The darkest part of working in law enforcement is dealing with death and conducting investigation in such crime scenes. The sights and smells alone create terrors, that encompassed with the emotion and stress involved investigation create a nightmare of a time. But what all does the investigation deal with? What information is to be looked at and exposed?
There are a number of different modes of death they include: 1) accidental, natural, suicide, and murder (Lyman, 2014). In a sense, it is either natural or unnatural. When murder occurs, it is referred to as a homicide. The term homicide includes a number of other characteristics. These include manslaughter, which can be either voluntary or involuntary and involves killing someone with no planning or premeditation. Voluntary for example, may include a husband killing his cheating wife after catching her with another man, which in done in the heat of the passion (Lyman, 2014). Involuntary is normally death resulting to severe negligence (Lyman, 2014). Murder of course is categorized as either first degree (planned) or second degree (unplanned killing while committing another unlawful act) (Lyman, 2010).
The preliminary investigation involves a lot of responsibility of the arriving officers. They can often be unexpected event when arriving to a seen such as encountering a shooter or determining victims. Elements of the preliminary investigation include: establishing a chain of custody, note taking, identifying victims, and dealing with a deceased or living victims (Lyman, 2014).
When an officer encounters a victim that believes that he or she is not going to live they make a statement referred to as a dying declaration (Legal Information Institute). This can be admissible as evidence if: 1) unavailability of declarant, 2) statement is being offered in either a criminal prosecution for murder or civil action, 3) death was believed to be imminent upon declaration and 4) the statement must relate to the cause or the circumstances of what was believed to be impending death (Lyman, 2014).
After a person dies the corpse goes through 5 stages of decomposition. They are as followed: fresh stage, putrefaction stage, black putrefaction stage, butyric fermentation stage and the dry decay stage (Lyman, 2014). Depending on the body’s stage status, the officers and medical staff can easier access the time of death. Another method is using insect and bugs that are found on and/or inside the body. (Genge, 2002). This study is referred to as forensic entomology.
Guns play a role in a vast number of deaths each year. An investigator can determine the distance in which the shooter shot the victim from. Distances can range anywhere from direct on skin (referred to as direct contact) to a several feet away (Lyman, 2014). Important features involved in investigating gun related crimes include: blood splatter, smudging (resulting ring of gunpowder around wound), and tattooing (tiny pinpoint hemorrhages deposited into skin on discharge) (Lyman, 2014).
There are more bizarre and odd death circumstances that come under investigation: autoerotic death and suicide. Autoerotic death is when a “body is discovered in a partially suspended position, nude or in feminine attire” (Lyman, 2014). These are often ruled as accidental as it is assumed that the victim was trying to reach high sexual pleasure by cutting off air supply to reach a more intense orgasm (Lyman, 2014). Suicide is regarded as the taking of one’s own life. It is closely linked to depression is the result of 83% of gun related deaths (Lyman, 2014). Investigators will conduct a reconstruction of the scenario to determine that the suicide was a plausible death.
Death investigation is a difficult task to undertake. There are numerous factors and elements that can either provide clarity or confusion. However over time the new investigation methods such as entomology, blood splatter, and new laws have assisted law enforcement to provide more thorough and successful investigations.
Genge, N.E. (2002) The Forensic Casebook. Random House Publishing Group. Print.
Lyman, Michael D. (2014). Criminal Investigation: The Art and Science. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice Hall. Print.
Legal Information Institute. (n.d.) Dying Declaration. Cornell University Law School. Web. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/dying_declaration