The Importance of an Original Court Case for your Research

The Charger Bulletin


As the semester is drawing down, we (the librarians at the library information desk) are getting a lot of questions from Criminal Justice and Forensic Science students regarding specific people, cases, and/or crimes. Many students are trying to find research for a paper that is due at the end of the semester, but can’t find the resources they need. For example, imagine a student needed information on the “No Name Gang”, and specifically a piece of evidence such as broken window at the crime scene that was used against the defendants to convict them. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this group, the characters in the movie “The Town” were based off these criminals. This gang, which consisted of five members, led by Anthony Shea, was known for robberies, assaults, and murders throughout several states on the east coast. Criminal Justice specific databases such as ProQuest’s Criminal Justice Periodicals or and Criminal Justice Abstracts with Full-Text can be great sources of information, but in this particular case, no information was available in either database. When researching a criminal or a crime, the best resource is typically the original court case itself, if it is published. In situations such as this, an actual court case can be a great source when looking for information about the evidence, crime, or the trial. Each case will contain factual information about the evidence presented, the defense of the accused, the verdict, the ordered sentences, the full legal history of the case, as well as other cases involving the defendant(s).

The best way to look up a specific court case through the UNH library is through the database, “Campus Research Powered by Westlaw.” To access this database from the library homepage, on the left side select the link for “databases.” From the next page, select “Subject Listing,” which will break down all the databases based on the content of the material inside. Once inside, scroll down to either the Criminal Justice/Forensic Science/National Security Section, or the Legal section; Campus Research Powered by Westlaw will be listed. After entering the database, there are two tabs at the top left of the page, News & Business or Law. Select the tab for Law. Once on the Law page, the database of cases will be searched based on the terms or name that have been entered. After entering the search terms, select the type of case you would like to look up; Supreme Court, Federal, All State, a Specific State, or all of them.

In this case, “Anthony Shea,” can be entered as the search term (using quotation marks so it searches for the full name instead of each word individually), and Federal Cases checked from the list, since we knew that the FBI had arrested the crew. The case, U.S. v. Shea (957 F.Supp. 331) appears in the search results list and all the needed information regarding evidence in the case was found in the document in a few minutes. It is easy to find once you know where to look.

If you have any questions on how to search for court cases, please stop by the Library’s Information Desk, call the Information Desk at (203) 932-7189, or email us at [email protected] and a Librarian will be more than happy to assist you. Good luck with your final papers and exams.