In 1905 Thomas and Ann Farrow were discovered in their London home by a neighbor after being brutally attacked. Thomas was dead but Ann was still breathing, though she died four days later never regaining consciousness. Their cash box was empty making it clear this was a robbery and a local milkman saw two men near the Farrow’s on the day of the attack. They were identified as Alfred and Albert Stratton but they could not be tied to the attack, though many of their post-murder activities were suspicious like giving away their clothes.

There was one thing that could, a fingerprint was left on the cash box. When Scotland Yard caught up to the Strattons it was found that the print perfectly matched Alfred’s right thumb. Fingerprint evidence was new and relatively untried, though it had been introduced in 1902 in a case of petty crime. The evidence proved to be enough and the Strattons were convicted and later hanged, the first to be sent to jail because of their fingerprints and the technology used to recover them.

The next evolution of crime fighting

Fast forward to 2018 and we may have just had another technological breakthrough with crime solving techniques. An Australian woman was murdered in 2016 and her daughter-in-law was accused of the crime. The daughter-in-law claims that the attackers had tied her up in the kitchen before ambushing her mother-in-law, whom she had been involved in a verbal altercation with earlier in the night at a local laundromat. The daughter-in-law was only able to get help after the attackers left when she was able to extricate herself from her restraints and was observed by a neighbor who called the police.

With not much to go off of the prosecutors turned to the daughter-in-law’s Apple Watch and by examining the data from it they found that the story was much different. The victim had actually been killed several hours before and there was no evidence that there were any home invaders much less that the daughter-in-law was tied up. Something did not add up and the data from the Apple Watch led prosecutors to one conclusion and the daughter-in-law was arrested for murder in March.

Bail was declined based on the strength of the prosecution’s case and will head to trial in June and could be the next great leap in forensic evidence gathering. The use of smart technology was first admitted into court in 2014 in Canada in a personal injury case and has also been used to debunk a sexual assault claim in Lancaster, Pa in 2016 in a case that made national headlines when the alleged victim’s FitBit proved that she was moving around all night.

After fingerprint evidence became accepted criminals began to cover up their hands. Will criminals now remove their wearable tech before committing a crime? If they are smart they will, but then no one ever said criminals were smart. Technology is the new fingerprint.

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