Review: Cracking Cases

Review by Julie Sobocinski for Crime and Clues

In Cracking Cases, Dr. Lee abandons the style of his previous publications, and instead introduces the reader to a new format. In contrast to a manual of instruction (Henry Lee’s Crime Scene Handbook and Physical Evidence in Forensic Science), this text is an account of Lee’s involvement in, and interpretation of five independent homicide investigations.

Dr. Lee chooses five extraordinary cases to present, each case emphasizing different aspects of forensic work, and each verdict strongly resting on the role of Dr. Lee.

The Mathison Murder Case, Chapter 1, demonstrates the application of blood spatter interpretation, detailing what can be learned from patterns left at the scene. The Woodchipper Case, Chapter 2, examines the role of blood enhancement in the identification of blood evidence, which can be crucial in the initial stages of an investigation. The O.J. Simpson Case, Chapter 3, addressed the proper collection of DNA evidence. This chapter also addresses the issues of contamination and the importance of scene integrity. The Sherman Case, Chapter 4, explores the establishment of time of death. This chapter illustrates postmortem changes, as well as factors which may accelerate or hinder them. The MacArthur Case, Chapter 5, examines the issue of gunshot residue and what may be assumed by the absence or presence of it.

Lee discusses the value of evidence, where it can be found, and what can be ascertained from various resources. In addition, the book provides the case facts as presented by witnesses and law enforcement investigators. Time lines and outcomes of each incident are included, with a more in-depth explanation of the science of the case following. The book renders a realistic synopsis of the conditions of crime scenes and the time required to properly work them.

Often times when reading a case study, the details go unknown. Whether it is the history of those involved, the background of the police investigation, or prosecutorial action, the reader is left with a limited amount of information. Dr. Lee’s latest book encompasses all of this information into an interesting, and informative documentation of a collection of cases.

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