Criminal Case Research

Evidence for a criminal matter must be protected and handled with the highest priority at all times.  Any carelessness could bring into question whether or not due care was practiced in preserving the evidence or securing the chain of custody.  In Commonwealth of Virginia vs. Honaker, Edward Honaker was convicted of rape, sodomy, and sexual assault charges.  He was sentenced to three life terms plus thirty-four years.  He served a total of ten years before receiving a pardon from the governor and exonerating him from the crimes.
The evidence used to convict Edward Honaker is questionable at best.  Physical evidence such as a semen stain on the victims shorts, vaginal and oral swabs, hair analysis, and a semen sample were collected.  These collections were made at a hospital and retrieved by using a physical evidence recovery kit, or PERK kit.  It became obvious during the trial that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense.  Witnesses for the prosecution were alleged to have been hypnotized in order to improve their testimony on the stand.  Honaker provided the Commonwealth of Virginia with blood, hair, and semen samples, however the semen sample was not able to be used since the defendant had undergone a vasectomy years prior to the alleged crime.  He was unable to produce sperm.  This key note was not divulged to the prosecutors criminalist before or during the trial.  Although latent evidence, evidence not visible to the naked eye, was a critical factor in this case, visible evidence was also used.  Witnesses identified Honaker out of a police lineup as did the victim in court.  It should also be noted that Honaker had an alibi and several witnesses placing him in another location at the time of the crime (1996).
As soon as evidence is collected, it must be given top priority care.  The evidence collected in this matter was protected at the Department of Forensic Science, DFS, which maintains a library of DNA evidence collected.  The evidence contained in the PERK kit was obtained by a forensic nurse.  Chain of custody is validated via certificate.  In the supporting case of Anderson vs. Commonwealth of Virginia, the preservation of evidence was brought into question.  In the courts opinion, Charles Friend said, an authenticated certificate of analysis creates a prima facie inference that DFS maintained a proper chain of custody at all times while the samples were in the laboratory (1993).  The Commonwealth of Virginia did preserve and give proper care to all evidence, but it was erroneous in the aspect of reviewing the evidence before rushing to trial.  The methods of collection and storage are to be commended.  The use of available information from witnesses, lab results, and communications of evidence are deplorable.
Edward Honaker was pardoned after serving ten years in prison.  During the time of his trial and conviction, the law provided that new evidence could only be submitted within a twenty-one day period post trial.  He was forced to seek help from an outside innocence project in order to request a pardon from the governor.  The only question concerning chain of custody involves the defendants inability to produce sperm. Blacks Law Dictionary terms prima facie evidence as being evidence that will sustain a fact or judgment (2001).  This fact alone brings the entire case under tremendous scrutiny since the conviction was secured on evidence not belonging to the defendant.
The legal system is far from perfect, but certain criteria and protocol must be adhered to in order to preserve the integrity of the judicial system.  Evidence collected must be treated with top level priority since it could be called upon at any time.  Defendants must be assured that their samples are protected on some level.  Not all evidence is visible with the naked eye.  Special forensic laboratories are utilized to search and find minute evidence that may solve crimes, secure convictions, and identify missing persons.  Receipts for receiving and transferring evidence are crucial.  The chain of custody in all matters is pertinent.


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