100 word response 1 reference/intext citation Due 2/4/2024
Forensic Evidence in
Joseph J Ramirez v. State of Florida
In 1983, police discovered the body of a murdered woman in the office building where she worked. She had multiple stab wounds, cuts on her hand, and there were blood spatters and marks on the crime scene. She also held a hair strand in one of her hands. There was a bloody fingerprint on the door. Money was reported missing from the desk of another employee.
Police investigation established that Ramirez had cleaned on the afternoon of the night of the murder. After fingerprint analysis on the door, ten prints were found, and one print was positively identified as Ramirez. Forensic analysis revealed that the hair in the victim’s hand was not that of Ramirez. However, he was arrested and brought to court for first-degree murder because of the fingerprint.
Through investigation, police found out that Ramirez could not produce the clothes he had won on the night of the murder. Instead, he bought a new sweater and lied to the police that he had worn it on the night of the murder. Still, Ramirez had earlier asked about the company’s profits and some keys had been later reported stolen in the office. He did not have an alibi for the night, and the police discovered he had bought a new expensive watch the day after the murder. His old watch had blood traces. Police found a knife in the car he had used with slight traces of blood, but they could not determine the origin of the blood. They also found no blood traces on the sneakers he had worn.
During the trial, a police officer who was an expert in tool mark evidence claimed that the marks of this knife proved it was the knife used to stab the victim in her chest. Notably, the expert stated that he had concluded that the knife found in the car left the knife impressions on the victim. However, he had not compared the knife impression with impressions from other knives. Based on this, Ramirez was found guilty and convicted for life.
Ramirez appealed. In reversing his conviction, the court observed that the scientific evidence was inadmissible as there was no conclusive proof that the knife in question was the actual murder weapon in the exclusion of other knives, as the expert witness had testified.
Courts and Tool mark evidence
When dealing with scientific or forensic evidence, courts apply the Frye test to establish whether the evidence is reliable and admissible (Schwartz, 2005). Forensic evidence or expert testimony is admissible if it is based on an accepted scientific theory or recognized scientific knowledge, Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C.Cir.1923). The rationale for this test is that experiments generate multiple findings. Thus, experimental evidence should not be accepted in courts because it is subject to change, which can lead to the wrongful incrimination or conviction of innocent people. If expert testimony is based on a scientific theory or knowledge not established or well-recognized, it is unreliable and inadmissible for criminal trials (Mutsavi & Meintjes-van der Walt, 2020). The scientific procedures used to test the forensic evidence should be based on established scientific theories and well-recognized scientific principles. The Frye test thus assists the courts in ensuring scientific evidence proves liability beyond a reasonable doubt.
Based on the Frye test, the trial court in the Ramirez case should not have accepted the expert scientific testimony without satisfying that the theory showing tool mark evidence from the knife had been sufficiently tested and was well-recognized. Tool mark evidence can be in the form of an impression left by a tool or striation markings left after the tool’s striation pattern has come in contact with another material. If the marks on the tool are similar to the original marks on a material, then the suspect tool was used to leave the marks. From the knife marks in the Ramirez case, the knife belonging to Ramirez was not, without reasonable doubt, the murder weapon used in the murder to the exclusion of all other knives.