Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

9 Most Infamous Information Leaks of All Time

Julian Assange is having quite the year. WikiLeaks had already garnered more public notoriety than ever thanks to its April 2010 release of a video showing U.S. forces in Iraq firing on civilians and reporters, but its leak of diplomatic cables in November really took things to a new level. He’s being called a hero by some groups even as others denounce his tactics and raise questions about his sex life. Yet his actions are only the latest in a series of global events designed to shake the foundations of our perception and call governments to action. Information leaks, intentional or not, have been at the root of some of the most contentious moments in history, from papers that reveal the truth about war to information breaches that have jeopardized our online identities. Whether nobly intentioned or maliciously plotted, these leaks have changed the course of history.

  1. The Pentagon Papers: One of the most shocking revelations in a time already loaded with secrecy, lies, and innuendo, the Pentagon Papers blew the doors off the Vietnam War when they hit the front page of The New York Times in June 1971. Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst working for the RAND Corporation, had obtained access to a study titled "United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense," which traced American involvement in the region and demonstrated that the Johnson administration (and others) had repeatedly and systematically lied about the causes and effects of the conflict in Vietnam. He copied the study and provided portions to the Times. Senator Mike Gravel entered more than 4,000 pages of the report into the record of his subcommittee, ensuring that they would be protected and thereby available for public consumption and discussion. The study was a devastating blow to any politician foolish enough to keep singing the praises of the Vietnam War.
  2. Iraq War Logs: One of the many information dumps on this list propagated by WikiLeaks, the October 2010 publication of what would be called the Iraq War Logs highlighted the real civilian cost of the war. The leaked info came from Army field reports written between 2004 and 2009 that recorded the number of dead civilians as 66,081 out of 109,000 total. As a result, the Iraq Body Count Project corrected (up) its tabulation of total deaths from the war. The logs confirmed a number of events that had only been partially reported before, including the fact that some American troops were classifying civilian deaths as enemies, including a pair of journalists killed in a friendly fire incident in July 2007. The leak remains the biggest in U.S. history.
  3. Downing Street Memo: The publication of the Downing Street Memo in 2005 was a definite PR problem for the Bush administration. The memo included notes of a July 2002 meeting of British government officials discussing the impending Iraq War, specifically the fact that the United States’ actions to remove Saddam Hussein were being propped up with shaky intelligence and that his ties to terrorism weren’t as strong as they were being publicly portrayed. The minutes of the memo highlighted that Hussein possessed fewer weapons of mass destruction than Libya, Iran, or North Korea.
  4. Operation Mincemeat: The fascinating thing about Operation Mincemeat is that it was a deliberately planned leak that was part of the Allied effort during World War II. The effort was part of the larger Operation Barclay, a plan designed to cover the invasion of Sicily, Mincemeat was crafted to convince German commanders that Allied troops were headed to Greece and Sardinia instead. Allied forces pulled this off by leaking phony "top secret" documents to the Germans, which were placed on a corpse that was pushed to wash up on the beaches of Spain. When the body was found, the Germans removed the papers and copied what they thought were accurate invasion plans before returning the papers to the body as a show of good faith when returning the body to the British. The operation worked so well that future breaches of actual intelligence were ignored by Germans who assumed they were deceptions.
  5. Afghan War Diary: Wikileaks published these substantial logs in July 2010 by leaking them to media including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel. The entire bulk of the data comprised more than 91,000 documents, though only 75,000 were released to the public. The logs cover the almost six-year period between January 2004 and December 2009, and they revealed to the public that the Afghan War was a lot rougher and more deadly than they had likely imagined. They also detailed the ways that the Pakistani intelligence agency and Iran were working with the Taliban. The logs also reported the previously unmentioned deaths of hundreds of civilians who were killed by coalition forces. A host of friendly fire incidents came to light, as well. Basically, it was another horrible blow to public perception of a long and confusing war, and though it lacked the sculpted punch of, say, a documentary, it was still a body blow to the government.
  6. Bush-Aznar Memo: The Bush-Aznar Memo, which was published in 2007, covered a 2003 conversation between President George W. Bush and Spanish prime minister Jose Aznar in which Bush spoke about the looming war with Iraq and his plans to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The leak wasn’t a sea change in public perception, but it did highlight certain ways in which U.S. policy and what the U.S. public was told were two radically different things.
  7. The Gawker Leak: Gawker chief and generally rough person Nick Denton has been at the forefront of the blogging world since the blogging world took shape. In December 2010, though, his empire suffered its biggest blow when a group of hackers operating under the title of Gnosis breached the security of his family of sites, published the source code for Gawker’s content management system, and revealed details about more than 1 million commenters included almost 200,000 encrypted passwords. (Some of which were weak and unsafe in the first place.) The leak was a devastating one for Gawker, which had to install a banner on all of its sites that informed users of the breach and helped them reset their security. The leak wasn’t a helpful or interesting one, just a cruel prank.
  8. Sarah Palin’s E-Mail: The members of Anonymous are not ones to sit idly by when given the chance to mess with a public official they dislike. (Though if their own information ever leaked, they’d probably throw a fit.) In the fall of 2008, a tangential member of the group hacked into the e-mail account of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and published the password on 4chan, a public forum you should never, ever visit. A few hours later, the account was locked down by Yahoo, but the damage was done, and private e-mails were leaked to the public. Nothing earth-shaking was revealed; no cover-ups, conspiracies, or state secrets. Just campaign e-mails published with the sole intent of embarrassing the sender. It was one of the highest-profile leaks of all time, yet mostly pointless.
  9. Climategate: It’s fitting that a list that kicked off with a leak that occured under Nixon’s watch would end with one of the many "-gate"-labeled controversies that have sprung up since. In the fall of 2009, hackers servers used by the Climatic Research Unit and copied thousands of documents and e-mails that related to climate change studied between 1996 and 2009. The leaked info made it appear as if scientists had colluded to fight the publication and dissemination of opinions that would argue against global warming, and though a subsequent investigation found that there had been no malpractice, the event was hardly a blow for those who argued for environmental protection and economic change. The data were taken out of context and used to fuel both sides of the fight over global warming, which didn’t help anyone but those interested in seeing a fight instead of a victory. The political fallout was terrible, even if the truth was that nothing much had happened. Such is the power of the well-timed leak.

10 Best Legal Shows in TV History

Law has always intrigued us, especially when it’s depicted on the TV screen. We love to see sharp-tongued lawyers, heated arguments and cases where justice is finally served. Not only do legal shows entertain us, but they also teach us about the legal system and the hard work of a trial lawyer. Here are the 10 best legal shows in TV history:

    1. Law & Order: Law & Order is the longest-running crime drama on American television since it premiered on NBC in 1990 and finished its 20th season on May 24, 2010. Law & Order is also tied with Gunsmoke as the longest-running American drama series of all time. The wildly popular criminal-legal series was set and filmed in New York City and many of the story lines were based on real cases that made headlines. Every episode begins with a criminal investigation and suspect arrest by NYPDs and the last half hour focuses on the prosecution of the defendant by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The show was praised and awarded for its talented cast, including Sam Waterston, Chris Noth, S. Epatha Merkerson and the late Jerry Orbach.

    1. Boston Legal: Boston Legal was a popular legal drama-comedy that premiered in 2004 and came to an end in 2008. The show was a spinoff of the creator David E. Kelley’s other legal television series, The Practice, in which it followed former cast character Alan Shore, as he joins the firm Crane, Poole & Schmidt. Boston Legal had a star-studded cast, including Candice Bergen and funny guys William Shatner and James Spader. This award-winning show brought a great deal of humor and fun to the courtroom, while handling many serious cases.

    1. The Practice: The Practice was a popular legal drama that ran for eight seasons from 1997 to 2004 on ABC. The show focused on the partners and associates of a Boston law firm, led by senior defense attorney and founder of the firm, Bobby Donnell, played by Dylan McDermott. The Practice generally focused on high-profile criminal and civil cases that provided a constant struggle between legal ethics and personal ethics. The show had a way of combining realistic applications of law, while romanticizing the legal system through its well-developed characters.

    1. Matlock: Matlock is a popular legal drama series starring the lovable Andy Griffith that ran from 1986 to 1992 on NBC. The show depicts the life of Ben Matlock, an expensive defense attorney in Atlanta, who solves and litigates high-profile cases. Like Perry Mason, Matlock finds the real killer and exposes him or her in dramatic courtroom scenes at the end of each episode.

    1. JAG: JAG was a successful legal drama that ran for 10 seasons from 1995 to 2005 on CBS and one year on NBC. The show was different from other legal series because it was about lawyers from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). The show focuses on Cmdr. Harmon Rabb, Jr., a former Navy fighter pilot turned lawyer, and his fellow attorneys as they investigate and litigate crimes committed by members of the Navy and Marine Corps.

    1. Ally McBeal: The comedy-drama series, Ally McBeal, was quite the hit from 1997 to 2002. People loved tuning in to watch Ally McBeal, played by Calista Flockhart, a young, lovable attorney who worked at a Boston law firm, called Cage Fish with other young and eccentric lawyers like herself. Much of the show focused on romance, relationships and the personal lives of Ally and her fellow attorneys, but always maintained its lightheartedness with slapstick humor and surreal images like the dancing baby.

    1. L.A. Law: L.A. Law was an incredibly popular legal drama that ran for eight seasons from 1986 to 1994 on NBC. The show depicted the personal and professional lives of attorneys working at a large Los Angeles law firm. It focused on legal cases involving abortion, gay rights, racism, AIDS, domestic violence and other hot topics during that time. Not only were viewers entertained by the good looking cast and their scandalous storylines, but L.A. Law had plenty of bizarre humor and social drama to keep you coming back for more.

    1. Murder One: Murder One was an interesting legal drama that ran for two seasons from 1995 to 1997 on ABC. Although short lived, Murder One took a different approach to legal drama series by focusing on the ups and downs of one trial for the entire first season. The show focuses on Defense Attorney Theodore “Teddy” Hoffman and his associates as they defend a junkie actor who is being accused and tried for murder. Hoffman does not return in the second season because the trial cause too much strain on his personal life and he is replaced by Jimmy Wyler. The firm defends more than one client in the second season, but the cast changes and thematic issues cause the show to be dropped at the end of the season.

    1. Perry Mason: Perry Mason was a legal series starring Raymond Burr that ran from 1957 to 1966 on CBS. The show was an adaptation of the fictional character, Perry Mason, from the mystery fiction novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner. Perry Mason was originally a 15-minute radio series before it became one of the most successful and longest-running legal shows. The show gave Americans their first real look at the work of lawyers.

    1. The Defenders: The Defenders was a successful courtroom drama series that told the story of father-and-son defense attorneys who handles high-profile and very controversial cases involving racism, civil rights, religion, abortion and other major issues of the time. The series ran from 1961 to 1965 on CBS and received a great deal of praise for its social context and outstanding performances.

10 Strange But True Christmas Crimes

‘Tis the season — for crime? Many criminals see the holiday season as their opportunity to cash in. But while many of the crimes committed around Christmas center around theft of presents, there are a few that are so strange that they definitely deserve a special place on Santa’s naughty. Here are 10 strange but true Christmas crimes:

  1. Stolen Baby Jesus: What’s stranger, stealing a doll depicting what many believe is the son of God, or using GPS and high tech cameras to protect the display? Regardless of your belief, stealing an important religious symbol for no other reason than to vandalize seems like a very Grinch-esque activity. But then again, having a good excuse to ask Santa for an advanced GPS system has its perks. If you see a vandal robbing a nativity scene of Baby Jesus, and the GPS tracking system hasn’t already done it for you, report the incident to authorities.
  2. Wal-Mart Stampede: People really go wild over Christmas gadgets and gizmos. So wild, in fact, that they behave like wild animals and stampede into large retail stores hoping to get the best deal on the coolest new items. But recently this trend has taken a decidedly less innocent turn, as workers and bystanders have been trampled by frenzied shoppers. This Christmas, remember why we really celebrate the holidays and get your shopping done in a decidedly less deadly fashion.
  3. Stolen Christmas Trees: This may be the only time of year where stealing a tree represents an attractive and potentially profitable opportunity for a criminal. It’s no surprise that the rates of petty theft and robbery rise during the Christmas season, but Christmas trees? Really? If you see a tree being stolen from a commercial lot, do your civic duty and report the criminal to the authorities. They’ll be out in force this year cracking down on a truly bizarre crime.
  4. Drunken Parade Float Driving: Everyone enjoys the Christmas parade. But when this parade float driver sped past another float and raced towards Main street, police knew something was wrong. The driver turned out to be drunk, and the story turned out to be one of the most bizarre Christmas crimes in history. This season, be careful with the eggnog, especially if it’s your job to drive the Christmas float the next day.
  5. Nativity Scene Vandalism: Not believing in Santa Claus is one thing. Venting your rage upon carefully crafted nativity scenes by writing satanic symbols with spray paint is another. Watch out this year because police are out in force to protect these displays of peace and love from any number of criminal Grinches.
  6. Frosty Stabbing: Frosty, after surviving 2 initial stabbing attempts finally succumbed to his wounds while the perpetrators were tracked down and charge with — vandalism? Yes, Frosty may have been a 12-foot tall inflatable snowman, but does that mean he deserves to be repeatedly stabbed? Absolutely not. The teenage perpetrators were caught in this case, but around Christmas this type of vandalism often goes unsolved.
  7. Christmas Tree Cannabis: The Christmas tree is one of the most iconic symbols of the holiday season. In this bizarre turn on a Christmas classic, the Christmas tree was made entirely of illegal marijuana. While it may have looked similar to a normal tree, setting it on fire may have some interesting effects on those nearby. Perhaps it’s not the best idea to use your illegal drugs as your celebration of the holiday season.
  8. Cannabis Christmas Card: In this strange story, a woman visiting her boyfriend in prison wanted to surprise him with a heart-felt Christmas card. The catch? The card contained a heaping helping of illegal marijuana, which is generally frowned upon in prison. After being caught, she may have an opportunity to join her boyfriend behind bars next holiday season.
  9. Naughty Santa Claus: Children really enjoy telling Santa what they want for Christmas, and adults enjoy the idea of Santa perhaps just as much. But when Santa starts telling dirty and offensive jokes at the work place (not the North Pole), Santa is going to get a nice pink slip for Christmas. Merry unemployment, Santa. And a happy new harassment charge next year!
  10. The Santa Claus Bandti: Yes, you read that right. A man who looked suspiciously like Santa Claus had become one of the most prolific bank robbers in recent memory before being caught and arrested. We always knew that Santa was independently wealthy, but we never guessed that this was what funded his North Pole operation.

10 Infamous Cases of Wrongful Execution

There’s no doubt about it – the U.S. criminal justice system is not perfect. And those imperfections become apparent when someone is the innocent victim of the death penalty. Wrongful executions have been happening for hundreds of years, but until the advent of DNA evidence and improved forensics technology, these individuals have remained guilty as charged. Today, DNA evidence has exonerated and released 15 death row inmates since 1992, but only eight inmates have been acknowledged of their possible innocence after execution by the Death Penalty Information Center. Here are 10 infamous cases of wrongful execution that deserve a second look:

  1. Claude Jones: Claude Jones was executed in 2000 for the murder of liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager, in San Jacinto County in 1989. On Nov. 14, 1989, Jones and another man were seen pulling into a liquor store in Point Blank, Texas. One stayed in the car while the other went inside and shot the owner. Witnesses who were standing across the road couldn’t see the killer, but Jones and two other men, Kerry Dixon and Timothy Jordan, were all linked to the murder. Although Jones said he never entered the store, Dixon and Jordan testified that Jones was in fact the shooter and they were both spared the death penalty. The deciding factor and only admissible evidence in Jones’ conviction came down to a strand of hair that was found at the scene of the crime. A forensic expert testified that the hair appeared to have come from Jones, and he was sentenced to death. Forensic technology was underdeveloped during the 1990 trial and it wasn’t able to match Jones’ DNA with the hair sample. Therefore, before his 2000 execution, Jones’ attorneys filed petitions for a stay of execution with a district court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and requested that the hair be submitted for DNA testing that was now possible, but all courts and former Texas Governor George W. Bush denied Jones and he was executed. In an attempt to prove that Texas executed an innocent man, the Innocence Project and the Texas Observer filed a lawsuit in 2007 to obtain the strand of hair and submitted it for DNA testing, which was determined to be the hair of the victim.
  2. Jesse Tafero: Jesse Tafero was executed by electric chair in 1990 for murdering two Florida police officers, Phillip Black and Donald Irwin. The murders occurred on Feb. 20, 1976, when Black and Irwin approached a parked car at a rest stop and found Tafero, his partner Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs, her two children and Walter Rhodes asleep inside. They were ordered to get out of the car when the officers saw a gun lying on the floor inside the car and, according to Rhodes, Tafero proceeded to shoot both officers and took off in their police car. They disposed of the police car and stole a man’s car, but were arrested after being caught in a roadblock. The gun was found in Tafero’s waistband, although it was legally registered to Jacobs. Tafero had been convicted of robbery and had served seven years of a 25-year sentence before being convicted for murder. Tafero and Jacobs claimed that Rhodes was the lone shooter, but Rhodes testified against them in exchange for a lighter sentence. Rhodes later admitted that he was responsible for the killings, but Tafero was still sentenced to death.
  3. Cameron Todd Willingham: Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for murdering his three young daughters by intentionally setting fire to the family home in Corsicana, Texas. The arson-murder case fueled much controversy about Willingham’s guilt, which was determined by the case’s primary evidence – the arson investigators’ findings. They determined that the fire was deliberately set with the help of a liquid accelerant due to specific burn patterns, laboratory tests and points of origin. Willingham maintained his innocence and appealed his conviction for years, but was executed at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville on Feb. 16, 2004. In 2009, the Texas Forensic Science Commission panel reevaluated the case and determined that state and local arson investigators used “flawed science” when they labeled the fire as arson. Although advances in fire science and arson investigations have improved since 1991, the year of the fire, experts now believe the Corsicana Fire Department was negligent in their findings. The science commission is still investigating the arson ruling, and if the judge clears Willingham, it would be the first time an official has formally declared a wrongful execution in Texas.
  4. Larry Griffin: Larry Griffin was executed in 1995 for a drive-by shooting that killed 19-year-old drug dealer Quintin Moss in St. Louis. Griffin immediately became a suspect because his older brother Dennis Griffin, another well-known drug dealer, was murdered just six months earlier. Moss was believed to have killed Dennis Griffin. Although there were a number of possible suspects in the murder of Moss, a witness account by a white man named Robert Fitzgerald, who claimed to have seen the shooting, knew the license plate number of the vehicle and could identify the gunman was all it took to have Griffin arrested. Fitzgerald was a convicted felon who had a long history of run-ins with the law, which raised concerns about the legitimacy of his story. During the 1993 hearing, Fitzgerald admitted to being unsure if Griffin was the man in the car after all. There were two key witnesses who wavered and a third person whose testimony could have helped Griffin, but was never contacted by either the defense or prosecution. Griffin continued to proclaim his innocence until his execution. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund investigated the case after Griffin’s execution and wanted to uncover more witness accounts that could support their claim that Missouri executed an innocent man.
  5. Ruben Cantu: Ruben Cantu was executed in 1993 for the murder-robbery of a San Antonio man at the age of 17. Cantu had no previous convictions, but was pinpointed as a violent murderer who shot one victim nine times, as well as shot the only eyewitness nine times with a rifle, but he lived to testify. Juan Moreno offered his testimony to police and identified Cantu as the shooter, but later recanted, admitting that he said Cantu out of influence and fear of authorities. Although the case had a compelling witness testimony, there was no physical evidence that linked Cantu to the crime. In addition, his co-defendant David Garza, who allegedly committed the murder-robbery with Cantu, remained silent and signed a sworn affidavit allowing his accomplice to be falsely accused. Cantu maintained his innocence until his execution and claimed that he had been framed in this capital murder case.
  6. David Spence: David Spence was executed in 1997 for murdering three teenagers in 1982 in Waco. Spence was convicted of raping, torturing and murdering two 17-year-old girls and murdering an 18-year-old boy. As the original allegations go, Spence was hired by convenience store owner Muneer Deeb to kill one girl and he ended up killing these three teens by mistake. Deeb was charged and sentenced to death, but later received a re-trial and was acquitted. Authoritative sources even had serious doubt about Spence’s guilt. Although there was no clear physical evidence to link Spence to the crime, prosecutors used bite marks that were found on one of the girl’s body and matched it to Spence’s teeth. Even jailhouse witnesses were bribed into snitching on Spence. Despite weak evidential support and jail mate testimonies, Spence was executed.
  7. Carlos De Luna: Carlos De Luna was executed in 1989 for the 1983 stabbing of Wanda Lopez, a Texas convenience store clerk. There were two eyewitnesses who played a key role in the conviction of De Luna. Before the murder-robbery, George Aguirre was filling up at the gas station where the crime occurred, when he saw a man standing outside the store slide a knife with the blade exposed into his pocket and enter. The man asked Aguirre for a ride to a nightclub, but he refused and went inside the store to warn Lopez about the suspicious man. Aguirre left and Lopez called the police to describe the man. As she was on the phone with a dispatcher, the man came back into the store and robbed her. The second witness, Kevan Baker, pulled into the station and heard bangs on the station’s window and saw a man struggling with a woman. As Baker approached the gas station, the murderer threatened him and took off. When police searched the area, they found De Luna not far from the station. He was shirtless and shoeless in a puddle of water and screamed, “Don’t shoot! You got me!” Both Aguirre and Baker confirmed De Luna was the man at the station. Little to no physical evidence was collected at the crime scene, including blood samples and fingerprints that could have helped De Luna. De Luna maintained his innocence and repeated that Carlos Hernandez was the actual killer. Despite Hernandez’s trouble with the law and repeated confessions to the murder, De Luna was executed.
  8. Joseph O’Dell: Joseph O’Dell was executed in 1997 for raping and murdering Helen Schartner. O’Dell was convicted on the basis of blood evidence and a jailhouse snitch. O’Dell represented himself and continued to proclaim his innocence in various unsuccessful appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court, Federal District Court and the Supreme Court. O’Dell requested that the state submit other pieces of evidence for DNA testing, but he was refused. Despite much effort and several appeals, the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and reinstated his death sentence. After his execution, Lori Urs, an anti-death penalty advocate and former wife to O’Dell, sought to further investigate the case and exonerate O’Dell based on mistaken blood matches, court opinions and refusal of DNA testing. However, the last of the DNA evidence from O’Dell’s case was burned in March 2000 and the appeals were laid to rest.
  9. Leo Jones: Leo Jones was executed in 1998 for murdering a police officer in Florida. Although Jones confessed 12 hours after the murder, he said that he was forced to say he did it during hours of intimidating police interrogation, where they threatened his life and made him play Russian roulette. One witness believed that the police department was out to get Jones because he had assaulted an officer once. The same two arresting officers were released from the department shortly after for using violence in other cases. Despite repeated appeals, other potential suspects and witness testimonies in support of Jones’ exoneration, the sentencing stood as is. Jones was also denied another method of execution and was killed by the electric chair.
  10. Timothy Evans: Timothy Evans was sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of his daughter in 1949 at their home in Notting Hill, London. Evans maintained his innocence and repeatedly accused his neighbor, John Christie, of murdering his wife and daughter. The police investigation and physical evidence used to convict Evans was weak. After Evans’ trial and execution, Christie was found to be a serial killer who was responsible for murdering several women at his residence. There were massive campaigns to overturn Evans’ conviction and an official inquiry was conducted 16 years later. It was confirmed that Evans’ daughter had been killed by Christie, and Evans was granted a posthumous pardon. This case of injustice had a strong influence in the UK’s decision to abolish capital punishment.

10 Most Incriminating Types of Evidence

Evidence is crucial for ruling out suspects, finding criminals and proving their guilt. Many criminals go to great lengths to cover up their crime and leave no feasible trace of evidence, but major advances in forensics and investigation practices have made it possible to dig up various types of evidence that are admissible in court and bring police closer to catching criminals. Here are the 10 most incriminating types of evidence:

  1. Fingerprints: Fingerprints are the most incriminating types of evidence used in criminal cases because it’s one of the most reliable forms of identification. No two people have the same fingerprint, making it a truly fundamental tool for accurate identification of criminals. Only when fingerprints can’t be traced back to a person with a criminal history do they have less power in an investigation. However, if the suspects can be narrowed down, their fingerprints can be tested to see which one matches.
  2. Blood: Blood is an incriminating type of evidence for various reasons. DNA can be extracted from blood to find a criminal and blood type can be analyzed to help rule out suspects. Blood splatters can also help investigators piece together crime scenes and it provides more evidence to test.
  3. Hair: Hair is another useful type of evidence that can bring police closer to a criminal. A strand of hair collected from a crime scene can be submitted for DNA testing. Forensic scientists may have a better chance at testing the DNA if the hair follicle is still intact. In addition, the color of a hair strand can also be used to rule out suspects whose hair does not match the recovered hair sample.
  4. Skin: Although difficult to see at a crime scene, skin can be analyzed and tested to find a criminal. Like hair, skin samples can help determine the skin color of the person involved in the crime and DNA can be extracted for a more accurate identification of criminals. Skin can also be a harbinger of other evidence at the scene, which brings police closer to finding the criminal and understanding the crime in greater detail.
  5. Witness Testimony: Testimony from a witness who was at the scene of the crime is one of the most incriminating types of evidence. How incriminating the testimony is depends on the credibility of the witness, which is determined by the jury. It can be the deciding factor in a case.
  6. Written Documents: One of the worst things you can do as a criminal if you want to evade the law is write things down. Some criminals write in dairies, journals, letters and even e-mails to chronicle their plan of action or confess their guilt. Suspects may be in correspondence with others who can present these documents to police, or investigators may find such documents when searching a suspect’s home.
  7. Semen: Semen can be used in several ways to verify rape accusations, as well as extract DNA to identify the criminal. Semen can also be analyzed and tested to determine if there was more than one person involved in a sexual crime.
  8. Shoe Prints: Shoe prints are extremely useful in police investigations and they can be a very incriminating type of evidence. Police can tell by a lot about a shoe print, such as the make, model and size of a shoe, as well as the gender and approximate height of the person. Shoe prints also indicate the activity of the wearer when the print was made and, if the impressions are visible, police may be able to trace the criminal’s moves and follow their prints to the next destination, such as a nearby home or woods.
  9. Videotapes/Photographs: Videotapes and photographs are both compelling and incriminating types of evidence. Whether the videos or photos capture the crime taking place or the people present during or after the crime, it is valuable evidence that can be used to rule out suspects and find the criminal.
  10. Ballistics: Ballistics is the study of firearms and ammunition. This technical form of evidence includes shell casings, gun powder, bullets, gunshots and other firing characteristics of a weapon. Even the slightest remnants of a gunshot can be traced to a specific firearm, where it’s sold and its owner, if registered.

10 Most Infamous Female Criminals

Females may make up a smaller percentage of total criminal activity, but some of the most horrific crimes have been committed by women. From infanticide, murdering husbands to robbing banks, these 10 women have become famous for all the wrong reasons.

  1. Lizzie Borden: Lizzie Borden was the top suspect in the gruesome 1892 murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts. On August 4, 1892, Lizzie found her dead father slumped on a couch and bloodied from multiple crushing blows to his skull and his left eyeball split in half. The Borden’s maid, Bridget Sullivan, was lying down in her room when the murders occurred and was called down by Lizzie when she discovered her father’s body. Her stepmother, Abby Borden, was found dead in the guest bedroom from similar hatchet blows to the head. Lizzie was arrested and taken to jail following the murders. During her murder trial, Lizzie’s stories were inconsistent and suspicious, and much of the incriminating evidence was overlooked. Despite the fact that police found a hatchet with a broken handle in the basement, and knew that Lizzie had attempted to buy prussic acid and even burned one of her dresses days after the murders, Lizzie was acquitted. The maid even provided key testimony at the trials, claiming that Lizzie never mourned the loss of her parents. However, no one else was ever arrested or tried for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden.
  2. Bonnie Parker: Bonnie Parker was an accomplice to Clyde Barrow during the duo’s spree of robberies in the south and central United States during the Great Depression. During this "public enemy era," Bonnie, Clyde and their accomplices garnered national attention for numerous robberies, murders and their ability to escape police on every occasion. Although Bonnie rode with the Barrow gang for 4 straight years and was often depicted as a cigar-smoking and gun-wielding killer, there is no record that she ever shot a gun or killed anyone. After many attempts to stop the outlaws, police finally succeeded with a carefully planned ambush, in which Bonnie and Clyde were shot and killed on a rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934.
  3. Mary Ann Cotton: Mary Ann Cotton was an English serial killer during the 19th century, who was suspected of killing about 20 people by arsenic poisoning. Cotton took no mercy on her victims, killing her husbands, mother, friend and even her own children. The murder spree began when she married her first husband, William Mowbray. The couple had five children and quickly lost four of them to gastric fever and stomach pains. They had, and lost, three more children, and Mary Ann became a widow after her husband died of an intestinal disorder in 1865. Mary Ann collected his insurance and moved on to her next husband. Mary Ann continued the pattern of marry husband, give birth to child, child dies, then husband dies and she collects the insurance money. By the time she met her fourth and last husband, Frederick Cotton, Mary Ann had lost her mother, friend, three husbands and 11 children all to stomach fevers. After Frederick’s sudden death and the death of the last surviving Cotton boy, Charles Edward, the coroner became suspicious of the cause of death and Mary Ann’s role in the fatalities she had witnessed through the years. When Charles’ body tested positive for arsenic, Mary Ann was arrested and later found guilty for the murders and was hanged.
  4. Aileen Wuornos: Aileen Wuornos was a serial killer and prostitute who killed seven men in Florida from 1989 to 1990. Wuornos had a rocky upbringing that led her into prostitution at a young age. It was then when she began having trouble with the law, including DUI, disorderly conduct, assault, armed robbery and theft charges. Around 1986, Wuornos met Tyria Moore, a hotel maid, and the two began an intimate relationship together. Wuornos supported them with her prostitution earnings, but the payments were not sufficient enough. They decided that in order to make more money, Wuornos would have to rob her customers and shoot them. The first victim, Richard Mallory, a convicted rapist, who Wuornos claimed to have killed in self-defense, was found dead along a dirt road in Volusia County, Florida. He had been shot three times with a .22 caliber weapon and wrapped in a rubber-backed carpet runner. Another naked male body was found in Florida woods with similar gun shots that appeared to be made with a .22. Over the course of one year, five other male bodies were found throughout Florida. Witness descriptions of the two women seen driving the victims’ cars and Wuornos’ fingerprints on victims’ belongings pinned her as the murderer. Wuornos was arrested and claimed self-defense in the killings of all seven men, but her inconsistent stories and varied confessions led her to receive six death sentences. She was executed by lethal injection on Oct. 9, 2002.
  5. Genene Jones: Genene Jones is a serial killer who killed somewhere between 11 and 46 infants and children while working as a pediatric nurse in San Antonio and Kerrville, Texas. Jones injected children with digoxin, heparin and succinylcholine that caused heart paralysis, breathing complications and often led to death. Her intention was to put children in an emergency state and revive them to receive praise and attention from parents, doctors and the public. However, many children like Chelsea McClellan did not survive the attacks, and their deaths were labeled as SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. When suspicion rose about the eight children who developed emergency respiratory problems at the pediatric intensive-care unit in Kerrville, and an inordinate number of child deaths at Jones’ previous job at Bexar County Hospital, investigation ensued. Chelsea McClellan’s body was exhumed and the coroner found succinylcholine in her tissues. Although the evidence was compelling, no one had actually seen Jones inject Chelsea or her other victims. After several organized hearings, the Kerr County grand jury found Jones guilty of one count of murder and several charges for injury to seven children. She was sentenced to 99 years in prison and will receive automatic parole in 2017.
  6. Andrea Yates: Andrea Yates is responsible for killing her five children on June 20, 2001 by drowning them in the bathtub at her house. Yates had been suffering with a severe case of postpartum depression and psychosis. Andrea and her husband, Rusty Yates, had five children between 1994 and 2000, but it was only after the birth of Luke, her fourth son, that Andrea showed signs of depression. She became suicidal and tried to kill herself on many occasions. After being admitted to the hospital, Yates was prescribed a mixture of antidepressants and anti-psychotic drugs, including Haldol. Although her condition improved, she did experience a nervous breakdown and two suicide attempts a month later. Yates was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis and, ignoring her psychiatrist’s advice to stop trying to have more children, she gave birth to her sixth child, Mary. When Andrea’s father died in 2001, she fell into a severely depressed state by not talking, mutilating herself, reading the Bible loyally and neglecting to feed Mary. Yates was hospitalized again and the doctor informed Rusty that she must be supervised around the clock at home. On June 20, 2001, Rusty did not follow the doctor’s orders and left Andrea alone with their children when he left for work. Within the one-hour span of Rusty leaving and Andrea’s mother’s arrival to the house, Andrea drowned all five of her children one by one. Yates was originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison with the chance of parole after 40 years, but it was later overturned when a Texas jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity. Yates currently resides at a low security state mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas.
  7. Countess Elizabeth Bathory: Elizabeth Bathory was a countess from Hungary, who belonged to the renowned Bathory family. But she is most infamously remembered as a serial killer who tortured and killed hundreds of girls and young women in her castle. As legend has it, Bathory bathed in the blood of virgins to retain her youth. One witness claimed that the "Blood Countess" and her four accomplices killed more than 600 women, but they were only convicted of 80 deaths. Bathory was sentenced to imprisonment in the Cachtice Castle, where she stayed until she died in 1614.
  8. Karla Homolka: Karla Homolka and her husband Paul Bernardo were a team of torturers, rapists and murderers. They raped and murdered two Ontario teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, as well as Homolka’s younger sister, Tammy, between 1991 and 1992. In an effort to please Paul and keep him around, Karla agreed to engage in the gruesome acts and even videotape the rape-murders. Police began questioning Karla and Paul in connection with the Scarborough Rapist investigation and tested DNA samples provided by Bernardo. When the test results came back matching Bernardo’s DNA with that of the Scarborough Rapist and he was placed under 24-hour surveillance. Even though Homolka was arrested, she managed to get a lighter sentence of 12 years in prison because she claimed that she was forced by her husband to participate in the heinous crimes.
  9. Susan Smith: Susan Smith murdered her two young sons by rolling her car into John D. Long Lake in South Carolina with her children inside on Oct. 25, 1994. Smith told police that she had been carjacked by a black man who drove away with her kids in the back. A nationwide search for Smith’s 1990 Mazda Protege and highly publicized rescue efforts to find her sons came to a halt just nine days after the incident, when Smith confessed to rolling her car into the lake with her kids inside. Smith claimed that she had mental health issues that impaired her judgment, but her alleged motives for the murders contradicted her defense. Smith disposed of her children so that she could mend a broken relationship with a wealthy local man who didn’t want to be with a woman who had children. Smith was charged with two counts of murder and is serving a minimum of 30 years in prison.
  10. Diane Downs: Diane Downs is infamously known for shooting her three children, killing one, in order to keep her lover who didn’t want kids. Downs told police a fabricated story that a stranger had tried to carjack her, shot her in the arm and shot her three kids near Springfield, Oregon. She then drove to the McKenzie-Willamette Hospital with her children in the back. Her second child, Cheryl, was already dead when they arrived. Downs had been shot in her left forearm, which was later determined to be a self-inflicted wound used to support her carjacking story. Downs rehashed the events to police and was recorded on camera laughing as she described the traumatic details. Her calm behavior and mannerisms made police very suspicious of Downs’ role in the shooting and murder of her 7-year-old daughter. When police discovered that Downs was involved with Robert Knickerbocker, an Arizona man who did not want children in his life, all signs pointed to Downs as the murderer. Prosecutors strongly believed that Downs attempted to kill all three kids so she could continue her affair with Knickerbocker, but it wasn’t until her oldest daughter, Christie, gave a key testimony that it was in fact her mother who shot her and her sisters that the case came to rest. Downs was found guilty on all charges and was sentenced to life in prison, plus 50 years, on June 17, 1984.