Interesting historic video on crime scene investigation and forensic science. I have a copy as well, that I purchased on DVD from the National Archives. The date on the original is a bit unclear, but it appears to have been made around 1960. It should be noted that some of the practices shown are no longer up to date, and that current safety precautions are not in use. It’s still interesting from a historical standpoint.
By David Vessel, J. D.
This article originally appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Oct. 1998, and appears on the internet at http://www.fbi.gov/library/leb/leb.htm.
Obtaining information that an individual does not want to provide constitutes the sole purpose of an interrogation. A successful interrogation results in a guilty or involved criminal suspect’s making a confession or admitting participation in an illegal activity. However, interrogators frequently do not acquire information critical to successful case resolution. Often, guilty suspects leave the interrogation environment without making the smallest admission. Many experienced officers leave an interview or interrogation knowingly outwitted by the suspects. When these situations occur, criminals go unpunished and remain free to strike again, causing the entire community to suffer.
By Susan H. Adams, M.A.
Special Agent Adams teaches statement analysis as part of interviewing and interrogation courses at the FBI Academy.
(In statement analysis, investigators examine words, independent of case facts, to detect deception.)
Susan Smith stood outside her burgundy sedan and released the parking brake. The car plunged down the ramp into South Carolina’s Long Lake, with her sons, Michael, 3, and Alexander, 14 months, strapped into their car seats. To cover her actions, Susan told police that the boys were abducted at gunpoint, launching a nationwide search for the victims and their abductor. During the investigation, Susan tearfully told reporters, “My children wanted me. They needed me. And now I can’t help them.”1
Yet, the boys’ father, David, who believed Susan’s story, tried to reassure her by saying: “They’re okay. They’re going to be home soon.”2
Police subsequently arrested Susan for the murder of her children. She was tried and convicted and is currently serving a life sentence in a South Carolina correctional institution. Many investigators use a technique called “statement analysis” to discern the truth in statements like the ones given by Susan and David Smith. In statement analysis, investigators examine words, independent of case facts, to detect deception. They also remain alert for information omitted and question why the suspect may have done so. Investigators then analyze the clues unintentionally provided by a suspect and use this insight during the subsequent interview. Continue reading
Robert W. Mann, M.A.
Douglas H. Ubelaker, Ph.D.
Physical Anthropologists Department of Anthropology Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
In recent years, just as the investigation of a crime scene has become more complex and sophisticated, so has the task of the forensic anthropologist. Forensic anthropologists assist medical and legal specialists to identify known or suspected human remains.
The science of forensic anthropology includes archeological excavation; examination of hair, insects, plant materials and footprints; determination of elapsed time since death; facial reproduction; photographic superimposition; detection of anatomical variants; and analysis of past injury and medical treatment. However, in practice, forensic anthropologists primarily help to identify a decedent based on the available evidence. Continue reading
by D.H. Garrison, Jr.
Just because a shot was fired, and just because someone was injured or died as a result of the shooting, and just because a shooting reconstruction was completed…this does not mean that the expert can render an opinion about the intent behind the bullet thus fired.
While many an attorney, whether prosecution or defense, wants to “prove” the intent or lack thereof to a jury, and sometimes tries to use a expert witness to accomplish that end, this does not mean that the shooting reconstruction expert has any scientific basis whatsoever to state an opinion as to what was or was not the intention of the shooter at the moment of the shooting. Intent, after all, is usually an “ultimate issue” and, thus, the purview of the jury, the finders of fact, and cannot properly be addressed by the expert. Continue reading
by Daryl W. Clemens
Crime Scene Reconstruction- The use of scientific methods, physical evidence, deductive reasoning and their interrelationships to gain explicit knowledge of the series of events that surround the commission of a crime.
-Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, The Scene, 4(1), Jan 1997, p. 2.
Criminal Profiling- The application of psychological theory to the analysis and reconstruction of the forensic evidence that relates to an offender’s crime scenes, victims and behaviors.
– Turvey, B., “CP101: An Introduction to Criminal Profiling”, Online Course,
http://www.corpus-delicti.com, May 1997.
While both of these activities may appear to be similar and are in fact related, it is important to note that they are not the same. The difference between the two is most easily understood by looking at which questions about the crime they attempt to answer.1,2,3,4 Crime Scene Reconstruction looks at the physical evidence and attempts to determine “What happened?” and “How did it happen?”.5,6 Criminal Profiling looks at the physical evidence and the reconstruction and attempts to determine “Why may this have happened?” and “What does that tell us about Who may have done it?”.7 It is important to keep in mind that only those directly involved in the crime know for sure what happened and why, and they may be unable or unwilling to say. 8,9
By Dean H. Garrison, Jr.
“I tend not to try to determine why people do things at crime scenes.”
-Criminalist Charles Morton
California v Menedez II, Trial transcript 12-5-95
Crime scene reconstruction may answer the question of where a victim was standing when an axe hit him or who stepped in the pool of blood by the door or what caused the revolver’s hammer to fall or when the third shot hit the car window or how the knife ended up out on the patio, but the crime scene reconstructionist cannot answer the ultimate question, the final question that tugs at everyone’s mind, the all-encompassing, all-seeing, all-knowing question of WHY did the crime happen? This may account for the fact that attorneys (for either side) very seldom ask “Why?” questions. Continue reading
By Dean H. Garrison, Jr.
The yellow tape is up. There are cops everywhere, and maybe even some emergency vehicles. Your Lieutenant or Sergeant or Captain called you on the phone. If they were excited and out-of-breath on the phone, you just know they’re new at this. Somebody’s dead–Oh, my God!–and how soon can you get there? It’s an ungodly hour, of course, and you’re half asleep. Or else it’s early, and all your plans for the rest of the day are shot. And, speaking of shot, there’s a dead guy on the floor somewhere, and he’s shot or stabbed or hit with a lamp or a bottle or a pipe, and he or she is dead or dying or enroute to the emergency room or Dead Right There on the lawn or sprawled out on the bed, or he’s the newest face on the barroom floor. In any case, there’s no need to get overly excited and start flying off in all directions. It’s a homicide, for goodness sake! It’s already too late for somebody. Continue reading
By Wesley Clark
No, I’m not talking about sacking your suspect in the hopes of getting a confession, that would be unsportsmanlike conduct, but there are many parallels that can be drawn between these two seemingly different activities.
First off, nobody makes it to the NFL without practice and training; and for the few that do make it to that level, the practice and training continues throughout their career. Over the course of their career the payers practice for thousands of hours, which adds up to months and years of consistent training throughout their careers. How many hours of training on interviews and interrogations does the average police officer get in his or her career? Well, in most police academies they will be lucky to get two or three hours, and if they get promoted to detective (kind of like the NFL for cops), they will probably be sent to a three or five day interview and interrogation course and that will be it. As professionals in law enforcement, we have to up our game and consistently seek out training throughout our careers to keep improving our skill level and effectiveness at conducting interviews and interrogations. Continue reading