Atlas of Forensic Pathology



□ Evaluate and record postmortem changes □ Participate in scene debriefing □ Determine next-of-kin identification procedures □ Secure remains Developing Decedent Profile □ Record the discovery history □ Record the history of the terminal episode □ Determine decedent’s medical history □ Determine decedent’s psychiatric history □ Determine social history Completing Scene Investigation □ Maintain and release jurisdiction of the body □ Perform exit procedures □ Assist family

IMPORTANCE OF SCENE INVESTIGATION A good death scene investigation is important for a variety of reasons. First, the determina tion of manner of death is always contingent upon knowing at least the basics of the scene investigation. For example, an individual with the sole autopsy finding of severe coronary artery atherosclerosis may have a manner of death of homicide if the scene investigation indicated that they were being physically threatened by another person at the time of their death. 2-5 Second, while the final cause of death is most often determined at autopsy, scene investigation is important to help determine the cause of death in many cases (eg, drowning), or can be the only way to determine the cause of death in a few circumstances (eg, many cases of low-voltage electrocution, which may not leave any specific mark on the body). Third, adequate documentation of the findings at the scene can provide cru cial information to support the ultimate determination of cause and manner of death and help refute future arguments against that determination. For example, a contact gunshot wound of the head could be the result of a suicide or the result of a homicide, with the scene staged to look like a suicide. The autopsy findings most likely would not be able to differentiate the two scenarios, but the scene investigation would play a critical role in that determination and the scene photographs would be important documentation to support that determination. PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE SCENE AND BODY For death scene photography as with autopsy photography, it is important to obtain both overall images and close-up images. An overall image is a picture that encompasses a broad range view of the scene (eg, the entire kitchen), whereas a close-up image encompasses a specific spot in the overall view (eg, the bloody knife on the kitchen floor). Overall images allow a person to see the context of the scene (eg, how different objects relate to each other) and close-up images to see the detail of different objects at the scene. Without both images, details of the scene investigation can be lost. For example, without an overall photograph, a photograph of an object may not allow for the viewer to determine where the object is or how it relates to the death scene. Also, without the overall view, the context of the close up image is unknown. For example, if the only photograph available is of a bloody knife on the floor, the viewer would not be able to appreciate that the decedent’s body was only four feet away sitting against the refrigerator. The scene can be photographed in a variety of ways; however, liberal use of photographs and attempting to record as much of the death scene as possible is best. In this regard, a video of the death scene can also help document the findings.

Copyright © Wolters Kluwer, Inc. Unauthorized reproduction of the content is prohibited. 2023

Made with FlippingBook. PDF to flipbook with ease