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Criminal Defense Investigations

Criminal Defense Investigations
C Patrick, Investigator

domestic-investigations

Criminal Defense Investigations.The aspects of an investigation are basically the same no matter the type of investigation.
Simply put, start with the basics. Examine the information at hand and find the loose
thread or the piece of the puzzle that does not seem to fit. Once you establish what the
loose thread is, pull it. As the picture unravels, follow the thread or evidence wherever it
may lead. There are many ways to do this depending on the type of case one is dealing
with. For the purpose of this article, let’s examine aspects of criminal investigations, or
more to the point, criminal defense investigations and the purpose they serve.

The broad purpose of the criminal defense investigation is to provide the defense attorney
the information needed to insure the individual’s right to a fair trial. This is probably the
most important type of case a private investigator can undertake; for the simple reason
that many lives are affected by the outcome of the case brought against the accused. The
loss of an individual’s freedom can not be taken lightly.

More specifically the purpose of the criminal defense investigation is as follows. Identify
and interview all witnesses. Uncover and identify any undisclosed or mitigating evidence
or circumstances relevant to the case. Examine and verify all evidence presented by the
prosecution. For example, we worked a case where a young man stood accused of having
unlawful sex with a minor. The young man met a young woman at a retail store where
she worked and dated her for quite a while before he was informed by detectives that she
was actually under age at the begining of the relationship. He was informed of this as he
was being arrested. The accused had been led to believe this young woman was actually
older and had just celebrated what he believed to be his girlfriends 20th birthday about a
month before he was arrested. Turns out it was actually her 18th .birthday. Through
witness interviews we learned that she had been working in a computer store where she
had been terminated for lying on the application about her age. One of the requirements
of employment was that the applicant had to be at least 18 to be employed with the
company. We were led to the company owner who confirmed the application and all
identification provided by the young woman was indeed fraudulent. We obtained copies
of both the application and photo ID. We were also able to identify several other
witnesses and evidence that showed the young woman had been doing this with other
young men. This case was eventually dropped by the DA based on this and similar
evidence uncovered by the investigation.

Further, it is the purpose of the defense investigation to verify the information contained
in the case file. The investigator must examine police procedures to include the collection
and chain of custody of any evidence collected. The accuracy of police reports, including
the responding officer’s hand written field notes, must be evaluated. The documentation
of the crime scene must also be examined and verified. One must also take into account
the perspective of eye witnesses, what were the circumstances and conditions at the time of the event in question, and also at the time when statements were given to law
enforcement? This may be relevant to the accuracy of the statements given. The list goes
on from here.

My first criminal defense case involved a young man that stood accused of several counts
of murder. The accused was a relative of a very close friend of mine and I was asked by
the family to investigate this case. The facts of this case could fill more pages than would
be practical here, but bears mention because not only was this my first criminal
investigation but because every aspect of the defense investigation came into play in this
case. The case involved a young man who shot several people in a gun fight with gang
members. This happened in the street of a residential neighborhood, in front of a house
where a party was being held after a high school football game. Through witness
interviews we found that one victim who survived the shooting, but is now in a wheel
chair, made statements in front of a church congregation about being out to kill someone
the night God took his friends and committed him to a life without use of his legs. This
statement was documented on video. By careful documentation of the crime scene, it was
proven that the police reports were inaccurate. Police procedure was not followed in the
collecting and handling of evidence. There were never any photos of the crime scene
taken except the ones taken during the defense investigation. Trajectory and bullet
impacts as well as shell casings showed there were several weapons being fired at the
accused where prosecutors were alleging that only one weapon, a revolver, was being
fired at the accused from a different direction. In fact, our investigation uncovered facts
that discredited all the evidence presented by the prosecution in the case. The case was
eventually ruled justifiable based on the evidence uncovered by the defense. If the
defense investigation had not uncovered these facts, the outcome would have been quite
different. Every case basically starts the same way. Once you find the loose thread give it
a pull and follow it. Often this will lead to other threads or evidence relevant to a case
that might otherwise go undiscovered.

Criminal Defense Investigations.

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