FURTHER NEEDED FORENSIC PROCEDURES IN THE I’AKOBI MALONEY CASE
Post date: May 20, 2009 4:24:12 PM
The verdict may be in but the real answers, truth and justice have yet to be revealed due to serious breaches of Police forensic scientific procedure. It is completely incomprehensible how a reported case of suicide could have been so shrouded in secrecy, collusion and severe judicial, police and forensic malpractice. There are many questions still left unanswered and many points of forensic analysis yet to be examined. The main issues here surround the facts – - I’Akobi Maloney, a 23 year old youth of Rastafarian faith, died under questionable circumstances while in the presence of law enforcement officers.
Forensic science is the tool by which cause of death or serious criminal circumstance can be deduced by utilizing advanced technology, clues and common sense. It is of utmost importance to the revelation of the truth in any forensics examination or investigation that the scene is completely secured from contamination in the form of unauthorized human traffic and careless initial witness curiosity. It is also imperative to have access to the scene by a route least likely to disturb evidence. Was this procedure followed in this case? Definitely not.
The scene of the alleged suicide was quickly overrun by curious residents crowding around to get a glimpse of the body of the young man. Evidence that may have been crucial to establishing a credible timeline would have been irreparably damaged or destroyed by the many people tramping around within the scene.
Correct procedure would have called for the cordoning off of the entire area measuring approximately 200 yds2, with a small temporarily covered area measuring 20ft x 20ft set up within this space. The covered area is crucial to housing forensic field equipment that can be used in initial testing of trace evidence and photographic analysis among other important procedures. The entire area of 200 yds2 should have been clearly marked with Police tape and a single route of entry to the exact scene identified. A smaller covered area measuring 10ft x 10ft should be erected just outside this main area, under strict police supervision, for members of the press. Upon initial statements at the scene being collected and all trace evidence being thoroughly analyzed, forensics investigators should have embarked upon a concentrated and thorough search for blood traces, vehicle tyre impressions, foot prints etc.
Why were these very necessary procedures not carried out? And if they were, where is the evidence and reports supporting the fact? A report detailing the securing of the crime scene would also have included photographs of how the scene was found, how it was subsequently secured, and also a documented list of all personnel traversing the location. Public access would have been strictly prohibited. If this report exists, why was it not presented at the initial inquiry? Simply because there was no crime scene security at any time whatsoever and removal of the body was not until almost 14 hours later. Crucial forensic evidence would have been lost while the body remained in contact with salt water, washing away any initial trace evidence needed to establish time of death or other contributing elements.
Everything and anything within the crime scene should also have been secured for further investigation. Vehicles, clothing, weapons and the personal effects of both Police officers present should have been secured immediately, along with all items belonging to the victim.
This procedure is very necessary in establishing the circumstances surrounding how the incident occurred, and can also be very beneficial in proving or disproving direct Police involvement. Furthermore, upon an initial field analysis of evidence at the scene, investigators would have been able to come away with concrete answers for the family of the deceased. Due process would then have dictated that a series of interviews with all members of the family would have followed, in order to establish any characteristic or personal traits that may have lead to the incident taking place.
In any forensic investigation, medical and dental records are very beneficial in establishing various characteristics of the victim, such as; weight, height, previous ailments, dental impressions and radiological data. This is necessary in order to cross reference evidence of damages found on the body with those on record, if any, and also to identify if any previous conditions might have contributed to the cause of death. It is of serious concern to forensic scientists when evidence on a body does not match the circumstances or evidence taken at the scene. Was this very important set of procedures carried out with regard to establishing evidence in this case? If so where are the forensic forms and correspondence requesting the release of any and all medical information of the victim? Also where is the evidence of legal affidavit by the Royal Barbados Police Force requesting that such information be released to the coroner?
Had the RBPF in fact carried out this exercise in accordance with professional forensics procedure there would be a clear paper trail beginning with the coroner’s office and progressing to the desk of the Criminal Investigations Department and from there to the relevant medical personnel who would have any such records on file. If these forms do exist to verify these requests why have they been kept out of the legal proceedings? Do these medical records pose a danger to the sworn statements of the Police officers involved, or is it that this procedure was completely overlooked in the course of botched and tangled attempts at “plausible deniability”?
Professional forensic procedures would also have called for the securing of the unmarked Police vehicle S 940 which was positively identified as having been at the scene. This vehicle should be thoroughly inspected using specially developed closed environment inspection techniques that would identify any trace evidence of blood, finger prints, hair strands, gun powder residue or clothing fibres that might possibly be linked to the circumstances of death. Due to the body being already buried, further incriminating trace evidence that could prove or disprove suspicion of murder can only be verified, in this case, if an exhumation order was granted by the Chief Justice via the High Court. It is absolutely essential to the successful conclusion of this case that exhumation be carried out with due haste, as every day of decomposition that occurs lessens the chances of discovering the truth.
Should this request be granted, it is of absolute priority that a complete radiological scan of the entire body, be conducted. This is imperative to establishing evidence of brutality by identification of compound fractures, regular fractures, tissue embolism, gunshot wounds, possible gunshot trajectory path damage and subsequent evidence of trauma hemorrhage. Gunshot residue and wound path evidence, if any, would be deduced by utilizing a process known as Electron Microscopy to detect any trace evidence left in the tissue or particles of a bullet that may have fragmented upon impact. Reliable reports stated that both Police officers in question were issued Glock 40 firearms that very day. Proper forensic procedures would have called for securing both weapons for thorough testing and ballistics analysis.
Should the combination of Radiology, Electron Microscopy and Ballistics analysis show evidence of gunshot wounds or residue, a thorough and detailed analysis report accompanied by detailed photographs must be compiled as critical evidence and secured immediately for presentation in a court of law. Security of this evidence is crucial and must not be left solely in the care of the RBPF as the department’s notoriety at “losing” crucial evidence is legendary when disclosures are about to be made. Furthermore, all post exhumation procedures as outlined above should be carried out by trained professionals outside of Barbados in the full presence of a detective of the RBPF Criminal Investigations Department. This officer’s presence is necessary to avoid claims of prejudicial bias that might be construed as plausibly casting incriminating doubt on evidence, and the verdict, as it currently stands. It is also crucial to bear in mind that should forensic analysis reveal no evidence linked to possible murder, it would be incumbent upon the family to request a detailed reconstruction of the events with active participation by both Messrs Walkes and Headley, in order to accurately re-enact the incident as it took place.
Returning to the scene at Land Lock, it is clear that no proper forensic procedures were conducted to establish exact positions or relevant directions of travel relating to precisely how the incident unfolded. Correct procedures would have identified vehicle tyre tread impressions which would have been photographed, measured and physical impression casts taken in order to clearly identify the type of tyre on the vehicle and the direction from which the vehicle would have arrived on the scene. These impressions would then have been used to either prove or disprove witness statements, initial statements by the officers and, establish where the vehicle was located at the time of the incident. Furthermore, the said vehicle should have been secured for the duration of inquiry at the specific request of the coroner and the family’s lawyers pending further forensic analysis and investigation. Why was this not done? It is ridiculous nonsense to suggest that Barbados does not have the techniques or equipment to carry out such procedures. Why then did the BLP administration allocate over $ 8 million dollars to the establishment of a forensics laboratory? Is this facility used in the capacity for which it was intended, or does it just occupy another one of government’s funding allocation slots without actually accomplishing much in the way of real progress toward serving the public from whose purse it was built?
Anyone bringing the argument of “ill equipped” to the table concerning the Government Forensics Laboratory pertaining to the lack of professional procedures as displayed in this case, is clearly not considering the fact that this establishment has consumed, and continues to consume, a substantial amount of budget funding every fiscal year. If it is not equipped to carry out professional procedures into criminal and domestic cases, why is it still in operation? Furthermore, this establishment should be called upon to produce its financial statements and progress reports as a matter of course to prove that continued training and investment in modern forensic equipment is indeed an ongoing process. Dr. Cheryl Corbin, the director of the GFL, has many questions to answer concerning the performance and professional procedures conducted under her management. Serious breaches of forensic science code of ethics and operational procedure is blatantly apparent and although not directly answerable to the court for this lack of professional attributes, is solely responsible for educating the public and the family of the deceased as to what actually took place within the establishment.
Continuing, the issue of the victim’s cell phone being in Police possession for over 4 months is another reason to question forensics procedures in this case. Had the RBPF suspected the cell phone of having incriminating evidence contained in its electronic memory, why was this suspicion not made evident at the beginning of the inquiry? If the RBPF did have reason to impound the cell phone pending further analysis for clues to see if the victim had spoken to anyone that might be aware of his intentions, why were these reasons not clearly stated before the court and verified by an electronics technician who could have been requested to analyze the cell phone for crucial evidence?
Electronic evidence in any forensic investigation is absolutely crucial to establishing credible timelines of events in a modern communications environment. What evidence, if any, have the RBPF been able to glean from the victim’s cell phone? If there was evidence, no matter how circumstantial, why hasn’t it been presented for the benefit of the court and the family? Was the phone secured by the RBPF and its SIM card wiped clean because it may have contained incriminating evidence against the Police? Or was it just picked up and held indefinitely because it might have served a purpose later on? Or more sinisterly, was it accessed illegally to plant false and incriminating electronic evidence that could be used against any efforts to have this case brought to a successful conclusion?
In closing, it is imperative that the Maloney family seek the attention of the highest recourse to justice in having their questions answered, the truth told and to bring closure to many in their community. Their first order of business should be to seek the attention of the Chief Justice of Barbados, Sir David Simmons, in order to have an official judiciary order of exhumation issued without delay. Should this request be granted and the body released into the custody of the family, it is imperative that the body be transported to a professionally equipped forensics laboratory in the United Kingdom, where, under the express wishes of the family and supervision of Scotland Yard Forensic Science personnel, a complete and thorough examination of the body can be carried out.
It is hoped that the findings from this procedure will bring to light the truth as it is and that a continued message of hope be innervated into all of Barbadian society that- incompetence, cover up, collusion and obstruction of justice is not tolerated any longer, and will never be.