False evidence

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"Suppressed evidence" redirects here. For the fallacy, see Cherry picking (fallacy).

False evidence, fabricated evidence, forged evidence or tainted evidence is information created or obtained illegally, to sway the verdict in a court case. Also, misleading by suppressing evidence can be used to sway a verdict; however, in some cases, suppressed evidence is excluded because it was found hidden or locked away in areas the accused could not be proven to know. In Britain, falsifying evidence to convict the guilty is known as 'Noble Cause Corruption'. Some evidence is forged because the person doing the forensic work finds it easier to fabricate evidence than to perform the actual work involved. The planting of a gun at a crime scene would be used by the police to justify shooting the victim in self-defense, and avoid possible prosecution for manslaughter. However, the accused might have falsified some evidence, especially if not arrested immediately, or by having other access to a crime scene and related areas. Falsified evidence could be created by either the police/prosecution or the defendant(s), or by someone sympathetic to their cause.


  • forged evidence - an item or information manufactured, or altered, to support some agenda, is not admissible in many courts, including U.S. criminal courts.
  • planted evidence - an item or information which has been moved, or planted at a scene, to seem related to the accused party, is not admissible in many courts, including U.S. criminal courts.
  • tainted evidence - information which has been obtained by illegal means or has been revealed (or traced) using evidence acquired by illegal search, and/or seizure, is called the "fruit of the poisonous tree" and is not admissible in many courts, including U.S. criminal courts.
  • suppressed evidence - an item or information which a court judge has ruled as "inadmissible" is forbidden to be presented in a court case. Suppressed evidence might be excluded because it was found hidden or locked away in areas the accused could not be proven to know.

In some criminal cases, a person will be identified as a "person of interest" for a few days before arrest, allowing time to reveal suspicious actions (such as in recorded phone calls), or to attempt to falsify evidence before their arrest. A type of falsified evidence, used to acquit, would be faked sales receipts which indicated activities (with the accused) had occurred elsewhere during the time of the crime.


The Crewe murders[edit]

In June 1970 A Pukekawa, Lower Waikato, couple were killed and their bodies dumped in the Waikato River. Arthur Allan Thomas, a local farmer, was twice convicted of their murders but following massive publicity was later given a Royal Pardon.

Two bullet cases presented by senior policemen Hutton and Johnston were crucial evidence for the conviction. In 1980, after Thomas's pardon a Royal commission into the convictions concluded "Mr Hutton and Mr Johnston planted the shellcase, exhibit 350 in the Crewe garden, and that they did so to manufacture evidence that Mr Thomas's rifle had been used for the killings."[1]

New York State Police Troop C scandal[edit]

In the New York State Police Troop C scandal of 1993, Craig D. Harvey, a New York State Police trooper, was charged with fabricating evidence. Harvey admitted he and another trooper lifted fingerprints from items the suspect, John Spencer, touched while in Troop C headquarters during booking. He attached the fingerprints to evidence cards and later claimed that he had pulled the fingerprints from the scene of the murder. The forged evidence was used during trial and John Spencer was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.[2]

After the truth came out, it was discovered that they had been falsifying evidence in cases for many years. At least three officers were convicted. Every case the department had been involved in had to be reinvestigated.

FBI scandal[edit]

In the 1990s, the fingerprint, DNA, and explosive units of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory had written reports confirming local police department theories without actually performing the work.

Such laws and regulatory procedures stipulating the conditions under which evidence can be handled and manipulated fall under a body of due process statues called chain of custody rules. It is crucial for law enforcement agencies to scrupulously collect, handle and transfer evidence in order to avoid its falsification. In most jurisdictions, chain of evidence rules require that the transfer of criminal evidence be handled by as few persons as possible. To prevent error or improper tampering, chain of evidence rules also stipulate that those authorized to experiment with collected evidence document the nature, time, date and duration of their handling.

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars[edit]

In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have been known to place weapons on or near a slain individual to make that person appear to be an enemy combatant or insurgent.[3][4][5] Alternatively, a drop weapon or other item is left in the open; any individual who picks it up may be fired upon; a process known as baiting.[3][4][5]

The use of drop weapons has been the cause of some controversy in the Iraq War.[6][7][8]

In 2008, three United States Army soldiers were found guilty of planting evidence in this way; one of them, Sgt. Evan Vela, was also sentenced to a 10-year prison term for murder of an unarmed Iraqi.[6]

A military court found that on the 27th of April, 2007, Specialist Jorge Sandoval, shot an Iraqi man, on the order of Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley. The two men then placed a spool of wire into the pocket of the dead man, who had been cutting grass with a rusty sickle.[4] Hensley and Sandoval were charged with murder, of which they were acquitted, and with planting evidence, of which they were found guilty.[6]

The Asymmetric Warfare Group is said by Captain Didier to have sent boxes of the kind normally used to hold ammunition filled with "drop items" to his unit, the 1st Battalion 501st Infantry Regiment in order "to disrupt the AIF (Anti-Iraqi Forces) attempts at harming coalition forces and give us the upper hand in a fight."[3][4]

The Independent newspaper quoted a spokesperson for the US military as saying: "There are no classified programs that authorise the murder of local nationals and the use of 'drop weapons' to make killings appear legally justified."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Taylor, Robert Linsay; John Bowie Gorden; Allen Howard Johnston (1980). "Report of the Royal Commission to inquire into the Circumstances of the Convictions of Arthur Allan Thomas for the Murders of David Harvey screwed Jeanette Lenore Crewe". Book. NZ Government Printer. p. 125. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  2. ^ "Police Investigation Supervisor Admits Faking Fingerprints". New York Times. July 30, 1993. Retrieved 2007-06-21. In a widening scandal that has rocked the New York State Police, a lieutenant who supervised criminal investigations in seven upstate counties admitted yesterday that he had faked fingerprint evidence in three cases. The lieutenant, Craig D. Harvey, also said in court in Delhi, N.Y., that he had been assisted in fabricating evidence by another lieutenant, Patrick O'Hara, who works out of state police headquarters in Albany supervising drug and organized-crime investigations. 
  3. ^ a b c d Weapons left by US troops 'used as bait to kill Iraqis', Kim Sengupta, Baghdad, The Independent, 25 September 2007
  4. ^ a b c d U.S. Aims To Lure Insurgents With 'Bait', Washington Post
  5. ^ a b U.S. Army Snipers Accused of 'Baiting' Iraqi Insurgents, Fox News September 25, 2007 "sworn statements and testimony in the cases of two other accused Ranger snipers indicate that the Army has a classified program that encourages snipers to "bait" potential targets and then kill whoever takes the bait", "The transcript of a court hearing for two of the three accused snipers makes several references to the existence of a classified "baiting" program"
  6. ^ a b c Murder or Exhaustion in Iraq?, Time
  7. ^ Stark writes to Defense Secretary Gates to express alarm at military "Baiting" of Iraqis
  8. ^ U.S. Snipers Accused of 'Baiting' Iraqis, Pauline Jelinek and Robert Burns, The Associated Press, September 25, 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • National Law Journal; October 9, 1995; "Faked Evidence Becomes Real Problem-From Fingerprints to Photos to Computer Data, Lawyers are Learning to be Vigilant"
  • New York Times; November 22, 1992, Sunday; "Ripples of a Pathologist's Misconduct In Graves and Courts of West Texas. The prairie graveyards of West Texas are giving mute testimony to the misdeeds of a circuit-riding pathologist who left a trail of faked autopsies, botched blood samples and missing organs from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande. According to defense lawyers' estimates, as many as 20 capital murder cases ..."
  • John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne; Tainting Evidence: Inside The Scandals At The FBI Crime Lab