Custody of Evidence One Error Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

She had been struck several times in the head with a Toney Penna golf club -- so ferociously that the club had shattered into multiple pieces -- and then stabbed in the neck with the broken shaft the club's handle and part of the shaft had vanished. (Kennedy Jr., 2003, Martha Moxley section, ¶ 1)

From evidence retrieved from the autopsy, police determined Moxley's murder occurred at approximately10:00 P.M..

On July 10, 1998, 23 years after Moxley's murder, "Connecticut authorities convened a one-man grand jury consisting of Judge George Thim. The state's attorney Jonathan Benedict took over the Moxley case and began a multimillion-dollar effort to convict Michael Skakel" (Kennedy Jr., 2003, Mark Fuhrman section, ¶ 5). Until this time, Greenwich police and state investigators considered Ken Littleton as the primary suspect for the murder of Moxley (Fuhrman, cited in Kennedy Jr., Mark Fuhrman section, ¶ 7). According to prosecutors' arguments, Skakel, in a jealous, drunken rage, killed Moxley after he saw his older brother kiss her. At that time, however, Skakel loved Francine Ziminsky, a family friend, and did not know any romance between Moxley and his brother even existed. Skakel's alibi conflicted with the time of Moxley's death, reported as 10:00 P.M. For Skakel's accusers to be correct, the evidence regarding the time of Moxley's death had to be skewed, by moving it up. To counter this concern, albeit, Fuhrman asserted, contrary to the medical examiner's assertion establishing Moxley's time of death to have occurred at the time when Skakel could not have committed it, that food may remain in a person's stomach as long as six hours, allowing for the murder to have possibly past the time of Skake's alibi (Kennedy Jr., 2003).

Various members of Skake's family speculated that strong evidence did not point to Ken Littleton, but to Franz Wittine, a previous Skakel gardener. None of Skake's family imagined Michael would be charged or convicted of Moxley's crime. During Skakel's trial, one witness held a three-ring binder which contained almost three decades' worth of police information related to Littleton, along with a summary of the state's case against him. Kennedy Jr. (2003) asserts that information in this binder could have proved valuable to Skakel'defense, however, the was not placed in evidence, nor marked as an exhibit (Kennedy Jr., Mickey Sherman section, ¶ 7) Kennedy Jr. reports he grew up with a reverence for the American justice system, and considered it almost infallible. He stated he learned, however, the truth of the words of Michael Baden, New York's former chief medical examiner: "Notorious crimes have to be very carefully prosecuted because it is so easy to get a conviction without physical evidence. This is the very time to be more cautious, not less cautious, so that a bad decision isn't made..." (Kennedy Jr., 2003, Michael Skakel section, ¶ 7). Juries make mistakes. A skilful prosecutor may persuade an honest jury to convict a person who is actually innocent. This fact has been recently, repeatedly confirmed by a number of DNA exonerations of death-row inmates. During the last 10 minutes of the trial, culminating in Skakel's conviction, Benedict presented a sophisticated, poignant multimedia display that "superimposed Michael's statements, out of context, on gruesome pictures of Martha's slain body" (Kennedy Jr., Michael Skakel section, ¶ 6). Numerous legal analysts later criticized this fabricated evidence to be prejudicial and deceptive.

Lori Caldwell, Lori. (2004) recounts details of a not so publicized case in: "Gun missing as evidence, so Gary man acquitted." Due to the disappearance of a handgun as evidence, Aaron Allen, 22, was acquitted of a weapons charge in court.

Allen had reported been riding in a car the police stopped March 26, 2003. Allen claimed the missing.22-caliber revolver the police found under the car seat did not belong to him. As there was no gun; there was no case. Highlights from another case, with results posted on Newsday's Website, "Complete coverage: Limo crash" (2007) portray how missing evidence could potentially damage a case and result in a guilty person not being convicted. Ultimately the case of a Martin Heidgen, a drunken driver, who killed two people when he drove down a highway the wrong way, ended with Heidgen being convicted. During the course of the conviction, as the following points note, concerns regarding evidence caused the family of the youngest victim, Katie Flynn, seven-years-old, unnecessary heartaches.

May 30, 2007 report notes that, following Heidgen's conviction, Katie's parents verbalized their support for a proposed law relating to imprisoning drunken drivers who seriously injured and/or killed people. Katie's parents, however, did not share, however, the obvious painful experiences regarding evidence for the case of their daughter's death, including "inadmissible evidence" a jury forewoman later reported she and other jurors relied on for their verdict to vote to convict Heidgen of murder. During the course of this trial, "legal wrangling over murder suspect Martin Heidgen's blood" occurred, prior to a Nassau judge ultimately permitting a toxicologist to inform jurors Heidgen "had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he crashed his pickup truck into a limousine in July 2005, killing two people" "Complete coverage," 2007). State Police reportedly mishandled blood evidence in this particular case.

Another Newsday report "Evidence bungled?: Blood work in DWI death trial might have been mishandled, according to testimony of troopers, others," (2006) recounts taht Heidgen, 25, of Valley Stream, was tried for second-degree murder, following driving drunk on July 2, 2005. His pickup truck slammed into a limousine, and killed Stanley Rabinowitz, 59, the driver, and the passenger 7-year-old Katie Flynn of Long Beach. Flynn was returning home after serving as a flower girl in her aunt's wedding ("Evidence bungled?"). Maureen McCormick, Prosecutor, argued that any alleged mistakes state troopers made in handling evidence (blood) were insignificant. As they did not alter the fact Heidgen's blood -alcohol content measure.28%, more than three times the legal limit. According to McCormick, in every case human beings so things and forget to do some things. Despite the mishandled blood sample weakened the prosecutor's case, ultimately, however, this human failure to properly label a blood sample did not prevent prosecutors from convicting Heidgen on second-degree murder charges.


In "Evidence Tampering," Chris William Sanchirico (2006), notes that at times, news headlines remind individuals that the production of evidence constitutes a "game " where legal rules may be broken. For instance: "In the 1980s, Oliver North destroyed key documents during the Justice Department's Iran-Contra investigation," for instance (Sanchirico, Introduction section). During the 1990s, Sanchirico recounts, under oath, then President Clinton lied regarding about his involvement with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. During an SEC inquiry into Enron's special purpose entities duing the early 2000s, Arthur Andersen destroyed massive amounts of audit-related documents. These, along with a number of events not noted to be blockbuster news stories, depict the fact that incidents in the care of custody related to evidence, which include the fabrication or destruction of evidence, routinely mislead fact finders. In turn, this too frequently practiced action of even one error in the evidence process may affect, and possibly damage, the overall outcome of a case (Sanchirico). Future considerations for improving the care of evidence/chain of custody in persuading the court, the researcher contends as Lyons (2006) indicates, include implementing more effective ways to deal with backlogs of collected evidence, needing to be processed. As a number of crime labs do not own up-to-date technology to help them analyze evidence more quickly, yet less expensively, this need, along with training in new technologies constitutes a contemporary, continual concern in law enforcement. (Lyons, 2006) in turn, as progress is made in this and other areas of evidence handling, incidents of even one error in the care of custody of evidence will be rare.


Caldwell, Lori. (2004, June 8). Post-Tribune. Gun missing as evidence, so Gary man acquitted. Post-Tribune (in). Retrieved November 20, 2008 from HighBeam Research database.

Givens, Ann. (2006). Evidence bungled?: Blood work in DWI death trial might have been mishandled, according to testimony of troopers, others. Newsday (Melville, NY). McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Retrieved November 20, 2008 from HighBeam Research database.

Caldwell, Lori. (2004, June 8). Post-Tribune. "Gun missing as evidence, so Gary man acquitted." Post-Tribune (in). 2004. Retrieved November 20, 2008 from HighBeam Research:

Complete coverage: Limo crash. (2008). Retrieved November 20, 2008 at,0,390101.storygallery?coll=ny-linews-headlines

Evidence. (2008). Cornell Law School. Retrieved November 21, 2008, from Cornell University Law School database.

Evidence bungled?: Blood work in DWI death trial might have been mishandled, according to testimony of troopers, others. Newsday (Melville, NY). McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. 2006. Retrieved November 20, 2008 from HighBeam Research.

Haack, S. (2003). Trials & Tribulations: science in the courts. Daedalus, 132(4), 54+. Retrieved November 21, 2008, from Questia database.


Kennedy, R.F. (2003, January/February). Miscarriage of justice: Last year a connecticut jury convicted michael skakel of killing his neighbor Martha Moxley…

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