Relevant evidence refers to any piece of evidence that either proves or disapproves what is assumed to be the facts in a case of, say, murder or homicide. The relevant evidence has to show that there is a probability of having more facts in a case than it had appeared during the initial stages of the investigation. This evidence has to be collected in accordance with the law so as not to deter its admissibility in a court of law. In fact, there are several instances when pieces of evidence are disallowed in a court of law, and this mainly happens on the basis of being prejudicial.
Generally, the relevant pieces of evidence in a murder case includes matching fingerprints and weapons which have, presumably, been used during the execution of the crime of murder. Other pieces of evidence include the victim’s blood, especially when this blood is found on the clothes as well as other possessions of the defendant either at the time of arrest or during the course of the investigation. Sewing such pieces together can be used to prove that, for example, the defendant did purchase the weapon used in the murder. Proper chronicling may help determine the date and time when the said purchase happened as well as the manner in which such items have been transferred to the scene of crime (Halis, 2008). The defendant’s last contact with the victim would also be regarded as relevant evidence in a murder case because it can be used in establishing the links which would eventually facilitate the conviction of the defendant.
If the evidence collected points to the fact that the defendant had previously threatened the victim associated with the case to murder, then these threats become relevant evidence. Though rare, if the defendant is proved to have been a beneficiary of the deceased person’s life insurance, then the investigating team and the prosecutor would consider this to be another important piece of evidence which, upon elaboration, may facilitate useful links that may secure a conviction. Should it be proved that the defendant went into hiding immediately or, say, a day after the crime was executed (Halis, 2008), then this would act as a credible lead into uncovering the crime of murder. The existence of discrepancies in some of these issues would avail the grounds upon which William Ellis' lawyer would file for the exclusion of the misleading pieces evidence in a case. This would happen particularly in situations where the leering pieces of evidence happen to have been corrected through unlawful means (Marie & Spalding University, 2006).
Jurisdiction for Search
The search that was conducted was ought to be evaluated on the basis of the provisions provided in the Constitution of the United States of America. The Fourth Amendment of the constitution has provisions which consent to search of the homes of suspects for the links that would associate them with the crimes under investigation (Siegel & Senna, 2007). According to the Fourth Amendment, individuals’ rights to privacy, especially in their homes and places of work, cannot be violated and, in fact, no search warrants can be issued unless there is a genuine cause for executing them. Additionally, personal items cannot be confiscated without a proper procedure, and that procedure has to have a legal basis. The jurisdiction of the Fourth Amendment applies in all States in the United States of America, including Illinois and Ohio. An example of a case where references to the Fourth Amendment has been made is the 1961 case of Mapp v. Ohio.
The Exclusionary Rule
The exclusionary rule holds that any evidence collected by the government against the provisions of the Fourth Amendment cannot be admissible in a court of law (Del Carmen, 2009). On the other hand, however, the “Exclusionary Rule” provides that the evidence obtained or analyzed in violation of the constitutional rights of the defendant may sometimes be admissible for a criminal prosecution in a court of law. In this regard, the exclusionary rule serves to provide the judge with the basis to make decisions that may exclude some of the reliable and incriminating evidence from the trials of individuals accused of crimes (Del Carmen, 2009). The judge may, however, consent to the admission of other pieces of evidence, which would easily be presumed as inadmissible.
The exclusionary rule has close relationship with what is commonly regarded as the “Fruit of a poisonous tree” doctrine. The latter stems from the former and, thus, prohibits the admissibility of secondary evidence in trial that was culled directly from the primary evidence. In most cases, this happens when such primary evidence is collected from an illegal search and seizure exercise (Gardner & Anderson, 2009). This murder case is subject to both the exclusionary rule and “fruit of a poisonous tree” doctrine. Prosecutors could rely on the exemptions provided by the two rules to justify their action to require a search and retrieval of evidence from the Ellis’ and Steven's homes. Nonetheless, there is a difference between the evidence that was obtained from each of the two homes because while Mrs. Steven consented to the police request to search her house, the Ellis' case involved a forced entry followed by an illegal search.
All the same, the doctrine has four main exceptions that could influence the admissibility of a portion of evidence in a court of law. Any piece of evidence would be admissible in a court of law:
- if it is established that it was acquired from an independent and untainted source;
- if it would have been inevitably found, irrespective of the tainted source;
- the chain of causation between the illegal action and the collected evidence turns out to be too attenuated; or
- if the search warrant, though not grounded on probable case, was carried out by government agents in good faith.
This doctrine was adopted following the 1920 case of Silverthorne Lumber co. v. United States case. “The fruit of a poisonous tree” doctrine was applied by Supreme Court for the first time during the 1920 case of Silverthorne.During this case, the defendant happened to have been arrested on suspicion that he had violated the federal law during his engagements in a lumber business. Government agents conducted a warrantless and illegal search of the Silverthorne offices as well as several other premises. On the basis of the evidence that had been discovered during the search, the prosecution asked for extra documents, and this made the court order Silverthorne to present the documents before the jury. Silverthorne refused, and this led to his imprisonment for the contempt of court (Marie & Spalding University, 2006).
On appeal, however, the Supreme Court reversed the initial judgment on the contempt of court. In its argument to the High Court, the government admitted that the search was illegal and, therefore, the prosecution was not entitled to hold any of the documents that had been obtained from Silverthorne’s premises. Nevertheless, the government argued that it was not barred from copying the documents for the purpose of using the knowledge gained from the said documents for future prosecution of similar cases. The Court dismissed the government's argument terming it as being unfortunate (Gardner & Anderson, 2009).
The Investigation Process
If I were a detective, I would follow the due process that is required during the investigation and prosecution of the cases of homicide. In most cases, an investigator finds much of the basic contours of the situation being sorted out by crime scene officers (Brecher & Harvey, 2002). In this regard, these are the people, such as an investigator, that I would take over from as they may have, for example, established the identity of the victim and some of the links that would facilitate the nailing of the suspect. They could also be in possession of the murder weapon, if any was available, as well as a list of potential witnesses. Therefore, my investigation would be based on the basic information that may have been gathered by the crime scene officers as well as any other officer who may have arrived at the scene of crime prior to my arrival.
Upon being briefed on the development, the next step would be to interrogate the witnesses for the purpose of establishing whether any of them could have seen the suspect. If this results in the identification of several suspects, I would endeavor to narrow down to as few suspects as possible. I would achieve this by matching the details about the individual suspects with clues from the murder scene (Brecher & Harvey, 2002). In this case, I would focus on those background materials that are available for the case at hand. I would then proceed to check the alibis so as to match the approximate time when the murder occurred with whereabouts of the suspect(s).
Next, I would seek to establish the possible motives of the crime and would later attempt to match the suspect(s) and their belongings to the physical evidence from the murder scene. The matching would be facilitated by such materials as blood stains, DNA, and matching fingerprints. This would, actually, facilitate the narrowing down onto an individual suspect of the crime of, say, murder (Brecher & Harvey, 2002).
After the collection of a significant amount of evidence, I would proceed with the preparation of the case in readiness for prosecution. Basically, the process would be to integrate the evidence into a single coherent account. I would ensure that this is completed in the most logical and consistent manner possible. This would make it possible to explain the motive as well as the manner in which the crime was committed. The account would also include the events that may have followed the committal of the crime, such as the disappearance of the prime suspect. Other post-crime events which I would possibly investigate include those activities that are aimed at covering-up the offense. These events include attempts to hide the body or the murder weapon as well as other actions whose prime motive is the destruction of other pieces of physical evidence.
A critical point in the investigation process would be a hypothetical reconstruction of the murder itself. This would be particularly helpful in situations where the suspect(s) fail(s) to confess, a development which is associated with most murder crime cases. The reconstruction would form the presentation that the prosecutor would give a court of law while prosecuting the case (Brecher & Harvey, 2002). In summary, as the detective, I would treat the investigation of a murder case with the seriousness that it deserves. I would deal with it uniquely as most murder cases vary with the variation in the victim’s reaction to persecution, the prevailing circumstances, as well as the perpetrators’ modes of operation. I would employ my cumulative experience to complete my investigative duties promptly and efficiently before the evidence is diluted.