivers down almost everyone’s spine. But in some cases, a passion for mysteries, true crime stories, and even popular shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation can be a springboard for real-life forensics.

If you’ve watched crime shows on TV, then you probably have an idea about the life of a forensic scientist. But TV shows don’t mimic real life scenarios very well. In many jurisdictions, each scientist performs specialized duties. Crime scene technicians go to the scene to collect the evidence, while forensic scientists examine the evidence and report on the findings. One scientist may specialize in DNA analyses, while another performs drug analyses and a third does firearms analyses. In other labs, scientists are expected to wear many hats.

Police officers and federal law enforcement agents have made it their life’s work to protect the public and pursue justice on behalf of the victims. But in many cases, they can’t fulfill this mission without the invaluable contributions of forensic scientists. An introduction to Forensic Science defines it as “The application of science to those criminal and civil laws that are enforced by the police agencies in a criminal justice system”. Forensic Science deals with the application of the knowledge and methodology of various disciplines of science to legal matters. It involves the use of multiple disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, computer science and engineering for evidence analysis. For instance, physics is used to understand the pattern of a blood spatter, biology to establish the source of an unidentified suspect and chemistry to determine the composition of drugs. Earlier, it was an amalgamation of various basic sciences but today it’s a science itself.

Over the past decades, Forensic science has evolved and has been embraced by most states as a vital constituent of modern legal practice. It is widely used in courts as a major source for the outcome of a verdict. Forensic science has attained a merit of its own although it is relatively new in the jurisprudence world. As technology and science have evolved with time, more and new methodologies and practices in law realm have been established.

Forensic science depends on evidence to help solve a crime, and bring criminals to justice. Evidence is a reliable witness; it can be anything and everything in the physical universe that helps establish the facts. From a single hair, to a trail of blood, we humans are made of a cocktail of biological materials that can be left behind at the crime scene, which all can be used to identify the criminal with DNA analysis. Other evidence can suggest contact between the victim and the suspect.

Like Sherlock Holmes depended on his trusty magnifying glass, the forensic scientists of today depend on their tools of the trade to uncover evidence. Without these technologies some evidence needed to solve the crime would be obsolete and others not even uncovered. An example would be the chemical luminol, used to highlight blood that has been washed away from the crime scene.

With an advancement in the crime rate, forensic science is building up its armour in providing national security. It is that piece without which the puzzle of a criminal investigation is incomplete. Law along with forensic science go hand in hand in strengthening the nation. Any nation resides on the pillars of its judiciary. The legal system and forensic science aim to produce knowledge, although with a functional difference: the legal system finds facts as the basis for justice, whilst forensic science produces knowledge for the sole purpose of assisting the court in its fact-finding task.

This has led to greater demands being placed on law enforcement.

Crimes, like threats to national security, occur as a part of complex social situations that are often difficult to discern. Necessary information is often unavailable, sometimes because it is kept secret by criminals.

The forensic community along with the intelligence analysts have developed analytical tools and techniques to strengthen national security and to “know the unknowable”.

Routine and trustworthy collection of digital evidence, can be a great potential value in identifying terrorist activity. Therefore, forensic science community has a crucial role to play in armouring the national security of a nation.

Forensic analysis, though debatable in many aspects, constitutes a primary source of information for the tier of fact when determining a verdict for a case. Thus, natural science-based forensic evidence should be carefully studied and examined thoroughly in order for justice to be properly achieved.

In the wordings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”, and forensics is the truth that justice seeks.