Custom Chain of Custody essay paper sample
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Chain of custody is a legal term for “the chronological list of those in continuous procession of a specific physical object” (Hall, 2008). It is the proper documentation of all the steps and hands that an evidence has gone through from the time it was collected at the crime scene to the time its actually presented in the courtroom. Simply put, one is supposed to be able to prove to the court that the evidence has not been changed during the stages of investigation and is the sample that was collected from the crime scene. Among the many circumstances where the chain of custody may be very necessary, a chain of custody may be required to authenticate an object of physical evidence that has no unique identifying characteristics (Beitman, 2005).
Keeping the records serves a very important purpose. For instance when a sample is subjected to a series of tests, it can end up changing its condition and hence with the availability of a chain of custody (COC) form, the changes can be traced which can help in proving that the evidence is indeed the actual evidence collected from the crime scene. Such changes can be lose of color, withering if the evidence is leaf or any kind of vegetation, and perishable evidences like fruits among others. Again, some evidences are no easily identifiable and cannot be marked at all (Lubet, 2004). Such evidences as liquids cannot be easily marked and therefore the chain of custody form is required to enable identify such evidences. Usually, when a chain of custody for the entire period an evidence has been in custody cannot be shown, the validity of the evidence becomes doubtful, something that can render an court case useless.
An evidence is usually a very important component of any court proceeding as is it is one of the major determinants of whether a person is guilty or not. It follows therefore that it is very easy for some one t be convicted if the evidence availed in court is ‘a planted’ evidence aimed at making the person look guilty. For ,this reason it is imperative that a clear documentation of every.
In the case study below, we are considering a trial that involved a mechanic and a manufacturer of tires. It all starts when a tire exploded and seriously injures the mechanic when he tries mounting it. The tire manufacturer – the defendant is sued and has to answer to such charges as in manufacturing a defective tire. The tire is offered solely as the main evidence in its very state of damage. The first witness is the garage manager who offers to testify. Here is the excerpt of the case hearing.
Q. Could you say where were you when the plaintiff was injured?
Ans. I was actually standing about twenty metres away when I heard the noise of a loud explosion.
Q. did you do anything?
Ans. I did run over to where the plaintiff was lying on the ground. He was covered with blood and there was a rugged tire lying next to him.
Q. Were there any other tires nearby?
Ans. No, that was the only one.
Q. did you do anything with the tire?
Ans. Yes. I picked it up and put it in my office.
Q. Were there any other tires in your office at the time?
Q. Did you do anything else with the tire that you found next to the plaintiff?
Ans. Yes. About a week later, a company superintendent came to investigate the injury. He asked to take the tire and i gave it to him.
Q. Had the tire been in your office the entire time between the injury to the plaintiff and the time that you gave it to the company superintendent?
Q. Were there any other tire in your office during that time?
Up to this extent the manager manages to explicitly state it all and therefore completes the first part of the chain of custody. Also notice that the tire is yet to be produced in the court ( Lubet,2004). The next witness who testifies is the company superintendent, and the extract goes;
Q. Did you obtain the tire in the course of your investigation of the injury?
Ans. Yes. About two weeks after the incident, i had gone to the manager to speak to him about the incident and he did give me some tire that he removed from his office.
Q. Then did you do anything with the tire?
Ans. I did bring the tire with me back to our headquarters and actually placed it in my office.
Q. Can you say whether there was any other tire in your office from that time till today?
Q. Now, did you ever have the tire that you had obtained from the garage manager leave your office under any circumstances?
Ans. Not any other day apart from today that i have brought it here with me to the court.
The company superintendent winds with his testimony and the court gets the opportunity to examine the tire. The tire here has been presented as the physical evidence. Its significance goes a long way in trying to really ascertain the manufacturer of the tire by establishing the physical features or marks of origin. This would be important in proving that the tire was indeed manufactured by the defendant and thereby providing the process with a stable basis to lay any claim as may be sought by the plaintiff.
We can easily notice that the Chain of Custody as provided is sufficient to authenticate the identity of the tire. The evidence is therefore enough to establish the continuity of possession. This illustrates that the chain of custody followed was secure and could not be tampered with. In fact in this particular case the evidence were kept in secured areas (tires in the offices of either the garage manager or the superintendent) which makes access to them be restricted only to authorized personnel only.
In checking whether the legal integrity of the evidence was upheld through proper possession, handling and storage, what is of interest to the judges is usually the desire to prove that the evidence as collected during the whole course of investigation and the evidence as finally submitted in the court are one and the same. To accomplish this, usually, those involved in the investigation must establish a secure chain of custody otherwise referred to as the chain of evidence (Dutelle & LeFevre, 2010). In this case study, this was achieved as indicated by the two witnesses that the evidence never escaped their respective custody. Since in this case the tire was availed in court to only help in identifying the manufacturer, it can be said that the legal integrity of the evidence was sufficient. This is because the court was not interested in any chemical changes that might have occurred to the evidence which would have been really detrimental for this case had it been a requirement since in this case study there was no record showing the state of tire from the time it was taken from the crime scene to the time it was being availed in court. The fact that the tire was identified by the mechanic in the court was also sufficient enough to prove the credibility of the tire (evidence). This is because the tire was being availed in court t only help in the identification of it manufacturer.
There are two types of evidences. These are Visible and Latent Evidences. A Visible evidence is any evidence that can be seen by the naked eye. Examples of a visible evidences include; a piece of knife got from a crime scene, broken glasses, damaged equipments or a piece of clothing from the crime scene among others.
Latent evidence on the other hand is the evidence at a crime scene that cannot be seen with the eyes. Examples of such an evidence is a blood stain on a piece of clothing that has been washed clean or a fingerprint on a rugged surface, finger prints and DNA from the crime scene. Such evidence usually require the scrutiny of forensic experts to determine the bearer or to be able to trace the sources and get to the roots of and unearth any culpable individuals. However our case study demonstrates a clear show of visible evidence and therefore can be classified under the same .
The evidence given in the case study can be said to be a visible or physical evidence as it can be seen by naked eyes . The tire as an evidence can be seem using the naked eye. This is true due to the fact that visible evidence is that type of evidence that consists of physical objects found at the scene of crime.
It follows therefore that the manner in which evidences are handled is very imperative if justice is to be exercised accordingly. Evidences are not supposed to handle by anybody directly or indirectly involved in the case. Every evidence, be it latent or visible, should be treated extra carefully since the credibility of virtually all verdicts given in almost all cases entirely depends on the evidence available and are connected to the case. Keeping a clear record of the handlers and the physical nature of the evidence whenever is it changing possession is usually done on a Chain of Custody (COC) Form which is always available for scrutiny during the process of litigation and court ruling.