Computers In Famous Forensic Cases
October 11, 2013
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The role of computers in criminal investigation has grown along with their use in all aspects of modern life. Computer forensics is a necessary component of solving computer-based crime, but did you know that they are crucial to resolving other types of crimes, too? Here are some examples of famous forensic cases.
The BTK Killer
From 1974 to 1991, 10 murders were committed in and around Wichita, Kansas, all by the same criminal dubbed the BTK Killer in the media. Although the killer communicated with police and media regularly, his identity remained a mystery, and investigators had given up hope of solving the case until he reinitiated contact in 2004. He delivered this message on a floppy disk, based on police "assurances" that documents saved on a floppy disk are not traceable. However, using metadata on a deleted Microsoft Word document, police were quickly able to trace BTK's true identity: Dennis Rader. Rader is now serving 10 consecutive life sentences in a Kansas prison. BTK's floppy disk error made his trial one of the most famous forensic cases ever.
This lawsuit occurred over a fairly insignificant crime; plaintiffs claimed that defendants, including the real estate firm The Corcoran Group, knowingly sold them a condominium that flooded during storms, but failed to disclose this information to the buyers. The court discovered that the Corcoran Group defendants had irrecoverably deleted many emails relevant to the case once litigation began. This case changed the legal precedent on storage and deletion of electronically stored information, establishing an obligation to preserve electronically stored information relevant to a lawsuit that is underway or that seems likely to occur in the future.
An Albanian immigrant living illegally in the UK, Krenar Lusha was convicted and jailed on evidence that he intended to commit terrorist acts. The physical evidence against him was limited, aside from a relatively unremarkable 19 gallons of gasoline. The only pertinent evidence that held up in court was digital information—investigators found manuals on building bombs and detonators on Lusha's computer. They also found forensic evidence that he watched gruesome executions carried out by terrorist groups. Finally, Lusha sealed his fate by bragging on online dating sites that he was a sniper and a terrorist.
When Kari Baker died of a sleeping pill overdose, a court determined that her death was a suicide. Kari's family suspected that her husband, Matt, was really responsible for her death, yet police found no evidence to implicate him. But when computer forensics experts analyzed his computer, they found that Matt had searched online for information about sleeping pills. These renewed allegations—based on forensic evidence—eventually persuaded a witness to come forward who testified that Matt Baker had, in fact, murdered his wife.
As technology plays an increasingly important role in every aspect of our daily lives, computer forensics are sure to play an ever-larger role in criminal justice. Interested in pursuing a career in this field? Check out the specialized Computer Forensics degree from IADT!
Image source: Wikimedia Commons