Forensic Investigation: Court Recorded Digital Audio Files

court recordingsWhen I am asked to investigate alterations of court recordings, I almost always travel to the courthouse to examine the court’s computer recording system. It is not often that I examine audio files recorded in court from a remote location. This is a serious allegation and requires careful scientific investigation and proof if the accuser is to prevail in court.

For example, I had a client request that I examine court recorded digital audio files they believed were altered. Portions were alleged to have been deleted. These court recordings were created with a software program “For The Record.”

FTR has propitiatory CODEC (a form of audio encryption) wrapped around .WAV digital audio files. One day’s worth of court proceedings will yield a lot of digital audio files.

I began this remote forensic investigation by downloading the FTR player after registering as a user on their website http://www.fortherecord.com/.

These digital audio files are automatically created based on the length of the recording and number of microphones active during the recording.  My client believed portions of the court testimony as it pertained to her case were missing from the audio file folder that is burned to her CD.

When a serious accusation arises against a court of law, as a forensic expert, I have to make certain I have scientific evidence of alteration, missing files or tampering before I can report to my client confirmation on the alleged alteration.

After conducting forensic testing on the “For The Record Player” I have confirmed that deleting .WAV audio files from the record folder will cause the recording to adjust playback.  In other words, portions of the recording would be missing if I delete any of the .WAV files from the folder my client sent me.

Did the court delete the file or were they accidentally left off the CD my client gave me?

I cannot determine from a CD if any files were deleted. I can determine however that deleting files from that record folder will cause portions of the recording to “not be an accurate representation of the facts as they occurred.” The only way to be certain the court deleted or accidentally did not transfer all the files from that trial onto the CD is to examine the original files on the computer that created the files at the courthouse.

No matter who is involved in the case, every  allegation of deleting evidence nust be handled with the same scientific procedures.

photo credit: Dan Moody’s Courtroom – ! via photopin (license)

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