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CRIM 3658 (2)
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Chapter The Social and Legal Construction of Suspects

CRIM 3658 Chapter The Social and Legal Construction of Suspects: CRIM 3658 Chapter The Social and Legal Construction of Suspects: The Social and Legal Construction of Suspects reading notes

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CRIM 3658
Anita Lam

The Social and Legal Construction of Suspects  DNA profiling and searchable databases enhance the ability of policing organizations to search for criminal suspects  These technologies are incorporated within traditions of police work supplementing familiar subjective methods of constructing suspects  Not only is DNA used to confirm that a criminal suspect is the source of crime scene  It can be used to search freely through suspect population for a possible source of such evidence  This method commonly known as database trawling comprises of new way of constructing suspects, one that bears close connections with new data mining technologies for prospectively identifying terrorist suspects  What is a suspect? o A suspect is a particular person who is an object of suspicion o Suspicion is the opposite of trust and thus represents a rupture in the taken for granted fabric of social life o A suspect represents a threat to a taken for granted order o The author discusses two types of suspects: criminal suspects and suspect populations The construction of suspects  Criminal suspects—individuals suspected of having committed a particular crime are the most familiar kind of suspects  Whereas a suspect population includes anyone in the world who has not yet been excluded by the criminal evidence, but usually such populations are limited to groups convicted of past offences or deemed likely to include possible offenders  Since 9/11, suspect populations have taken on increased importance, and suspect and convict populations have converged in the novel category of enemy combatant  However, criminal suspects and suspect populations have never been distinct as criminal suspects are drawn from suspect populations  How might a suspect be socially constructed? o Constructionists hold that suspects are constituted through social interactions with CJ agents, agencies, and processes o The agents deploy informal and formal typologies which indiscriminately mix legal scientific and prejudicial categories o So, for example, in criminal investigations police often start with a pool of potentially suspicious persons based on evidence in the particular case, but as many studies have shown, membership in this pool is skewed by race, class, gender, and geographic characteristics. The pool of presuspects is progressively narrowed during criminal investigations, as police and prosecutors gather evidence that allows them to exclude individuals from further suspicion. As the pool narrows, the remaining individuals become increasingly suspect, until, in some cases, a single individual is identified: the prime suspect o In addition to narrowing the pool of suspects, the discretionary processes at each stage also differentially concentrate the demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural stigma that criminal justice agents associate with suspect status  Investigation processes are divided into focused and unfocused o Focused processes are directed by information about particular persons o Unfocused reflect broader trawls for information such as house to house search or media appeals  In this study, the author has attempted to draw attention to emerging shifts towards trawling fueled by technology- DNA profiling and databases  Currently this technology is deemed as objective solution to subjective and prejudicial discrimination associated with investigative practices such as racial profiling  However, the author argues that such objective modes of profiling also construct suspects in ways that enhance police powers with scientific authority DNA typing and searchable databases  Police organizations have recently publicized a significant shift in the methods of criminal investigation  This shift relates to two technological developments: novel forensic techniques related to DNA profiling and development of large databases for identifying and tracking suspects  Both development come together in databases of genetic biometric information  Forensic science is silent witness which never lies; is not biased or bribed; historically however scientific evidence has never quite lived up to law’s expectations  Today however, those limitations of the past are overcome through sophistication and sensitivity of new forensic techniques DNA typing  Alec Jeffrey and associates- DNA fingerprinting  Involved radio active probes to develop bas code like pattern of bands on a graphic display  Bands represented selected sequences of DNA which were known to be highly variable in human population  Initially, DNA “fingerprints” were use for testing paternity claims but they were quickly adopted for criminal investigations  By visually comparing the pattern of bands developed from a crime stain (blood or semen sample recovered from a crime scene or rape victim) with that of a suspect sample (initially a particular suspect’s blood sample), it was possible to determine if the bands lined up or matched  The universe of crimes solvable by DNA has expanded commensurately and now includes burglaries, robberies, and vehicular theft  Senders have been linked to letter by saliva left behind when licking the envelopes, thus potentially bringing extortion and kidnapping into play as well as white collar crime  Forensic investigations have replaced good old fashioned detective work of canvassing neighbourhoods, questioning witnesses, interrogating suspects and cultivating information Searchable databases  A database opens a whole new realm of suspect identification  With a database, forensic evidence can help resolve suspect-less crimes  The population of the database becomes a suspect pool  Databases dates back to rogue’s galleries, signaletic cards by Bertillon and the fingerprint classification system developed in India and Argentina  However, before the development of automated database searching, such filing systems were of limited utility for investigating crimes. Fingerprint files were indexed according to the pattern type on all ten fingers and were extremely useful for determining whether a person in custody had a prior criminal record under an alias.  A single latent fingerprint (or mark) recovered from a crime scene, however, posed a different problem.  When a suspect was in hand, so to speak, the mark of unknown origin could be compared to the suspect’s inked prints.  But if no suspects were identified, the fingerprint files were less useful. A mark recovered from a crime scene would not necessarily contain sufficient information to tell an investigator where to look in the files for a matching card. If the investigator were truly determined to search the files for a match to an unidentified mark—for example, in an extremely high-profile case—it might be necessary to search the entire database.  Such an undertaking was called a cold search.  When DNA was first used in criminal investigations, no databases were available  To conduct a population search police would sometimes use a controversial practice called mass screening (example case Colin pitchfork- first case where DNA profiling was used to exonerate a suspect and also to convict a suspect)  Mass screening involves an ad hoc population of presuspects- persons who are invited to give evidence on the basis of general characteristics (age, race, sex, local residence, etc.)  Individual presuspects are quickly eliminated from the suspect pool when their profiles do not match the criminal evidence. Interestingly, persons who refuse to give “voluntary” samples (which is their legal right) attract police attention and become more suspicious as a result  For most forensic DNA investigations, population databases with more abstract but stable compositions were used Making and Unmaking Suspects Unmaking Suspects: the Innocence Project o The best known use of DNA technology is the use of post-conviction DNA testing to exonerate individuals previously convicted of crimes o The innocence project was able to test for the first time bodily evidence from criminal investigations that had resulted in convictions some years ago o In most of these exonerations, a DNA exclusion was sufficient to demonstrate actual innocence o The phenomenon of postconviction exoneration thus set the stage for a shift in the production of suspects. The Innocence Project produced the most concentrated cohort of what we might call false suspects, related to the “falsely accused” category in Becker’s classic typology in the sociology of deviance. o to say that the accusation was false presupposes the truth about the case. Proponents of postconviction DNA testing often explicitly equate “DNA” with an inherent scientific truth that undermines the legitimacy of conventional criminal investigation. Making Suspects: Cold Cases and Cold Hits o DNA is largely a tool o
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