The importance of documentation cannot be emphasized enough to crime scene investigators. Hence, it’s preached to them during classroom instruction, drummed into their into heads during field training, and throughout their careers it’s brought up repeatedly by colleagues, supervisors and prosecutors. Why so much emphasis on documentation? Because it’s the foundation of crime scene investigation.
Documentation is critical for a number of reasons, mainly because of the vast number of cases that a crime scene investigator encounters. It is virtually impossible for any CSI to remember every detail of every case without documentation. Quite often this information is subpoenaed months or even years down the road, long after a case has been opened. As the result of courtroom testimony, CSIs often condemn defendants to lengthy prison sentences. With such influence and responsibility, crime scene investigators have the legal, moral, and ethical obligation to convey only that which is known to be true and accurate. This is accomplished by reviewing case file documentation.
In the heat of trial, forensic evidence must be iron-clad as it will be monitored by the judge, attacked by defense counsel, and scrutinized by the jury. No crime scene investigator in his or her right mind would compromise the integrity of legal proceedings by arriving empty handed, neglecting the documentation needed to authenticate, corroborate, and substantiate evidence. And yet, the investigator in my case did just that.
Despite two years of trial preparation Pittsfield police crime scene investigator Mark Trapani sauntered into the courtroom without case notes, documents, or photographs. He compensated by flaunting the forensic guru image portrayed to the jury by second assistant district attorney Joan M. McMenemy.