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Legal Issues in Forensic Science Capt. Sanford Herzon, M.Ed. Thomas S. Wootton High School Montgomery County Public Schools.

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Presentation on theme: "Legal Issues in Forensic Science Capt. Sanford Herzon, M.Ed. Thomas S. Wootton High School Montgomery County Public Schools."— Presentation transcript:

1 Legal Issues in Forensic Science Capt. Sanford Herzon, M.Ed. Thomas S. Wootton High School Montgomery County Public Schools

2 Enduring Understandings in Forensic Science Application of science to criminal and civil laws that are enforced by the criminal justice system. Evidence testing is conducted using the disciplines of scientific principles. Forensic scientists come from many fields in science. Starts at the crime scene.

3 Landmark Rulings on Evidence Admissibility James Frye vs. U.S Federal Rules of Evidence 1993 Daubert vs. Merrill Dow 1999 Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. Vs. Carmichael 1968 Coppolino vs. State

4 James Alphonso Frye vs. United States, 1923 Frye was convicted of murder in the 2nd degree, Frye’s lawyer appealed the decision based on results of a systolic blood pressure deception test (polygraph). Expert testimony by inventor, William Marston validated the results of the test as being scientifically sound. The appeal was denied and Frye was incarcerated for murder.

5 Frye Decision D.C. Circuit Court determined the lie detector test was not "sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the field in which it belongs." The court's ruling became the standard for both federal and state courts throughout the country and became known as the Frye general acceptance test.

6 Coppolino vs. State, 1968 Dr. Carl Coppolino lived with his wife, Dr. Carmela Musetto in New Jersey. Coppolino an anesthesiologist had an affair with a neighbor’s wife, Majorie Farber. In 1966, her husband died in his sleep. The Coppolinos moved to Long Boat Key, Florida and Farber followed buying a home next door.

7 Coppolino: aka Dr. Death Coppolino asked his wife for a divorce so he could marry a rich divorcee, Mary Gibson. His wife denied his request and in 1967 died in her sleep. Five weeks later, Carl Coppolino married Mary Gibson. Majorie Farber went to police in Florida claiming Coppolino killed his wife Carmela. Farber claims she knows this because she helped him kill her own husband. Marjorie Farber Dr. Carmela Musetto

8 Doctor charged with homicide. Coppolino was charged with homicide in New Jersey and Florida. Trial in New Jersey ended with an acquittal. In Florida, Coppolino was found guilty of 2 nd degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Coppolino served 12 years and was paroled. F. Lee Bailey was Coppolino’s attorney. Bailey objected to the testimony of a toxicologist which led to an acquittal

9 Autopsies discover poison. Autopsy reports confirmed that Coppolino injected a curare-like drug into his victims rendering them paralyzed. Victims died by asphyxiation. No forensic technology existed in the 1960s to isolate the poison from a person’s blood stream or tissues. New Jersey court denied admissibility of toxicology evidence due to a Frye ruling. Coppolino injected his victims with Succinylcholine rendering them paralyzed. Pillows and

10 It’s elementary my dear Watson. Florida judge made a landmark decision to allow testimony of toxicologist. Precursor to expert testimony This is a great example of how courts in a Frye jurisdiction will overlook the general acceptance requirement when the evidence looks too good!

11 Federal Rules of Evidence, 1975 Purpose of the rules of evidence is to regulate the evidence that the jury may use to reach a verdict.

12 Daubert vs. Merrell Dow, 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case involved parents of two minor children with birth defects. Claimants alleged that prenatal ingestion of Bendectin caused these defects. Judge allowed testimony from experts. All agreed that Bendictin causes birth defects.

13 The judge decides Judge in trial ruled that Frye’s general acceptance is not a requirement to admissibility of scientific evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence. The judge is now considered the “gatekeeper” in deciding the admissibility of evidence in Federal courts

14 Kumho Tire Co. vs. Carmichael A tire failure on the vehicle driven by Patrick Carmichael was responsible for an accident that killed a passenger and injured several others. Plaintiff's counsel produced expert testimony from a tire failure analyst who concluded the failed tire was defective.

15 Judge “gatekeeps” expert testimony too. Trial judge overruled the Frye standard citing the Daubert ruling. Also Coppolino case was citing in having judge allow expert testimony. Judge is now gatekeeper in the admissibility of expert testimony.

16 Rights of the Individual

17 4 th Amendment Unreasonable search and seizure of evidence. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizure shall not violated.

18 Mincey vs. Arizona Rufus Mincey was suspected of dealing drugs. Police officer used forced entry into home and was shot and killed. Police spent 4 days recovering evidence without a warrant. Mincey was convicted and at his appeal, Supreme Court found him innocent sighting the searches were not warranted.

19 Michigan vs. Tyler A business was destroyed by fire. Fire and police officials returned 4, 7, 25 days after fire to collect evidence for arson. Tenants were found guilty of arson only to be freed by Supreme Court as additional searches were found to be without warrant and without consent.

20 5 th Amendment Rights of a Person - No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


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