Criminal Defense Attorney and expert witness
A Brief History of Forensic Science in the Courtroom
Using Foresnsioc toxicology and forensic Science for the Defense Of Criminal Allegations
Being qualified as an expert witness by the Fresno County DMV Drivers Safety Office in August of 2014 was a milestone of achievement for Attorney Jonathan Rooker. Mr. Rooker routinely defends DUI, Domestic Violence, Drug Allegations, and even more serious crimes of violence such as Gang Allegations, Shootings, Great Bodily Injury, and even homicides. Mr. Rooker has earned a extensive Education which includes a very important body of knowledge regarding Forensic Toxicology. He is uniquely qualified to handle science based cases such as homicides, narcotics, drug allegations, and DUI cases.
The method of investigating and prosecuting criminal allegations has evolved. Solving Criminal cases used to be a grass roots human testimony based practice. The witnesses would testify, the police would collect evidence, and the case would be presented in a court of law. However, an emerging field of Forensic evidence emerged in the last few decades before the turn of the century. Forensics analysis was playing a key role in the prosecution of criminal allegations in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's. Until recently the Governments use of scientific evidence to prosecute a criminal allegations went largely unchallenged in the court of law. However, in the early 1990's the Nation as a whole would be introduced to terms such as Forensic analysis, DNA, and blood evidence. The prosecution of criminal defendants based upon Government conducted scientific evidence would be forever changed. So would the use of scientific evidence by the defense team. The challenging of Government results, methods, and compliance with best scientific practices has quickly become the cutting edge of a science based defense against a science based prosecution. The truth is, as a defense attorney and expert witness, I can honestly say that many times, science is on our side.
The landmark event in the evolution of the use of science for defending criminal based prosecution was the O.J. Simpson case. The prosecution of O.J. Simpson was based largely on scientific evidence such as blood, and DNA results. O.J. Simpson was tried for the double homicide of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in the early 1990's. With that trial came a divided nation, allegations of police corruption, racism, evidence of police officers planting evidence and the introduction of Forensic Science and DNA to the vocabulary of the general population of our nation. Talk show audiences, secretaries, newshounds, blue collar workers, and many people from all walks of life became at some level educated on the science used to prosecute, and thereafter defend criminal cases through the use of science. The prosecution's case was largely based upon science, which was eventually its downfall. Blood splatter, blood samples, and matching DNA. The prosecution based their case upon a then largely unchallenged field of science that most attorneys knew little about. Most criminal defense clients were unable to defend themselves against these science based prosecutions due to a lack of financial resources needed to replicate conditions, or examine the evidence, and challenge the results. Our government labs got away with poor work, bad results, and a feeling of invincibility.
The O.J. Simpson defense team started at the crime scene. They chipped away at the methods used to collect or failure to collect certain samples. They moved to the infamous white Ford Bronco, and the method of collection, the blood sample pattern, the credibility of the officers and other people involved. After that it was the Simpson Estate and his house guest Kato Kaelin, and accused racist Officer Mark Fuhrman. This was followed by the collection of evidence from Simpson's home and bedroom, which included a sock that may have been, inexplicably soaked on both sides and into the carpet with blood matching one of the victims. (An unlikely piece of evidence if it was worn at the time of the murder by the real killer.) Next, was the volume of blood sample taken from the same victim, which had seemed to inexplicably decrease in volume after collection. The alleged presence of preservative in the blood found on the sock, which would indicate a lab sample may have been used to plant the evidence. The credibility of the lab personnel, the officers, and each member of the chain of evidence was examined. In the end, O.J. Simpson was found NOT GUILTY, despite an overwhelming belief that he indeed had committed the crimes he was accused of. It was the first time a jury, and nation took the Government laboratories and employees to task for their conclusions and poor work on which they base their results and oppinions.
Many convictions that initially stood in the court of law have been overturned when later reexamined for compliance with the scientific methods, methodology, and compliance with best laboratory practices during the examination of the evidence.
The O.J. Simpson defense team, commonly referred to as the "Dream Team" had the finances, expertise, ability and desire to look behind the curtain and see what was actually occurring in the government laboratories. Each aspect was challenged including the collection process, chain of custody of the samples, and reliability. The results shocked the nation, and changed the landscape of forensic science in the criminal court. Methods and human error as a defense against criminal allegations in the court of law became an accepted and desired defense. New issues, such as how the evidence was collected? What happened to it after it was collected? Was the testing procedure proper? Was the sample contaminated during the process? Human error and the more sinister credibility of the people collecting the evidence came into play. The myth of infallibility of the government laboratories was broken forever. The people, the 12 members of the jury, and the citizens of the United States looked at their Government employees, in the laboratory, in the field as officers and technicians, and in the court room as fallible. Decades of virtually unchallenged testimony by the Government employees began to be looked at with a jaundiced eye. Old convictions were challenged and overturned. Innocent people freed from incarceration due to the use of science by the defense, instead of just accepting what the Government lab personnel told us to believe.
Attorney Jonathan Rooker often says, "Science is a show me sport, not a tell me sport." He will commonly asked the Government to tell him, and the jury, how they collected the evidence. Show the chain of custody. Who those people are. How credible are they? What method did the laboratory use to examine the evidence. What type of machine was used? What safeguards against contamination were in place? He challenges the government to show him what they did, don't tell him a result.
In one common example of using science as a defense, blood alcohol tests examined by Gas Chromatography are commonly introduced as evidence in DUI Cases. However, the machine will commonly test an entire batch of up to a few dozen samples in the same run. Many times they start the machine, go home for the night, and check the results in the morning. The auto injector will insert a hypodermic needle into a blood sample, draw a small amount of blood, and inject it into the machine to be tested, then return the same needle into the next sample, and repeat many times. Some laboratories such as Los Angeles now run blank samples between each blood sample to show that no contamination has occurred. However, the most commonly used laboratories in the Fresno, Madera, Hanford and Visalia area, including the Department of Justice (DOJ) a Government operated lab in Fresno, do not. The Government employees commonly testify that the method used does not allow contamination to occur. Yet, without as blank sample between each blood sample, there is no proof for the basis of that opinion
For example, picture a needle being inserted into a very high concentration of blood alcohol, such as .25% then being placed in and drawing a sample from a .06 concentration, and injecting it to be analyzed. The amount injected is about the equivalent of a 1/30 of a drop of water. How much of the higher concentration sample contamination is needed to cause an error in the lower sample? The answer is a microscopic amount, less than is needed to run a serious risk of contracting AIDS from AIDS infected blood. Ask yourself, if that same needle had just drawn and injected AIDS infected blood, would you be comfortable with it being inserted into your veins or arteries and drawing blood from your body? Of course not, but our government is when it comes to prosecuting you for a criminal allegation.
Attorney Jonathan Rooker has spent decades of his life earning numerous degrees, certificates, and credentials to allow him to help you use science to defend your case. The Law Office of Nuttall & Coleman is the premiere Criminal Defense Firm in the Central Valley, and is proud to be one of the extremely rare law offices to have an attorney who qualified as an expert witness at the California DMV drivers safety office on staff as an associate attorney in the office to assist with your case. We have reached a new era, where organizations such as the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD), California DUI Lawyers Association (CDUILA), DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA), and American Chemical Society (ACS), have provided the opportunity to learn the science used in the labs, breath machines, and upon which opinions are based to provide a level playing field and avoid the pitfalls of government tests that are based upon poor science. Attorney Jonathan Rooker is a member of the NCDD and CADUILA, a Founding Member of the DUIDLA, and relieved training in Gas Chromatography in a ACS provided course. These organizations, as a collective allow for the members to learn the relevant scientific practices and procedures by pooling the resources, thus achieving an education that would be financially difficult to receive on an individual member basis without the organizations. Experts from around the world are flown into seminars. Laboratories are rented for lawyer specific training courses. This allows the members of thee organizations to receive the education needed to challenge the government labs without the resources expended by the O.J. Simpson Dream Team of lawyers, doctors, and scientists. I have years of education on these subjects, which gives me an advantage over those who do not. Remember, science is on our side!