Bullets…barrels…ballistics

Bullets…barrels…ballistics…the X6 Murder Trial

The recent case dubbed the X6 Murder Trial, and the outcome, has led to far too much doubt in the eyes of the Jamaican public.

Numerous letters and articles have been written, and in going through all the social media comments, it is evident there is no one in Jamaica who believes that justice was served.

In the view of the public, the alleged killer is still guilty [or if not him, his son], the taxi man is a liar and was bought out, the investigation carried out by the Police was mediocre, if not an outright joke, and the evidence submitted by the DPP via the prosecution attorney was substandard [Judge Judy would have ensured a far better job was done!]. The law in this case is perceived as being an ass.

Our people believe, and they have a right, that the case was paid off, that there is definitely one law for those with influence and money and another for those without, and that the ways of the old plantocracy are still alive and well – whatever your colour, once you have the cash and the status you are the king.

bullets

So, this blog is all about bullets, barrels and ballistics, and how easy it is to subvert the course of true justice.

firearms-1

As every firearm is made up of several parts, how easy would it be to change those parts that provide a unique identification for each specific firearm?

Every gun barrel is rifled during manufacture, or finished inside the barrel with rotating grooves to impart spin to a bullet in order to improve accuracy during flight. The resulting spiralling grooves and lands (the flat parts between the grooves) leave mirrored markings on the bullet itself.

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Rifling is therefore unique to each firearm.

Apart from rifling, machining marks left on the casing can be used to determine the firearm, as well as the firing pin and casing ejection marks.

While the bullet striation would be different, the fact that you have a new barrel should however be obvious, and forensics can still match from the shell casing, as the firing pin and chamber leave their own markings.

Unlike the human hand, there are many ways to change the ballistic fingerprints that a particular gun leaves. “Ballistic imprints, unlike fingerprints and DNA, can be altered, either deliberately or simply through normal use,” says a document made available by the Fraternal Order of Police.

The ballistic signature can be changed with numerous firings of the gun. While these changes are most pronounced when the gun is new, it is not difficult to intentionally change the signature later on.

Barrels and firing pins can be replaced (or filed), creating a brand-new signature that does not exist in anybody’s data base. Technically speaking, it would be cheaper to just get a wire brush and totally destroy the inside of the barrel.

glock-firing-pinCompounding the problem is the fact that the existing technology which helps trace bullets or their casings back to the guns that fired them is fatally flawed. According to a study commissioned by the California Department of Justice, current computer matching systems “do not provide conclusive results”. After firing almost 800 test guns in the study, the computers incorrectly matched the casings to the guns that fired them as much as 62% of the time.

In the US, a quick flight from Jamaica, you can buy a barrel at a gun show where registration is not required. Same applies for a firing pin. And any firearm carrier is capable of changing both.

Given the five-year time frame for this case to come to court, and the fact that the firearm has still not been surrendered, what if any evidence will a forensic examination of the firearm, if it still exists, show?

I contend that any evidence still available will be as inconclusive as the changed, and unchallenged, statement of the taxi man.

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