Trials, International

views updated

Trials, International

The European Union (EU) consists of a group of twenty-five (25) member and four (4) candidate countries that have established centralized ways of working together; central among these is international law enforcement. Europol is the international law enforcement organization for the European Union. It oversees international management of criminal intelligence, with stated goals of crime amelioration and prevention. Europol supports the underlying law enforcement agencies of each of the member states, and facilitates international cooperation.

The current member states of the European Union are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The candidate countries are Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Turkey. Current research and statistics compiled by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol ) suggest that crime among European Union nations has generally decreased during the past several years; this is thought to be due to both improvements in crime investigation methods brought about by advances in forensic science and to increasing international legal cooperation.

Exemplary of the increased spirit of international cooperation is an EU-funded program called CTOSE (cyber tools online search for evidence ); this is an emerging best-practice model for the collection, analysis, storage, reporting, and presentation of electronic evidence. The EU members utilize state of the art forensic scientific methods, such as DNA identification and analysis; chemical, biological, biochemical, propellant, and explosive trace evidence analysis, and chemical component identification; and assaying, analysis, and identification of human bodily fluids , to solve and prosecute violent crimes. They also employ emerging information communication technologies (ICT) to solve and prosecute cybercrime, a burgeoning, and exceedingly expensive, concern worldwide.

An international concern in the prosecution of violent crime has been the lack of standardization of methods used for DNA profiling ; this dilemma is being resolved by a project designed to standardize DNA profiling techniques in the EU (STADNAP). DNA profiling and analysis, because of its considerable expense, is not readily affordable for every nation in the EU. Consequently, the science of ear print analysis has been gaining a measure of popularity in international forensic science. In addition to the economic concerns, ear print analysis/identification is considered (relatively) incontrovertible in the justice system; it is virtually impossible to tamper with and equally difficult to accidentally introduce at a crime scene.

The European Union funds projects for the forensic scientific development and advancement of ear print analysis, called FEARID. The FEARID projects are considered another means of creating international standardization for the collection, analysis, interpretation, presentation, and legal system utilization of forensic scientific evidence. FEARID is setting the stage for a worldwide database for the collection and storage of individual ear print data.

Another international program spearheaded by the EU concerns explosive trace analysis (ETA). When a bomb explodes, residue remains in the form of unreacted explosive, propellants, accelerants, or other evidentiary materials. Minute amounts of trace materials can be collected, chemically isolated, and identified. These identified materials can be compared to those collected from suspects or known terrorist groups, and utilized as evidence in international trials.

In 2000, a new international currency was launched, called the euro. In anticipation, Europol expected a surge of counterfeit Euro coins and paper notes. An international decision was made to create a failsafe system consisting of distinctive watermarks, machine-readable properties, special fiber content resulting in identifiable (yet extremely difficult to reproduce) tactile qualities, and a foil hologram. The EU launched the Eurodetector project, targeted not only at uncovering counterfeiters, but also at providing an affordable system for authenticating and counting money.

Because humans have become progressively more mobile during the past century, it has become increasingly important for international police, criminal justice, and legal system authorities to become proficient at identifying even the most miniscule bits of evidence, whether they be paint, glass , solvents, or resins, soil, trace minerals from toxicological specimens, or bullet or weapon fragments. Until recently, there was little standardization among forensic chemical or biological laboratories; this made international (and sometimes interjurisdictional) comparisons virtually impossible. The EU created an expert working group of more than a dozen forensic science laboratories spanning Europe, the United States, and Australia for a project called Nite-Crime (Natural isotopes and trace elements in criminalistics and environmental forensics) designed to develop advanced mass spectroscopy-related chemical analysis techniques for identifying the components of extremely minute fragments in inert materials and unequivocally linking suspects to crime scenes.

Another international use for evolving mass spectroscopy techniques is in solving homicides in which the victim has been transported from one location to another. Forensic scientists sample traces of mineral debris on the victim's body or clothing, and compare them against samples removed from both sites in order to ascertain that the victim was at both locations. Mass spectroscopy procedures combining different methods of chemical elemental separation with laser ablation techniques requiring only scant samples are facilitated by the Nite-Crime project and have successfully provided proof of victim location and transportation between sites.

In 1999 the European Union committed to the creation of a cooperative network of national law enforcement authorities responsible for crime prevention. This laid the groundwork for the creation of the European Crime Prevention Network in 2001 and underscores the EU's commitment to a uniform and integrated approach to the investigation, solution, and prosecution of international crimes. Forensic scientific criminal investigations are at the cornerstone of Europol's intelligence efforts. With increasing terrorist threats, coupled with the very real concern of nuclear proliferation, a new market for international trafficking has been createdthat of international transport of nuclear materials. This has, in turn, spawned a new fieldinternational nuclear forensic science.

As information technologies continue to explode worldwide, the concept of international security, whether in individual homes, at the workplace, or online, has become progressively more difficult to effect. Because each nation varies in the level of sophistication of its information technology systems, there has been little international coherence; this is especially problematic as information technology (Internet) and cybercrime is propagated across the globe virtually instantaneously. Worldwide problems require worldwide solutions and the EU enacted a Council Framework Decision on "Attacks against information systems" in 2002, which was designed to promote global cooperation and thereby improve cross-border and cross-continent information security.

The Forensic Science Service, an affiliate of the ENFSI (European Network of Forensic Science Institutes ), provides support to law enforcement and criminal justice systems worldwide. It is a UK-based organization providing services internationally, designed to partner with worldwide criminal justice systems in order to diminish criminal activity. In addition to its worldwide criminal investigation capabilities, FSS advises (and provides oversight for) global government agencies on best practice approaches to the construction and equipping of forensic science facilities; they also maintain FORS, a worldwide forensic science literature database. In addition, FSS provides on-site expert training in cutting edge equipment and emerging technologies for forensic laboratories. The FSS offers worldwide forensic expert/expert witness support to the criminal justice system; some examples drawn from international trial transcripts follow.

This example involves FSS's use of familial DNA searching, resulting in the world's first successful prosecution using this technique. Nineteen-year-old Craig Harman had spent the evening of March 20, 2003 drinking with a friend. On their way home, the pair decided to attempt to steal a car (a Renault Clio). Their attempt at hotwiring the vehicle was unsuccessful, so they each decided to take a brick from a neighboring garden and throw it at oncoming traffic (they were about to cross a footbridge over the M3 in Surrey, UK). As they crossed the bridge, Mr. Harman and his companion tossed their bricks at oncoming traffic. One brick broke through the windshield of a truck driven by Michael Little from Essex; the other nearly hit another car.

The brick struck Mr. Little on the chest, causing heart failure and death. Forensic scientific examination of the brick that caused Michael Little's death yielded a mixed DNA profile for the victim and another person. A full DNA profile was obtained from blood found on the nearby Renault Clio. A highly sensitive technique called DNA Low Copy Number was utilized; it revealed that the partial profile obtained from the brick matched the full DNA profile found on the Renault Clio, linking the two crimes. The full profile was run against the UK National DNA Database (NDNAD) without uncovering a match. The ethnic markers elicited form the DNA profile indicated that the suspect was a Caucasian male; crime scene details suggested a perpetrator less than 35 years of age. The nature of the crime indicated a likelihood that he was a local resident, so the Surrey Police force conducted an intelligence-led DNA screen of 350 individuals (volunteers) from the surrounding area; again, no match. A groundbreaking decision to use familial searching was made, in an effort to uncover a suspect by searching NDNAD for persons who most closely matched the unknown DNA profile. The search parameters were narrowed to Caucasian males below the age of 35 who lived in the geographic areas adjacent to the crime. This method yielded a list of 25 names; the closest profile matched 16 of 20 parameters, indicating that it belonged to a close biological relative of the perpetrator. This data provided a direct link to Craig Harman; he was interrogated and he supplied a DNA sample. When it was analyzed, the sample exactly matched the one from the brick at the crime scene. Craig Harman went to trial and was convicted of manslaughter .

In 1981, a fourteen-year-old girl was raped, beaten, and strangled after being attacked while en route from her home to band practice in Hampshire, UK. There was a massive investigation at the time of the incident, but no suspect was found. A single microscopic slide containing biological evidence collected from the victim by the FSS was intentionally saved, in hopes that DNA evidence processing techniques would eventually be perfected for use with very small samples. In 1999, the FSS perfected their use of DNA Low Copy Number (DNA LCN) technology. Using this method, they were able to obtain a full DNA profile of the perpetrator by using evidence obtained from the victim's clothing. They ran the profile against the NDNAD, and it came up with a "hit" in 2001, when it matched that of Tony Jasinsky. Forensic scientists then removed the 20-year-old slide from FSS archives and attempted to extract a DNA profile, endeavoring to develop a closer link to Jasinsky. They successfully obtained a full profile, which matched that from the victim's clothing, as well as one obtained directly from Jasinsky. When the murder was committed, Tony Jasinsky was employed at the local Army barracks as a cook. Tony Jasinsky went to trial, was convicted for Marion Crofts' beating, rape, and murder, and received a life sentence in May of 2002.

Antonio Imiela was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of a series of rapes committed over a one-year period. This most critical evidence in the case came from DNA and fibers . In November of 2001, a 10-year-old female was abducted from outside a community center in Kent (UK). She was taken to a nearby wooded area, where she was assaulted and raped. A full DNA profile was obtained from the victim and the crime scene, but it failed to match anyone listed on the NDNAD. Eight months later, another attack occurred in an area geographically unrelated to the first; a 30-year-old woman was beaten and raped while out walking. Using the DNA Low Copy Number technique, a partial profile of the perpetrator was obtained; it matched the profile from the first rape. Three further rapes, each geographically distant from the last, occurred. In October of 2002, a 14-year-old girl was raped; she was able to give local authorities a sufficiently detailed description so as to enable them to create a composite picture of her assailant. The picture was widely circulated to the media. An anonymous caller contacted Crimestoppers, and directed the authorities to Imiela. Imiela gave a DNA sample to police detectives; two days later he kidnapped and sexually assaulted another 10-year-old girl. Imiela was arrested in December of 2002, as a result of DNA matching between samples obtained from the first crime scene and from the suspect.

FSS forensic scientists examined Imiela's clothing, and extracted a number of different brightly colored unusual fibers from it that hadn't come from the clothing itself. The fibers were sufficient in number so as to make the hypothesis that they might have come from the clothing of his victims via secondary transfer plausible (fibers from the clothing worn by the perpetrator being transferred to clothing that came into contact with the suspect's clothing; that is, the clothing of the victims). Over a period of several months, FSS forensic scientists were able to match these fibers, ranging from a single fiber in one case to numerous fibers of different types for the victim who had been in Imiela's car. In addition, a DNA profile matching the last 10-year-old victim was obtained from two hairs found in Imiela's car. Therefore, there was a transfer of fibers in one direction and DNA transfer the other way.

Ultimately, fiber evidence was recovered in all eight sexual assaults. Together with the DNA profile, there was sufficient forensic evidence to provide extremely strong material proof that Imiela was the assailant. He was ultimately convicted of seven rapes, one count of kidnapping, a sexual assault, and attempted rape of a 10-year-old girl. He was given seven life sentences.

see also Accelerant; Artificial fibers; Cold case; Cold hit; Counterfeit currency, technology and the manufacture of; DNA databanks; Gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer; Inorganic compounds; Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry; Method of operation (M.O.).

About this article

Trials, International

Updated About content Print Article


Trials, International