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Forensic Evidence: Document Analysis
Transcript of Forensic Evidence: Document Analysis
What is Document Analysis?
Document Analysis is a form of forensic science that includes identifying handwriting paper, ink, typewriting, and writing instruments.
Typically, what most investigator's do is look at the writing on a questioned document and compare it to the writing of a person in the investigation such as a victim, suspect, witness, etc.
Those who examine documents use chemistry, specialized photography, and microscopy to do their jobs. These examiners are useful in civil and especially criminal cases. They are usually used in court as witnesses to show proof against or for the case.
History of Document Analysis
Document analysis began to take place in the third Century A.D in Rome. Roman officials often forged documents relating to property rights and were paid to do this. Eventually because of this, Roman Law decided to enforce detection of forgeries. The Roman emperor Justinian created rules for the use of handwriting comparisons in courts. These rules were implemented in the sixth century. During this era, science was not well developed so the document analysis had no scientific methods. It was purely based on visual similarities of the writing on the documents.
Not too long later, Europeans such as the French and the Spaniards started to implement the same Justinian rules on comparing handwriting.
When photography came about in the late 1800's, some photographers began to have a knack for taking pictures of documents and enlarging them to examine details of the writing.
Scientific methods in document analysis began in the 1890's. These new methods included using microscopy, chemistry, laboratory instruments and photography. This was a big change from just visually looking at documents and trying to figure out if the handwriting matched.
In 1910, Albert Sherman Osborn created a book called "Questioned Documents" and it was the first published book on the subject. At the time, it was the main source of document examination in the U.S. A man named John Wigmore also played a huge role at the time with his book "Legal Evidence."
The Botkin case
Factual Case: The Hitler Diaries
One of the most famous cases involving document analysis is one referred to as 'The Hitler Diaries'.
In 1983, a man named Konrad Kajua created perhaps one of the most famous forgeries to come up in history. He forged 62 volumes of what he convinced the world to be Hitler's Diary. Before anyone realized that the diaries were fake, people were shocked by the announcement that the diaries of the notorious dictator would be published for the world to see.
The announcer of this big news, was Stern magazine. To prove the diaries credibility, the magazine hired experts to examine the writings in comparison to documents Hitler had indeed written on. The experts somehow concluded that the diaries were truly written by Hitler.
After Stern's findings of the diaries being apparently authentic, they immediately began to offer bidders to join in on buying publication rights. Of course, several people were interested in having a share. But when more people began to read it, there was a public disagreement as people who knew Hitler's behaviour and mindset doubted the diary was his. Because of this doubt, the diaries underwent more testing by historians and people interested in buying in on the publishing. At this point, several people found that the documents were all forged by one person.
Tools for Document Examination
1. Measuring tools
3. Light sources
4. Photography equipment
5. Computer equipment
Some examples of the basic measuring tools needed include metric rulers, and glass alignment plates. These allow comparison and measurement of angles, height, width and spacing of handwriting and typewriting.
One can shine a light in order to see details that otherwise are not visible such as types of inks and papers used. These include ultra-violet light and infra-red light.
Jessica Brown's death is being looked at by examiners. Jessica's family believes that Linda and Earl Jones are responsible for the death of their beloved daughter. Jessica was found with a bullet wound in her throat and a suicide letter in the apartment she was living in under Earl's name during their 5 year affair. The family suspects that it was either Linda because she discovered the affair or Earl who killed her to prove loyalty to this wife. However, after document examination it shows that there was no forgery for the suicide letter. When compared to various official documents and letters that Jessica had written in the past, it was evident that it was really an act of suicide for reasons unknown.
"Forensic Science." Forensic Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2014. http://jimfisher.edinboro.edu/forensics/writing.html
"Document Examination, Handwriting Analysis, Forensic Document Services." Document Examination, Handwriting Analysis, Forensic Document Services. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2014. http://www.qdewill.com/microscopes/
"The Hitler Diaries, 1983." Museum of Hoaxes. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2014. http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_hitler_diaries
Magnifiers and microscopes can zoom into an image from 10X to 50X in order to capture specific details from a piece of writing. There are even certain magnifers that allow one to compare two pieces of writing on top of eachother such as in the image below.
This is critical to the research as it allows the examiners to present their findings to parties involved such as in a court of law.
Computers have only recently become a tool of the trade yet, they have the abilities to do many of the roles of the previous instruments discussed. For example, once a document is scanned it can be cropped, brightened and certain software can differentiate between types of ink
The Botkin case was one of the first cases regarding document analysis that caught America's attention. In 1898, a woman named Cornelia Botkin killed her ex-lover's wife and tried to get away with it through use of forgery. She forged a letter pretending to be Ms. Dunning's husband, and sent it to her with a loving message and some candy. Ms. Dunning believing that it was sent from her husband so she ate the candy and shared some with others. A few days later, she and her sister died from arsenic poisoning. At that point, Ms. Dunning's family members did everything they could to catch the murderer. Eventually, the candy was traced back to coming from San Francisco and then from there the buyer of the candy was traced to being Cornelia Botkin. Letters previously written by Cornelia were compared to the one that came with the candy and they were a match. From that point everything proved that she was guilty and she was sentenced to life in prison.
By: Jahsway and Celestina