Extending the Multidisciplinary Learning Experience in Digital Forensics Using Mock Trials
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Computer and Security Science
Computer forensics is a multidisciplinary, hands-on field of study and nothing reinforces this more for the student than opportunities to practice the skills while working with counterparts in other fields. This is particularly important in the area of reporting results; if written report and oral testimony are poor, even the best examination can be compromised and the results called into question. In 2007, the Computer & Digital Forensics (C&DF), Criminal Justice (CJ), and Paralegal programs started to employ a mock trial to bring students from these three different disciplines together for a public, community event. The scenarios are pre-planned by faculty advisers. The actual incident starts with a crime scene, staged by volunteers from the college's performing arts students. CJ students secure and process the crime scene, interview witnesses, and gather evidence. Digital devices are recovered and are forensically processed by the C&DF students, resulting in a report of the analysis for the criminal investigators. All reports are forwarded to Paralegal students who work with local attorneys who act in the role of the prosecution and defence teams. On the day of the trial, a retired criminal court judge presides over the proceedings, complete with a jury selected from volunteers from the college community. For many students, this is the first trial scenario they have seen outside of television, and the attorneys and judge ensure realism. The biggest learning experience for the students is to realize how complex the actual process is. In particular, testifying, professionally conveying the proper message, and dealing with a possibly hostile cross-examination are surprisingly difficult. Students also learn that the evidence does not always speak for itself to gain convictions.