Forensic science is an integral part of the criminal justice system and forensic scientists are the men at arms of this field. The role of a forensic scientist in the conviction of a criminal is of immense importance but, is can their judgments or results can be trusted 100% or not is a big question to be asked and discussed about?
The role of a forensic scientist starts from the very first instance of visiting a crime scene till the conviction of an offender. The searching of evidence, collection of the evidence, packing and preservation of the evidence, testing of various evidence according to their nature in various divisions of a forensic lab, preparation of the report, maintaining the integrity of the evidence and report, maintaining the chain of custody and finally giving your unbiased opinion as an expert in the court of law are the key duties of a forensic scientist.
This whole process of turning a mere piece of evidence collected at the scene of crime into a conclusive proof document involves the expertise of more than one forensic scientist and sometimes even other professionals related to the criminal justice system such as an Investigative officers, police personals, lawyers, etc.
Also, it should be brought in the purview that convicting a criminal is a big deal on the grounds of both the legal and humanitarian rights of a person. So, there should be absolutely no loopholes in the report made by a forensic scientist; as well as, the opinion as an expert should be very firm and scientific in nature.
Along with all these physical evidence and final reports that are backed up by science; testimonies, various witnesses, circumstantial evidence, and the capability of a lawyer are also the major factor that decides the conviction or acquittal of an offender.
All these factors individually keep on transferring the burden of proof amongst various people involved in the case and hearing of the case in the court of law. Thus, it is quite evident that alone relying on the forensic scientist for the conviction of a criminal is not practically possible no matter where in the world crime has happened and which court is dealing with it.
Real-Life Scenario of Trials
Going deep into this matter when we talk about the real-life scenarios and ground reality of the various processes involved in the conviction of a criminal from reporting of a case till the final verdict, we will notice that each step has the involvement of different person and even the slightest mistake could result in conviction of an innocent person or acquittal of a criminal.
In the Indian context, it is the police officers of rank Inspector/ Sub-Inspector who are regarded as the Investigative officer and he/she is the first person to reach a crime scene. He is responsible for cordoning the scene of crime and then proceeding with searching for evidence and its collection.
Forensic Scientists in most of the states of India are only called at crime scenes that are way too serious or high profile in nature. This kind of system leads to sometimes poor evidentiary value of evidence collected by officials other than the forensic experts due to lack of training.
It is also noted down that the scene of crimes are badly tampered in most of the cases even before I.O. or police have reached there. One such example is of Aarushi Talwar’s murder case.
Therefore, the point here is that if the evidence loses its evidentiary value even before reaching the forensic laboratory we cannot rely on the forensic scientist to give the best result out of it. Secondly, where the main role of forensic scientists comes into play is in a laboratory.
The collected samples are sent in the different divisions according to the nature of the sample and the need of the I.O. to proceed in the case. Forensic labs are flooded with cases and the manpower is not up to the mark.
However, forensic scientists in their all capacity and sincerity try to handle each piece of evidence very carefully, analyze them thoroughly and attentively, and finally prepare the report as it is without any biases.
Many samples are often received that results in no conclusiveness and in such cases also they right it as it is. At the end of the day, we should keep this fact in our minds that even after so much precision, we are humans and are prone to unconscious human errors and in an organization like forensic labs the work pressure is considerable.
Lastly, the final role of a forensic scientist in the court as an expert witness. Explaining the reports to the judge, giving your empirical opinion, and standing firm with it even in cross-questioning is of the utmost importance in the final judgment of a case.
Ergo, it is quite clear that forensic scientist does possess a pivotal role in the conviction of a criminal but relying on them 100% is quite illogical in a factual situation.
To sum up, convicting someone for a crime is a decision to be taken with a lot of cross-checking and precision. No benefit of the doubt should exist. And when we talk about such a long process of the final judgment which involves a number of people and a number of different stages that could have a number of loopholes, we cannot rely on just forensic scientists completely.
This whole process of serving justice is a chain of events and everything is related to each other in some way or another. Therefore, even when we read the final judgment, it is written as “the accused under section x of IPC, or any other law is found guilty and is convicted upon a consideration of the evidence as a whole without a reasonable doubt for y period of time and z amount of fine“.