Friday, July 17, 2020

3D printing company brings evidence to life in criminal trials

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Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 7 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
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The courtroom is traditionally a place steeped in history, and governed by laws that were passed many centuries ago. But one Florida-based company wants to bring the justice system up to date with the latest technology.

3D Printed Evidence (3DE) is a 3D printing firm that provides forensic models and replicas of any kind of evidence for criminal trials. The firm works out of Jacksonville, and can print literally anything, from blow-ups of fingerprints, small scale replicas of vehicular crashes, to broken bones, teeth imprints, or even scaled down crime scenes.

“We’re a perfect resource for lawyers, attorneys, and anyone looking for a simple way to create persuasive evidence,”said Josh Weinberger, founder of 3DE.

3DE work alongside their partner company, The Forge, who are a local 3D printing company also based in Jacksonville, and who help with scanning and producing the 3D models.

Bringing evidence to life

Using replicas for court trials is not a new practice. In the case of footprints, a dental cast is often used to recreate the surface on which the foot walked upon. These casts are then often used as evidence in trials. However, if the ground that the footprint was left is likely to deteriorate rapidly (on sand for instance) then using a dental cast is not practical.

On these occasions it is better to capture the print with a digital camera and then use advanced photogrammetry software such as PhotoModeller Scanner or 3DReality, to create an incredibly accurate 3D model. This model has another advantage over the dental cast as it is an exact replica, rather than a ‘negative’ surface cast.

It has been shown by previous court trials that juries can relate better to 3D evidence, rather than listening to court testimonies or looking at pictures. Having exact replicas that jury members can touch and hold in their own hands, gives them a greater understanding of the evidence; it makes them feel more involved and allows them to feel like an integral part of the decision-making process.

Changing the nature of trials

Not only that, but with 3D printing, there are fewer steps from the digital scanning to the final product, which can give juries much more confidence in the evidence before them. They can literally trust with their own eyes the evidence that they are seeing.

3D printed models can help in other aspects of criminal trials. There are some cases in which disturbing images have to be viewed by jury members, such as autopsy photographs or scenes of crimes images. It can be difficult for defence lawyers to present this evidence to the jury without causing undue prejudice to their client. By having a 3D model of the crime scene, or a 3D replica of a part of the body, jury members can still view the important factors of the case, but are spared any gory details.

3D models are also preferable to trying to explain a complicated graph or set of readings to a jury. Unlike statistics or volume renderings, by being able to touch and hold a 3D model, it is easier for a jury to understand complicated medical data for instance.

Endless possibilities

3DE do not only produce 3D models for courtroom evidence, but also for training purposes, testing and investigative devices. Body parts, organs and tissue can deteriorate rapidly, but by replicating models with exact wound sites, the police have a lasting product that will stand the test of time.

Body parts which have stab wounds or damage can also be enlarged to show finer detailing of the impact site. Bullets can be replicated to show striations which can then be matched on the national database.  The list really is endless. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before 3D evidence is seen in every courtroom.

Source: Inside3DP

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