Ethical Issues 1
Running Header: Ethical Issues Involved With Prosecution of Cases
Ethical and Legal Ramifications in Investigation and
Prosecution of Homicide and Rape Cases
Criminal Investigation CJ210
December 15, 2009
It is the role of the investigator and the prosecutor to ensure that all
investigations are conducted in an ethical manner, to ensure that evidence and
testimony will stand up in court and produce a conviction when the right suspect
has been identified, and is in captivity. There are guidelines and techniques used
to ensure that ethical issues are followed and that the investigative procedures
are followed. Without these standards having been upheld, the country would
lose all faith in the justice system, and
innocent people would be sitting in jail due to smaller efforts to gain the real
truth in the matter.
Ethical and Legal Ramifications in Investigation and Prosecution
Of Homicide and Rape Cases
In this day and age police, investigators, and crime scene personnel must walk a tight line in order to
ensure that the criminals they arrest are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When considering all
of the types of crimes, ethics are important in each and every case. However, the crimes that are the
most important to ethical investigations are homicide and rape. The reasons behind this are that these
two crimes are the most heinous and leave the most psychological scars on either the victim, or the
families of the victims. Ann Rand says “Any compromise between good and evil only hurts the good
and helps the evil.” (O’Connor, 2006)
Having investigators and prosecutors with good ethical values and strong personal morals is
imperative to the successful prosecution of cases. From arrival at the scene, throughout the
investigation, and even up to the trial, investigators and prosecutors must follow the code of ethics
expected of them. It is far more important to be absolutely sure that the right person is punished for
committing a crime than to put someone in jail just in order to close the case.
Crime is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as: “An act committed or omitted in violation
of law forbidding or commanding it, and for which punishment is composed upon conviction.”
(Osterburg & Ward, 2007) To aid in the investigative process there are techniques that are followed to
resolve the pressing questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. These are the facts that must be
proven at trial in an effort to effectively convince a jury to convict a suspect and compile a sentence for
If the case is a homicide investigative techniques for the investigator include but are not limited to:
canvassing the area, interviewing the friends and family, using informants, questioning suspects and
scientific evaluation of any physical evidence found at and around the scene, documenting the actions
of the victims and suspects in the days preceding the crime. Other investigations that need to be done
are examining any records that can be found such as pawn shop records, wills, and/or insurance claims.
All of these things provide insight into who would benefit from the act committed, commonly called
the motive. (Osterberg & Ward, 2007)
If the case is rape, the sensitivity of the crime presents a more challenging nature to the investigator.
The same questions need to be answered, but there is a need for more experienced and caring
investigators to deal with the psychologically challenged victim. If the investigation is not conducted
with special attention to the victims psyche, she may not even be able to tell her story. Of all the
heinous crimes, rape is the most likely to leave permanent emotional scars. Also, this crime usually
requires more proof to substantiate the victim’s story, so getting the physical evidence is more
important in these crimes than any other, and more follow up interviews are usually required to get all
the facts. (Osterberg & Ward, 2007)
Some of the ethical questions to ask on the side of the investigator are:
1. Did the investigator follow the guidelines to protect the physical evidence from the crime
scene and preserve the chain of custody?
2. Were there any false or incomplete reports filed?
3. Did the investigator follow the code of ethics for law enforcement during the
course of the investigation?
(Osterburg & Ward, 2007. O’Connor, 2006)
The prosecutor on the other hand has a whole different set of ethical standards, set by the American
Bar Association, for example:
1. The prosecutor is not an individual agent, but a member of an institution that has the duty to
seek justice, first and foremost.
2. The prosecutor works for the public.
3. The criminal investigation serves a function to gain enough accurate information to ensure
that a conviction is gained, and the right person is punished for the crime.
4. Make sure that the evidence is going to be admissible in a court of law.
5. Make sure that the secrecy and confidentiality of an investigation is not breeched.
(American Bar Association, 2008)
If the ethical standards are not upheld, the ramifications could be great. Innocent people can spend
years in jail even or be psychologically damaged enough that it causes to them commit suicide. An
example of this is the case of the anthrax killer suspect Jim Ivins, who committed suicide before being
proven guilty or innocent, due to the pressure put upon him during the investigation. (NPR, 2009)
There is even the possibility that criminals could either not be convicted in the first place, or have their
convictions overturned due to falsified reports or faulty handling of evidence.
In order to ensure that the number of ethical violations committed during investigation or
prosecution stay at the lowest numbers possible we, as a nation, must demand that persons working in
the field of criminal justice have the highest ethical and moral standards and that heavy punishments
are imposed upon those few who do not choose to follow the rules. I also believe that we should make
an example of them by allowing the media to have all the access to these people that they can stomach.
In conclusion, if we as a nation do not uphold these standards, the people of our country will have
no faith in our justice system. Innocent people will be put in jail and criminals will have the freedom to
commit crimes, without much fear of conviction.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.) Color of Law. Retrieved from the World Wide Web
December 15, 2009. http://www.fbi.gov/hq/civilrights/color.htm
Injustice Everywhere. (2009) National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project.
Retrieved From the World Wide Web December 15, 2009.
NPR. (2009) Ethics of Criminal Investigation. Retrieved from the World Wide Web December
O’Connor T. (2006). Topics in Police Ethics. Megalinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from the
World Wide Web December 15, 2009. http://www.apsu.edu/oconnort/3300/3300lect04.htm.
Osterburg, J. & Ward, R. (2007). Criminal Investigation: A Method for Reconstructing the Past,
Fifth Edition. Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., a member of the LexisNexis Group. Newark,