Did you ever walk through your house and just out of the corner of your eye something seems out of place? It could be a picture on the wall slightly askew or maybe a chair that’s just a little closer to the fireplace. Your peripheral vision is continually reading patterns in your environment and sends deviations of those patterns to your frontal lobes asking for an explanation. Patterns are what forensic investigation is all about.
Every time I duck under the yellow line of crime scene tape, my senses heighten. I have formats or decision trees I follow for all types of deaths from heart-related natural deaths to brutal homicides. The formats contain patterns and through the comparison of patterns the direction of my investigation starts to take shape.
One of the most instructive testimonies I have ever witnessed was from a great pathologist, Vincent DiMaio. He is truly a leader in modern forensic pathology. In his testimony, he pointed out that yes, he was a trained medical doctor but if you were sick you wouldn’t want him for the cure. Dr. DiMaio’s focus is in describing a disease or a trauma, not treating it. He is also specialized in the recognition of gunshot wounds.
In his testimony, he discussed a gunshot wound to the chest. He explained the body position of the person when he was shot and how far away the gun was from his chest when it went off. He did this through an analysis of gunshot residue on the victim’s chest and an artifact called gunshot tattooing. The tattooing happens when unburnt gun powder marks the skin from its fiery contact. His analysis and description was based on science, meaning that through experimentation he could duplicate the results, thus proving his theory.
In one of the upcoming episodes of season two, I do the same testing as Dr. DiMaio, which is called the white board test. It enables me to approximate the distance of the gun from the subject. I should note that Dr. DiMaio wrote the premier book of the study of gunshot wounds called “Gunshot Wounds: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques.” Forensics owes him a great debt of gratitude.
Looking forward to sharing this case study analysis with you next season. . .so stay tuned for more!