by Southside Tanya Vega, Project Exploration Blogger
In the last blog post, a crime (possibly two) had been committed at a parking lot near a children’s playlot at Washington Park. Evidence left at the scene had been identified, collected and analyzed at the crime lab by Project Exploration’s Forensic Science Investigative team. Plus a potential list of suspects were being implicated for committing the crime (minus the writer of this blog entry) …yet the main question remained – Who done it?
Don’t despair, faithful reader, Project Exploration’s Forensic Science Investigative team has cracked the case wide open with their number one suspect – a Caucasian male named Vance Bandito. And today, they’re ready and prepared to bring full charges against Mister Bandito after spending two thorough days processing and testing the evidence found at the crime scene. State prosecuters Rachel Weaver and Brianna Bennett appeared in front of the Honorable Judge Dominique Ross to charge suspect Vance Bandito with the following: unlawful use and possession of a firearm, drug possession, and possession and operation of a stolen vehicle, which, by this writer’s calculation, could have him serving an approximate sentence of 20 to 25 years in prison. Defense attorneys Ronald Weaver and Marquise Walker had the difficult task of defending their client by demonstrating reasonable doubt that defendant Vance Bandito committed the said crime. This courtroom drama was about to rival any television court-related program as both State and Defense began with opening statements to the court.
The State, having to prove beyond reasonable doubt, opened strong with their witnesses: the Firearms and Treadwear, Drug Chemistry, and Latent Prints departments of Project Exploration’s Forensic Science Investigative teams. Treadwear claimed it was Vance’s footprints left in muddy area near the two abandoned cars. Firearmas stated there were bullet casings and cartridges found at the scene, and the serial number on the gun (also recovered at the crime scene) was scratched off with the intent to hide its owner. So far, it appeared the State was proving its case in front of the Honorable Judge Ross and jury of twelve good citizens. The Defense appeared shaky during cross examination and missed a couple of good opportunities to object about the gun’s serial number being linked to their client, Vance Bandito. Next Drug Chemistry took the stand, stating there was evidence of pills and white powder in plastic baggies recovered at the scene, which were tested at the Forensic Science lab. The results – the pills were positive as mushrooms and the white powder, though negative for cocaine, was positively identified as heroin. The Defense missed another opportunity to object, as well as cross examine the witness to disspell the State’s claim that the drugs found belonged to their client. Lastly, Latent Prints took the stand, stating they recovered sets of prints belonging to Vance Bandito from the windows of one of the cars, but not from the steering wheel, ignition, or gun.
What a shocking revelation, reader! No prints on the gun, ignition, or steering wheel belonging to the defendant were found or recovered. Though putting a major dent into the State’s case, the Defense didn’t object or move to have all charges (or at least the firearm and stolen vehicle charges) dismissed, since the State didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt with those two main charges. The State then motioned to the court to admit all evidence into the trial proceedings for the jury to use when deliberating guilt or innocence. The Defense objected, citing some of the evidence was circumstantial, but were overruled as the State rested its case. Now it was time for the Defense team to prove its case against the State by calling the Microscopy and Biology-DNA departments from Project Exploration’s Forensic Science Investigative team as their witnesses. Microscopy stated that hair found at the crime scene belonging to three people—not one, but two Causcasian males (including Vance Bandito), while the others were African-American. This finding certainly could mean there was more than one suspect other than Vance perhaps. Then, the Biology-DNA team stated how they tested the blood and saliva (from the empty bottles recovered from the cars) which created more doubt that any of if belonged to the defendant. After tough cross examination on both witnesses by the State, the Defense team rested its case, despite not being able to admit one crucial piece of evidence into the proceedings because it was labeled wrong.
During closing arguments, the State concluded to the court and jury that all evidence points to defendant Vance Bandito – the gun was registered in his name, he’s currently unemployed and has a history of drug problems. Meanwhile, the Defense concluded that even with the evidence there’s still doubt that their client Vance Bandito committed the crime – the State didn’t prove Vance was driving the stolen vehicle, didn’t find any prints on the drugs or steering wheel …plus there was no evidence of forced entry on the ignition. The State rebutted the Defense’s closing arguments before Honorable Judge Ross instructed the jury to carefully weigh all evidence presented as they deliberated if the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Vance Bandito was guilty of the charges.
While the jury was sequestered in a room down the hall from the courtroom to deliberate, the audience waited anxiously, wondering what they would decide. This writer assures you, reader, there was no evidence of jury tampering going on either as some of Forensic Science Investigative team gave short synopses about Project Exploration’s latest science-education program, what they were doing for the entire week, and a brief description of the mock crime scene at Washington Park. In a matter of minutes, a verdict was finally reached! All eyes were on the twelve seated in the jury box when Mister Foreperson of the jury clearly declared defendant Vance Bandito – NOT GUILTY! Despite the Defense weakly defending their client, the jury was polled citing most of the State’s evidence was indeed circumstantial because not one could be linked to Mister Vance Bandito without speculating if he actually did the crime. Honorable Judge Dominique Ross stated, after officially ending trial proceedings, that the students did a very good job handling and preparing the case for this mock trial in a very short time.
What an exciting week, reader, for these students learning a lot about forensic science (most of which not accurately portrayed correctly on television) and themselves.