Evidentiary Issues In A Fire/Arson Investigation: The Jack Dempsey Case

In 1995 Jack Dempsey was convicted for setting fire to a Cleveland, Ohio building. Firefighters found Mr. Dempsey unconscious in the basement of the building as it burned. Police charged him with arson and he served more than six years in prison. However, his conviction has been overturned and he has been awarded more than $300,000 in damages. You can read about the case and Mr. Dempsey’s settlement here: http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2016/02/cleveland_man_wrongfully_convi.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. There are additional resources on this case listed here:

After reading the assigned chapter (Chapter 17) and the provided resources about the case, please answer the following questions about the case. Be sure to use scholarly and professional sources to support your assertions. Cite your sources throughout the body of your work and list your references at the end of your initial post:

  • Based on the chapter reading and the provided case history, analyze commonly accepted forensic techniques and contemporary specialized techniques regarding fire/arson investigation focusing on whether or not they were used in this case and how that use, or failure to use, influenced the investigation.  Discuss why you think police believed Mr. Dempsey set fire to the building? Briefly define cognitive bias then discuss what role cognitive bias may play in classifying a fire as an arson.
  • Discuss some motives for committing arson including the most common. Based on what you read in the news story, did it appear that Mr. Dempsey had any motive to set the building on fire? Evaluate accepted methodologies employed in contemporary crime scene management and how these methodologies were or were not employed in this investigation.
  • Generally speaking, what are the challenges for CSIs with determining whether a fire scene is actually arson or simply an accident? Include a brief explanation of how to process and retrieve trace evidence in a fire scenario.

Text

Dutelle, A. W. (2016). An introduction to crime scene investigation (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlet

  • Chapter 17: Arson and Explosive Investigations

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