It’s not a matter of who’s guilty or who isn’t.
When Dr. Tim Wilson examines a crime scene, guilt or innocence doesn’t enter into the equation at all. It’s about letting the evidence at hand tell a story. Hairs, shoe prints, a tiny drop of blood are all part of that story – one that could be called “The Truth of What Happened.”
Wilson, chairman of the Criminal Justice Department at Missouri Southern, recently lent his crime scene investigation expertise to the Investigation Discovery series “Reasonable Doubt.” He was featured on two episodes of the series’ second season this spring.
“The premise of the show is they have a retired homicide detective and a defense attorney who conduct independent investigations,” said Wilson. “What happens is a family whose loved one has been convicted of murder contacts this group to say, ‘We think our son or daughter is innocent. Could you do an investigation?’
They meet with the family, get all the police reports, crime scene photos, medical reports and court transcripts – everything to do with the case – and launch their own investigation.”
Wilson, who teaches crime scene and criminal investigation, has had plenty of field experience. After graduating from Missouri Southern’s law enforcement academy in 1998, he worked for the Neosho Police Department, the Jasper County Sheriff ’s Office and later the Joplin Police Department. His law-enforcement career included conducting crime scene investigations and serving on a SWAT team.
He was contacted by the show’s producers to review the physical evidence and offer a professional opinion.
The first case was a two-decade old murder in Missouri, in which the family believed there were other legitimate leads that needed to be followed. The second found him flying to Michigan to review the physical evidence in a more recent case.
“My role was mostly just to look at the evidence to see if there’s anything that might have been missed and to test whatever theory the family feels is legitimate,” he said. “Both times I needed to conduct an experiment that had to do with the forensic evidence in the cases.”
For Wilson, the experience wasn’t so much about shedding new light on old cases. “It’s more about recognizing how much we have evolved,” he said. “The techniques we’ve used have been used for a long time. The technology is what has changed. For instance, when DNA testing first began, you needed to have a significant amount of blood to do it. With all of the advances, you now only need a very small amount to get a DNA profile.”
“Working on the show also reinforces what I’ve been teaching in my classes … the importance of photography and the importance of the techniques we use to prevent contamination or destruction of evidence.”