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Famous Cases with Lost or Contaminated Evidence

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Famous Cases with Lost or Contaminated Evidence

Patricia Warder

American Public University

CMRJ 101


If crime scene investigators do not act methodically, they risk contaminating or losing crucial evidence. (Mahoney, 2014).

The events in the following high-profile cases are true accounts of errors made by law enforcement investigators and forensic technicians while gathering evidence at crime scenes.  These errors caused crucial evidence to be contaminated, destroyed or lost.  Because this evidence was not gathered and processed properly it was difficult proving the suspect’s guilt or innocence.  These errors will further point out changes that were made in the forensic science investigation division, to crime scene procedures for the protection and integrity of the crime scene and evidence collected.  These changes were brought about after significant “sloppiness” was revealed in the procedures of gathering and preserving of evidence, and lack of tight security of the crime scenes.

O.J. Simpson Murder Case

O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman on June 12, 1994, between approximately 9:40 p.m. and 10:55 p.m., in the front courtyard of her condominium on Bundy Drive, Brentwood. California.  He could not prove his whereabouts during this time. (Evans, 2003)

The questionable evidence brought forth was due to the sloppy, and sometimes inept, procedures used by the investigators of the crime scene.  The defense focused their case on the procedural ineptitude of the investigators and their failure to properly collect, document, and preserve the evidence and the integrity of the crime scene. (Holland, 2014)

The primary crime scene was at the condominium on Bundy Drive, where the murders took place.  The secondary crime scene was O.J.’s home on Rockingham Drive, Brentwood, California (two miles from Nicole’s condo on Bundy Drive).  The white Bronco, owned by O.J., had blood smears by the handle of the driver’s door and blood found on the console and carpet inside.  It was considered to be the third crime scene. Today, three separate investigating teams would have been sent to process the crime scenes individually, under the supervision of a veteran crime scene manager. (Holland, 2014)

A vial of blood was taken from O.J. at the LAPD station, but instead of booking it into evidence, the detective put the vial in his pocket and proceeded to the secondary crime scene, O.J.’s home on Rockingham Drive, where the technicians were collecting evidence.  He carried it around for several hours.  This led the defense to accuse the police of planting the blood evidence. (Tom Rhodes in WA., 1995)

Footprints were found in blood at the primary crime scene matching the size and type shoe O.J. wore.  A detective testified he left a pair of O.J.’s shoes in his car trunk overnight. (Holland, 2014)

A criminalist said he carried the bloody right-hand leather glove, found at O.J.’s home, to the crime scene on Bundy Drive, at the direction of Detective Lange, again leading the defense to accuse the police (Mark Fuhrman) of planting the right-hand glove on O.J.’s property on Rockingham Drive. (Holland, 2014)

DNA typing of blood found on the right-hand leather glove, found at O.J.’s home, was a mixture of O.J and the two victims.  The left-hand of the leather gloves was found at the Bundy Drive condo, next to Nicole’s body.  The gloves were a specially manufactured type and they were identified as belonging to O.J.

At the prosecutor’s request during the trial, O.J. was asked to try on the leather gloves found at the crime scenes.  The defense suggested he first put on latex gloves so his fingerprints would not be placed inside.  A powerful visual was given the jury as O.J. struggled to squeeze his hands into the leather gloves.  The defense came up with the now familiar phrase, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”.  Why didn’t the prosecution know how difficult it would be for someone to slide their hands into leather gloves over latex gloves when they do not want to? (Rigle,1996)

A bloody fingerprint on the gate at Nicole’s condo was not properly collected and entered into evidence.  Although, it was documented in the notes of a first responder, no further action was taken to secure it.  Once again, causing the defense to accuse the police of planting evidence. It was lost or destroyed without ever being collected. (Crime Museum, 2017)

There was at least a seven-hour delay in calling the coroner to the crime scene after the bodies were found.  Detective Lange decided the photographers from the media were too close, so he covered Nicole’s body with a blanket found inside her home, thus contaminating the body and the area in close proximity before the coroner could examine the body. (Holt, 1997)

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