Anatomy of an evidence room

When I practiced in Seattle, a small group of lawyers in my firm represented commercial fishermen and seafood companies. That’s what led us to involvement in a large criminal conspiracy case against a man known as “the Geoduck King.” (That’s gooey-duck, and it’s a big old ugly clam.)

I thought of that recently when I read this article on a police department evidence room in a Twin Cities suburb. It’s an eye-opening look at how physical evidence is handled and stored, how it can pile up, and how it’s managed.

But they don’t say anything about storing a freezer full of big old ugly clams.

You can easily create good complications for your stories, if you put yourself in the position of an evidence room manager or a police officer. Imagine an officer bringing in a piece of evidence during a rush; does it get properly cataloged? What happens to a criminal case if the right gun, or the right baggie of “green leafy vegetable matter,” can’t be located?

Space can be a real issue, and not just for freezers full of clams. Computers may be smaller than ever, but they still take space. Cars and trucks, front-end loaders, trailers, and other really big items will be stored in an impound lot, often outside and exposed to the elements. What if a storm causes additional damage or destroys an RV that was the scene of a crime?

Think, too, of what happens to evidence after a case is closed? Clerks of court will call occasionally to say they’ve received a file back from the state Supreme Court, and what would we like to do with the broken chain that struck a young man in the eye? He lost that claim because he couldn’t prove where his uncle had bought it, and sued three farm & ranch suppliers, including our client, each of whom was able to show they had not bought that length of chain from that manufacturer. Your fictional criminal defense lawyer or civil trial firm, like mine, might have displays of evidence: the dented timber company hard hat that sits on top of Fred the Skeleton, or a glass-front book shelve holding small odd items. No guns or bullets, though, and no green leafy material!

6 thoughts on “Anatomy of an evidence room

  1. The copper pipe story (transporting truck stolen, too) was a good one. I’m glad they found a good home for the growing lights ~

    • Copper thefts rise and fall with the price of the copper. More than a few thieves have found themselves in serious situations, and a few have even been electrocuted.

      And the grow lights — yes!

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