Recap #CrimeChat Dec 6, 2014

Alfred Moore case, first impressionsRecap #CrimeChat Dec 6, 2014 with Sue Carney about the Alfred Moore case. Sue and I did not follow any chronological order to discuss the case. We went from first impressions to every detail that bothered us. As you can imagine, the hour flew by and … we are left with more questions!

Some of the main things that bother us in this case:

Jagger’s position when he was shot. It was not considered that he might have leaned over a low wall (bending at the hips) because he heard a noise. His wounds do correspond with someone sitting down but at the same time, he could have bent over a low wall or object.

The revolver versus automatic: both leave their own distinct landmarks and striations something that should have been presented at trial

Alfred Moore’s rain coat pockets: no gun oil, no gun rust, no traces of powder … yet the prosecution claimed he carried a gun in his pocket!

The weather Joan Horne stated that there was soaking rain on July 14, 1951. However, Moore’s coat/clothes were bone dry.

The hair on the rain coat: Was it similar to Officer Fraser? How was that determined? What does it tell us? Could that hair have been deposited while carrying the evidence around? How significant would such a hair be to decide someone’s guilt?

The search of Moore’s room on July 14 at 515am by Sadler & Hopping: no ammunition was found. Then the room was searched again at 445pm by Garnett. Surprise: he did find ammunition. Moreover, he only told his superiors about this on July 17 after the autopsies had been done and it was determined that the wounds were caused by 9mm ammunition. This looks like the surprise cartridge found that was used against Arthur Allen Thomas who was accused of murdering the Crewe Family.

We discussed a lot more. If you wish to read our tweets, search for #crimechat” on Twitter. Read more about the Moore case here.

The 2014 #CrimeChat schedule is in the right margin.

Cheers!

Comments

  1. Great recap Alice.

    I just wanted to elaborate on some of the principles that we touched on during our chat. We mentioned the failure to take fibre evidence and the lack of evidence that a firearm had been inside Alfred Moore’s pocket, and I spoke about issues of transfer and persistence.

    The first point to clarify here is that a lack of evidence isn’t necessarily evidence to support the view that an event didn’t happen. In order to determine the significance of a lack of evidence, it’s important to consider our expectations of opportunity for transfer of that evidence and then its likely persistence: i.e. how long will that evidence remain on a surface / item given the conditions to which the item is then subject and the length of time before testing. These are crucial principles that sit right at the heart of forensic science.

    In order to be objective, we must consider these expectations given alternative scenarios or propositions. This is a basic principle in evaluating forensic evidence.

    So, in the Alfred Moore case: what would be our expectation of fibres from the victims’ clothing having been transferred to Alfred’s coat if he had shot Constable Jagger and Inspector Fraser, versus our expectations of such fibre transfer if he had not shot them but had been in bed, as he stated, at the time of the shooting? Having then considered transfer, we must then also consider persistence. Transferred fibres are lost from clothing very quickly. Their loss is affected by all sorts of factors including the type of fibres they are; the nature of the surface they are transferred to (i.e. is the recipient surface fluffy or uneven and retains fibres well or is it smooth and shiny so that transferred fibres will readily fall off?); the conditions to which the surface has then been subject (e.g. was it folded up and put in a bag or was it waved about so that transferred fibres would fall off?).

    In the case of fibres, if Alfred Moore had been the shooter, in my view, unless he’d had a real struggle with DC Jagger and DI Fraser, there might not have been much contact between their clothing, so I might not expect the transfer of many fibres. Even if fibres were transferred, then by the time Alfred had run back home through the wet grass with his coat flapping about, many of those transferred fibres are likely to have been lost. Conversely, if Alfred Moore, wasn’t the shooter, and he was in fact in bed at the time of the shooting, with his coat hanging up in the wardrobe, then we wouldn’t expect any fibres from the victims’ clothing to be transferred to his coat. So, out expectations of finding fibres on Alfred’s coat are fairly similar for each scenario. In this case, an absence of fibres wouldn’t necessarily support the defence view, it would simply be inconclusive, since we wouldn’t expect to find them anyway, even if Alfred was the shooter.

    This doesn’t even begin to consider the complications of how poorly the exhibits were handled, with no thought for anti-contamination procedures, and having the same officers who had assisted the wounded officers then handling clothing items relating to a suspect. This is why I think the hair found on Alfred Moore’s coat is of no probative value whatsoever, regardless of the fact that the microscopic hair comparison doesn’t seem to have been carried out using a representative reference sample from DI Fraser.

    In relation to the absence of evidence of a firearm being in Alfred Moore’s pocket then: How can that be evaluated? Well there seem to be no details as to whether any chemical testing was carried out, Rather, from the information given at trial, it seems that the forensic examiner looked in the pocket, but in my view, that would not be sufficient to determine whether or not there was any gun oil, rust or firearm discharge residue / gunshot residue present. It could be argued that a gun could be placed in a pocket without any gun oil or rust being transferred. Therefore an absence of those might be considered inconclusive even if the gun had been inside the pocket. However, for a recently fired weapon placed in a pocket, one would expect FDR/GSR to be transferred. It seems likely that this wasn’t a test that was carried out in the Alfred Moore case though. As to whether any FDR/GSR would persist after all this time, if the coat were available, remains to be seen. Again, it depends on the conditions in which the coat has been stored. According to Steve Lawson, all the physical evidence, which we must assume includes the clothing items, has been lost or misplaced since the 1950s, so it’s all academic. However, this has been a good opportunity to expand on the principles of transfer and persistence, which are at the core of evaluating almost all kinds of forensic evidence.

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