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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Criminal Investigation - Part One

I'm sure a lot of readers watch 20/20 or Dateline on television. I'm amazed that so many convictions happen now days because of over zealous prosecuting attorneys or poor police investigations. It appears that maybe with the latest technology with DNA and data bases that many criminal investigators are now better suited to jumping to conclusions than grunt work in building a case. Or they jump to a conclusion and then build a case to justify the leap to a conclusion.

 When I did criminal investigation we did not have access to data bases and DNA had not been discovered yet. Old fashioned tedious work putting many clues together and letting them lead you to a conclusion of fact based on factual evidence was the norm.  We had fingerprints but computers were not yet in practice with the point identification so we had to sort through numerous fingerprints and make the point identification ourselves. Times have changed but the old ways left little to chance and not nearly the amount of innocent people ended up in prison that there are now days.

I have sent my share to prison for crimes such as rape, murder, burglary. larceny and other sex crimes. I am convinced that they were all guilty and 99% of the time a confession accompanied factual evidence and no circumstantial evidence was used or needed. I was fortunate to have a criminologist with a masters degree working on his doctorate degree that taught me principals of investigation. What he actually taught me was how to train my mind to put facts together that would lead to an ultimate factual conclusion. Once taught to think a certain way it is hard not to apply that ability to puzzles. I would call it the science of logical thinking.   One of my jobs was to work with local and federal agencies. To hone skills I went to some FBI short term schools and took criminology courses at Univ. of Omaha, now University of Nebraska. Most successful criminal investigators have a thinking process that essentially works the same way.

The most important thing that sets one investigator apart from the next is the training of ones mind to think a certain way and use that thinking to formulate  logical conclusions. How to gather evidence so it is meaningful and how to interrogate effectively.  It all evolves around the trained thinking process and the day to day skills just naturally fall into place. I plan to do two more in this series on different ways to investigate and reliance on factual evidence and not circumstantial evidence. Smart criminals are very hard to catch but when caught need to be sent away with something other than circumstantial evidence. Now days it seems that investigators rely on DNA and data bases and if those fail they go for circumstantial evidence and district attorneys with glib imaginations. I hate to see people sent to prison on circumstantial evidence and a well spun story by a lawyer.

A good investigator follows a logical process and DNA and data bases should be nothing more than tools but not supplant a well founded factual investigation . Part two will address the Agatha Christie type investigator and part three will address the Sherlock Holmes type. This is a departure from mountain living but may be a topic that will interest some readers. It is my opinion that people should not be sent to prison on circumstantial evidence or through the power of the press. Watch for part two and part three.  

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