In Criminal defense investigations a comprehensive examination of the prosecution’s evidence can reveal the flaws of inconsistencies, errors, and omissions. An attack upon the very foundation of their case can topple the inverted pyramid supporting the theory of prosecution. It is important to remember that the documents provided via the discovery process are in fact evidence and not mere reading material for informational purposes only. The police reports and all supporting documentation are in fact the very core of the prosecution’s case. Therefore, every report, statement, photograph, and document is “evidence” and should be treated as such. A line-by-line, page-by-page, forensic examination should be conducted in order to question the veracity of the evidence. The prosecution’s case should be examined internally. In other words, the Case Review & Analysis must focus upon the prosecution’s case without reference to external information or evidence. First, the conflicts found within their own case must be exposed in order to truly reveal the weakness that is internal to their theory. Subsequently, the investigator may compare the prosecution’s facts to that found during the course of investigation that follows.
The process defined hereafter, facilitates the process of identifying inconsistencies, discrepancies, errors, omissions, and leads to be pursued during the process of investigation. While a detailed Forensic Case Review & Analysis may not be needed on every case, the more complex cases will certainly benefit from the effort. The application becomes discretionary but it is the responsibility of the investigator to determine when such an effort is in fact required.
The Approach – Phase 1
- Obtain a copy of the discovery file from defense counsel.
- During the initial meeting, ask counsel to define their objectives. In other words, “What questions do they want answered through the process of investigation?” This will allow the investigator to establish a minimum standard for success.
- Organize the discovery file. Re; Police reports, arrest affidavits, statements, evidence lists, etc.
- Assemble all documents to ensure reports are complete. a) Staple all pages of a document. b) Arrange reports in chronological order by date of report. This will allow the investigator to review the law enforcement investigation in the order in which it was conducted and reported.
- Prepare an Inventory Report of all documents provided via the discovery process.
- Apply an internal tracking system by numbering each page one through the final page. This will be used to reference information and points of interest.
- Research the statute(s) in question and identify the elements of the crime that must be proven by the prosecution in order to gain a conviction. a. Compare the elements to the facts and allegations presented by the prosecution.
The Lead Development Process – Phase 2
Note: Use a highlighter System of varied colors to tag information of specific interest. The use of a color-coding system to identify information of interest will allow ease of access and the ability to extract the data from the narrative and classify under a variety of categories. This process facilitates the identification of contamination, inconsistencies, errors, omission, and investigative leads that tend to be buried and lost within the details of a narrative reporting style.
Tag Information with a Highlighter:
- Review and analyze using a line-by-line, page-by-page application.
- Identify leads and develop a lead tracking system – A lead is defined as information of interest that may result in a question or investigative task. The leads can be developed into questions and investigative tasks and classified within the component of investigation that will facilitate an answer to the question.
- Identify Time Line Data – times and dates and reference to times and dates. Use to construct a Time Line of Events. This reorganization of the prosecution’s facts will allow the investigator to follow the facts in the order in which the incident unfolded. This is important to note, as law enforcement tends to report the facts in the order they encountered them during the course of their investigation. The two are not always simpatico.
- Identify all the names of persons involved and noted within the law enforcement investigation. This process will educate the investigator relative to the names of witnesses and the extent of their involvement. The list can also be used to compare to the prosecution’s witness list. The omission of certain witnesses may provide additional leads and interview opportunities.
- Make note of special interest items and issues that may require additional attention in the form of research.
- Prioritize special projects and research that demands immediate attention.
The Forensic Case Review & Analysis represents Component One of the Component Method of Criminal Defense Investigation. It is the first step in an aggressive impartial and objective investigation consistent with defending the 6th Amendment’s right to a fair trial. The pursuit of Truth and Justice demands no less.
Brandon A. Perron is a Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigator specializing in Major Crimes including but not limited to 1st Degree Murder and Sexual Battery. He is also the National Training Director of the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council. Mr. Perron is the author of the widely acclaimed book titled Uncovering Reasonable Doubt: The Component Method.
More information can be found at http://www.brandonperronpi.com/