This study examined the impact of forensic evidence on homicide case processing.
In spite of the growth of forensic science services little published research exists related to the impact of forensic evidence on criminal case outcomes. The present study focused on the influence of forensic evidence on the case processing of homicide incidents. The study utilized a prospective analysis of official record data that followed homicide cases in five jurisdictions from the time of police incident report to final criminal disposition. The results showed that most homicides went unsolved (34.5 percent conviction rate). Only 55.5 percent of the 400 homicide incidents resulted in arrest of which 77 percent were referred to the district attorney. On the other hand, 94 percent of cases referred to the district attorney were charged. Cases were more likely to have arrests, referrals, and charges when witnesses provided information to the police. Suspects who knew their victims were more likely to be arrested and referred to the district attorney. Homicides committed with firearms were less likely to be cleared. The most noteworthy finding was that none of the forensic evidence variables significantly influenced criminal justice outcomes. The study results suggest that forensic evidence is auxiliary and non-determinative for homicide. (Published Abstract) Tables, figure, and references