History Of The Thomas Jennings Trial

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People vs. Jennings What happens when someone’s fingerprints are found at a crime scene? Thomas Jennings, a black man, was accused of murdering Clarence Hiller in Chicago, Illinois in 1910, when his fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime. The Thomas Jennings Trial was an important trial because it changed what evidence can be used it court, by challenging and redefining American values such as what is used to convict criminals, fingerprints being allowed in court, and how minority are treated. On the night of September 19, 1910, Thomas Jennings broke into three houses in Chicago, Illinois. The last house Jennings broke into was Hiller household. Jennings first went into the one of the daughter’s rooms and then went into the teenage …show more content…
Fingerprints had been used as a form of identification prior to the Thomas Jennings trial. The majority of the time it was used by police to track down a suspect if they found prints at the crime scene. The system of identification itself is very ancient. However, identifying people with fingerprints was pretty new to the world during the early 1900’s. For the first time in America, fingerprints were not only used to identify someone, but were also used to convict him or her of a crime. During the Thomas Jennings trial the fingerprint evidence intrigued the jury the most. This was also a new type of evidence that hadn’t been seen in court before, so it got other people interested in this case. As the trial went on, several scientists confirmed that the fingerprints found in the paint on the railing did belong to Jennings. They even showed the points in similarity of the prints from the crime scene to those prints given from Jennings. The fingerprint evidence convinced the jury that Jennings was guilty. However, Jennings and the defense didn’t think that the fingerprints should be allowed. They appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois. The Supreme Judge after looking over the evidence stated, “If the inferences as to identify of persons based on voice appearance or age are admissible, why does not this record justify the admission of this fingerprint testimony under common aw rules of evidence?” (Evans). Thomas …show more content…
It all goes back to 1911 when the court decided if fingerprints should be legal or not. If they had said no who knows if some of the worst criminals might have never been caught. People can change the way they look, talk, their name, and even their birthday. However, one thing a criminal can never change is their fingerprint. Forensic Scientist, Edmond Locard states, “Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him.

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