Wikipedia:Allowing forensic crime data
This page is an essay on the reliable sources policies.
|This page in a nutshell: Under certain circumstances, forensic crime data may be used as primary sources on crime articles.|
This essay refers to detailed forensic evidence and crime data allowed in Wikipedia articles. In general, detailed crime evidence such as fingerprint counts and locations, DNA analysis results, gunshot residue (GSR), and telephone logs should be provided in articles concerning alleged crimes. The rules described, in this page, are intended to avoid protracted debates on article talk-pages, where the course of action has already been debated months ago, and there is no need to keep rehashing these same arguments every time some crime data is considered in an article.
Rationale for including forensic data
The most common reason for including detailed forensic data is to provide WP:NPOV neutral coverage of a crime description, where the findings of forensic investigators cannot be suppressed and still consider the text to be a neutral viewpoint with a balanced perspective. Because almost every modern-day crime is investigated to collect forensic evidence, the point of view of forensic scientists is likely to be noted in reliable sources, and hence represents a major viewpoint in the overall, NPOV-neutral description of a crime. In fact, refusing to allow forensic data into an article as a problem of WP:UNDUE details, is actually a severe violation of WP:NPOV neutrality, because it censors the viewpoints of crime scene investigators.
Forensic data does not violate WP:BLP or WP:SYNTH
By itself, forensic data does not assert a WP:BLP claim of guilt or innocence; if it did, there would no need to hold criminal trials, because guilt would be determined by a mere calculation of evidence. Instead, a conclusion of "guilty" or "not guilty" is determined by a court of law, such as with a tribunal or trial by jury, and in the case of a hung jury, then no verdict has been reached. A court trial is used to determine whether the forensic evidence, along with any witness testimonies, confession statements, or other data, meets the particular standards for the rules of evidence and the need for corroborating evidence in that particular court. Also, court procedures can be used to decide if evidence has been fabricated or illegally obtained. Just because evidence is presented, in an article, does not guarantee the evidence is correct. Hence, there are simply too many related factors which prevent forensic data from deciding culpability, and thus no WP:BLP claim is possible.
In mere lists of evidence, the violation of improper synthesis of sources (WP:SYNTH) would not apply, because the likely conclusions in a crime article are either "guilty" or "not guilty" and neither conclusion could be considered to be a novel conclusion for a crime article. Also, despite court verdicts, some people have insisted in their belief in a person, who was judged guilty, to still be innocent regardless of the evidence: hence, describing evidence does not equate to notions of guilt. Regardless of how many reliable sources are combined to list forensic evidence, the notion of implying novel conclusions from the evidence is not a realistic concern. In situations where debates arise over these notions, then readers should be directed to this page to end such debates.
Reader interest can be expected
By 2009, the general public, in English-speaking areas, such as the United States and regions of Europe, was highly interested in crime TV shows. In the U.S. the top TV shows included NCIS, CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds and CSI (Las Vegas). In Europe, there was similar interest in viewing crime shows. From that viewer interest, many readers of Wikipedia can be expected to understand some basics of fingerprinting (matched to n points), DNA analysis, and tracking involvement or movement by mobile phone logs. Also, readers can be expected to understand terms such as "exsanguination", "blunt force trauma", "time of death" (TOD), "cause of death" (COD), "AFIS" (for fingerprints) or "CODIS" (DNA) and "perp" (perpetrator).
Avoiding excessive detail
Because some crimes involve multiple suspects, checking numerous fingerprints, and dozens of phone calls, there needs to be control over the amount of forensic evidence listed in articles, but also limit debates which claim every item exceeds the level as WP:UNDUE details. For phone calls, a list should probably be limited to about 20 major calls per suspect in a crime. To reduce the clutter within article texts, a section of "Detailed forensics" could be appended as a bottom section of an article, and linked from the upper text with notes such as "(see bottom: Detailed forensics)". Using that approach, the information would no longer be removed by people claiming that the detailed evidence is cluttering the article, because the data would be isolated near the end of the article, and thereby reduce clutter of the upper text.
A precedent of using similar large lists of data, at the bottom of numerous articles, was set during 2006-2007 by the addition of numerous navbox templates (now commonplace), many containing lists of 100 to 800 to 1,500 entries allowed in each navbox in an article.
- WP:Blanking sections violates many policies - another essay
- [ This essay is a quick draft to be expanded later. ]