Forensics is a field of science dedicated to the methodical gathering and analysis of evidence to establish facts that can be presented in a legal proceeding. Though crime scenes and laboratories are perhaps, most often associated with forensics, there is also computer or network forensics, forensic accounting, forensic engineering and forensic psychiatry, among other specialized fields that are today an integral part of forensics. In the United States of America, forensics was a fairly obscure topic for the general public until the double-murder trial of Orenthal James Simpson in 1995. In the historic case that gripped the entire nation, weeks of testimony were heard on DNA blood evidence, shoeprint evidence, fiber evidence and other forensics. Since then, a bevy of forensics-based television shows have regularly topped the ratings, making it a household word.
Those who collect forensic evidence must follow strict procedures to protect the evidence from getting contaminated or destroyed, and must preserve the chain of custody. Since science is unbiased and sound, forensics is considered a very critical part of any investigation. While witnesses may often be mistaken, have credibility issues, hold a stake in the outcome, have fading memories, or even pass away, forensics “tells the same story” no matter how many times it is tested, or how many years have passed. The field of forensics is so vast that it requires specialists or criminalists at every point of investigation, from tire track analysis, to odontology, to the lands and grooves that make every gun barrel unique. From microscopic evidence and transfer evidence such as fibers and hair, to blood splatter and forensic entomology, there are many fields of specialization within forensic science.
Though forensics deals with circumstantial evidence, it is often widely considered as the best and the most compelling evidence that any prosecution or defense lawyer can have in his or her arsenal. Some people suggest that the public’s awareness of forensic science might be potentially compromising to law enforcement, producing educated criminals who might be more apt to try and effect a clean crime scene. Experts generally tend to believe that it is nearly impossible to avoid leaving behind trace evidence at a crime scene, even when extraordinary efforts are made to the contrary.