Sylvester Johnson, a 60-year-old career criminal, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the fatally stabbing death of registered sex offender William David Casey, Johnson’s 75-year-old neighbor, in a Lealman mobile home park. Casey’s body was found in his home Thursday morning by a neighbor who had come to bring him food. Detectives say they linked Johnson to the crime through fingerprints found at the scene. They say the motive may have been robbery, as Casey’s wallet was stolen. No weapon has been found, and the investigation continues.
Fingerprint evidence is constantly used throughout the justice system and other systems as a means of identification and in criminal matters, as a means to attempt a conviction. Fingerprint evidence in Jacksonville is not always reliable and, even when present and accurate, does not necessarily mean that one is guilty of any crime.
Fingerprint evidence, although being phased out by DNA collection, is still commonly used in criminal investigations. Fingerprint evidence is generally considered to be highly reliable and is particularly accessible to juries, although the thought that no two people can have the same fingerprints cannot be necessarily proven. However, fingerprints are commonly used to sway juries and judges into implication of guilt, because of a supposedly “obvious” presence during the time the crime took place.
The age of a set of fingerprints is almost impossible to determine. Therefore, one’s fingerprints at the scene of a crime do not always necessitate that one is the guilty party. Only in highly specific situations may fingerprint evidence be used to properly imply guilt. Often for many accused, the reality is that their fingerprints were in fact found at the crime scene but that the prints were left at a time other than the time of the crime.
A recent controversial case in Florida, decided by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch, involved whether fingerprint experts can testify about the validity of the fingerprints being used to attempt a conviction of the accused. U.S. courts have long allowed experts to testify to jurors that the accused person’s fingerprint is unique to only him or her; however, Judge Hirsch ruled that the expert opinion can only speak of similarity, not an exact match.
Judge Hirsch explained in his opinion, “Once upon a time, our forebears were accustomed to, and accepting of, the notion that the world was flat. That did not make it so.” Likewise, “[w]e have become accustomed to, and accepting of, fingerprint testimony.” That does not mean that fingerprint testimony may be the accurate truth.
Fingerprints can be extremely fragile depending on the surface it is on; Law enforcement may be required to use specific techniques to capture these prints, including using ultra violet (UV) light to identify the fingerprints on surfaces where they would not normally be easily visible. After finding all of the fingerprints, the officer must gently brush over the prints with a cyanocrylic chemical (found in household superglue) and/or magnesium powder. If the officer smudges the prints or puts the wrong chemicals on the print, the print could be ruined or tainted to the point of inaccuracy, in which case, the print must be thrown out.
Fingerprints are not only photographed and but are also made on card by impressing the individual fingers onto ink. Although DNA samples cannot be held after the completion of a police investigation, unless the suspect is found guilty of a crime, remember: when one gives one’s fingerprint, that fingerprint information can be kept on file.
If one obtains an experienced Jacksonville violent crimes attorney to fight the case, one can ensure that one’s rights are protected, that one will have the best defense possible to fight one’s charge, and that one will be able to get the help one needs to be free of the charge and be able to get back to one’s life before the accusation ever entered the picture.
One should not risk going to jail for a long period of time when an experienced attorney can make sure that their best defense is brought forth and their rights fought are fought for. The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source: Lealman man accused of killing mobile home park neighbor Mike Brassfield, Times Staff Writer