Most jurors walk into a courtroom expecting to be wowed by the crime scene investigation unit with jaw-dropping revelations discovered by high-tech forensics, similar to what would be seen on television shows like CSI. This phenomenon, known as the “CSI factor,” is actually oftentimes detrimental to real-life criminal cases.
Lieutenant Anthony McConnell, a crime scene investigator for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, says that juries are often completely disappointed in the evidence presented by the crime scene unit and says “if we don’t wow them with what they call the CSI factor, they’re not interested.”
Enter 3D scanning technology.
This new technology is able to re-create a crime scene in a way that conventional photography and video simply cannot. The 3D scanner, typically tripod-bound, is placed in the midst of a crime scene and then controlled by specialized software. The scanner then performs continuous, instantaneous scans, capturing up to 50,000 points per second. The data captured by the scanner is then transmitted wirelessly to a handheld tablet device. The crime scene investigator is then able to use the tablet to review and manipulate the captured data. With the precision of this new tool, crime scene investigators are able to analyze a crime scene with greater accuracy and specificity.
What this really does for jurors, though, is give them a more realistic, firsthand look at the crime scene. “We’re putting the jury on the scene at the time and in the shoes of the witness, the suspect, or the officer,” Lieutenant McConnell says. Jurors are essentially put into the scene and able to experience it in a 3D environment.
The use of 3D scanners for crime scene analysis is still new, but the trend continues to gain momentum. The Davenport Police Department in Iowa, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office in New York, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Texas have all incorporated 3D scanning technology into their policing operations.