Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Footprints Lead to Murder Suspect: But is This Evidence Really Admissible?

The average person's understanding of the criminal justice system is based on what they see on TV. In this highly-polished, carefully-choreographed world, detectives are portrayed as technological savants and logical geniuses. Scientific evidence in the form of fingerprints, DNA, and ballistic data is always irrefutable. 

In reality, criminal justice is rarely straightforward. Evidence may point in one direction but may not provide a conclusive link between suspects and their alleged crimes. Unfortunately, this doesn't stop authorities from perpetuating causal links that do not exist. Concerns on this subject have been raised after bloody footprints led investigators to a suspect in Newton. But putting aside the sensational headlines, how reliable is this evidence?

Investigators in Newton Rely on Footprints to Track Down Suspect 

On June 27, it was reported that an arrest had been made in connection to a random, triple murder in Newton. Police apparently examined bloody footprints in order to track down a suspect, and they seem confident about the reliability of this evidence. One investigator stated:

"Like fingerprints, the skin of people's feet is unique and leaves an impression that can be compared."

Police eventually located the suspect "staggering" down a road and took an impression from his feet. This apparently provided them with a clear match to the footprints found at the murder scene. 

Are Footprints Admissible Evidence?

But despite the confidence expressed by the authorities, questions may be raised in court about the reliability of this evidence. Consider the fact that in 2017, the American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a report on this subject and found that:

"[...] examiners should avoid claiming that they can associate a latent print with a single source and should particularly avoid claiming or implying that they can do so infallibly, with 100% accuracy."

The reality is that fingerprint (and footprint) examination is not the "exact science" that authorities purport it to be. If examiners cannot claim to be 100% accurate in their findings, then by very definition, it cannot be used to determine a suspect's guilt. Remember, the prosecution must establish their guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." Even a 1% chance of an inaccurate fingerprint examination could create sufficient doubt. 

Remember that while the science behind fingerprint examination is questionable at best, the science behind footprint examination is virtually non-existent. Criminal responsibility may be called into question in the aforementioned triple-murder case – even if the suspect did, in fact, commit the crime. 

Get in Touch With a Criminal Defense Attorney in Massachusetts Today

If you have been accused of a serious crime in Massachusetts, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Choose the Law Office of Edward R. Molari, and you can approach this situation with a measure of confidence and efficiency. The reality of criminal justice is far different from what you see on television. The only way to get a sense of how this system really works is to speak with an experienced attorney. Book your consultation today to get started.