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FORENSIC PATHOLOGY HONORS FORENSIC SCIENCE I. Forensic Pathology a. Pathology = branch of medicine associated with the study of structural changes caused by disease or injury b. Pathologist = medical doctor who specializes in determining how disease affects the body c. Forensic just adds the legal aspect to field Coroner vs. Medical Examiner a. Coroner i. Usually elected official ii. Does not have to be a doctor b. Medical Examiner i. Often have both law enforcement and quasi-judicial powers ii. Operate out of centralized offices iii. Usually attends crime scenes iv. Duties 1. Find evidence 2. Preserve evidence 3. Report accurately 4. Also decides who gets autopsied a. Traumatic b. Unusual c. Sudden d. Unexpected Autopsy a. Purpose observe and make a permanent legal record as soon as possible of the gross and minute anatomical peculiarities of recently deceased body b. Goals i. Determine identity of decedent ii. Determine cause of death direct agent that leads to death (ex. Bullet, poison) iii. Determine manner of death 1. Accident 2. Suicide 3. Murder 4. natural



iv. Determine mechanism/mode of death what happened to body as a result of its run-in with the cause (ex. Bullet tears hole in aorta and blood fills chest cavity)

v. Determine time of death c. ME/Pathologist protocol in approaching body for autopsy i. Visual inspection ii. Injury inspection iii. Internal exam iv. Presentation to other experts v. Reconciliation of exhibits vi. Presentation of findings (autopsy report) d. Visual Inspection i. Prior to this blood samples taken, x-rays, weight and measurements are done ii. Begins with clothed or nude body depending on circumstances at time of death iii. Body is photographed with attention to unusual details iv. Trace evidence is collected v. Clothing is removed and each piece is air-dried and packaged separately for processing with descriptions vi. Head hair combed vii. Rape kit may be done viii. Body openings examined ix. Hands (should have been bagged at scene) examined ex. Damaged nails, nail scrapings, GSR x. Fingerprint/footprint cards xi. Entomological samples collected xii. Notes of injuries and photos xiii. Overall conditions of body noted xiv. May use special lights to see bruisies etc xv. Body mark documentation tattoos, scars e. Injury Inspection commonly seen injuries and causes of death i. Asphyxia 1. Insufficient amounts of oxygen reach the brain or other organs 2. Natural cuases a. Disease that cause the respiratory system to shut down i. Ex. Emphysema ii. Pneumonia iii. Flu iv. Asthma v. Larynx disorders

3. Criminal means of asphyxia a. Strangulation i. Homicide manually or by ligature marks on neck are more horizontal than in suicide ii. Suicide generally see marks on neck that curve upwards; iii. Accidental iv. Characterized by 1. Intensive heart congestion enlarged heart 2. Venous engorgement 3. Cyanosis blue discoloration of lips and fingertips b. Drowning i. Results from inhalation of water which causes choking and rapid formation of mucus in throat and windpipe ii. Mucus inhibits respiration iii. Characterized by 1. Foam cone covering mouth and nose 2. Fluids in lungs iv. 5 stages of drowning 1. Surprise person is stunned and inhales water 2. Holding breath person tries to hold breath while struggling 3. Pink foam person inhaes deeply and pink foam is expelled 4. Respiratory arrest thoracic movement and pupils dilate 5. Final struggle 3 -4 quizk attempts to breathe and find air c. Smothering i. Occurs when airways are closed by obstructing object ii. If soft object usually no visible sign of trauma except for small lacerations on lip iii. Cyanosis may or may not be present iv. Petechial hemorrhage pin-point blotches or red spots on face, typically around eyes ii. Wounds can often reconstruct what happened from types of wounds 1. Penetrating a. Bullet Wounds i. Follow principles of physics ii. Velocity is most important factor, not size of bullet

iii. Fragmenting ammunition designed to spread out and hit vital organs iv. High-powered rifles more deadly than handguns or shotguns v. Entry and exit wounds important vi. Entry wound generally smaller than exit vii. Often able to identify caliber of weapon from entry wound viii. Often see powder burns 1. Held at a distance no other surface informantion 2. Held on skin rim burns 3. Held a few inces away soot on wound but no burn hair may be scorched 4. Held a few inches to a few feet away stippling b. Stab Wounds i. Slash Wounds 1. Look like bullet wounds that graze skin 2. hesitation marks often seen in suicide cases 3. Typically rectangular in shape ii. Incision Wounds 1. Lengths greater than depth 2. Greater amount of sub-surface tissue exposed in almost oval fashion iii. Puncture wounds 1. Almost no geometric shape, except perhaps circular 2. Most distinguishable from clean-cut edges iv. Pre-mortem wounds gape and bleed profusely v. Post-mortem wounds do not bleed profusely vi. If attacker stuck victim and twisted object, more damage is caused and death more likely 2. Non-Penetrating a. Results from clubbing, kicking, or hitting victims b. Has crushing effect on body resulting in contusions, abrasions, lacerations, fractures or rupture of vital organs c. Red-blue contusions almost always present d. Brain contusions i. Difficult to analyze ii. Trauma most severe on opposite side of impact e. Wounds to body area take longer to cause death

i. Due to process of subdural hematoma (blood clot) that travels to brain iii. Miscellaneous 1. Rape Wounds a. Examination of genital area for signs of tearing, scratching, or bruising b. Existence of veneral disease and/or preganancy c. Foreign pubic hair, blood stains, seminal stains collected d. Sometimes able to collect DNA 2. Poisoning/Drugs a. Usually determinable by looking at discolorations of body i. Ex. Cherry-red lividity is sign of carbon monoxide ii. Other toxins give off unusual odors iii. Needlemarks between fingers and/or toes suggest drug use iv. Diagnosis requires toxicological confirmation 3. Burn Wounds a. Caused by heat, a chemical or electricity b. Often found in pugilistic position with clenched fist c. Heat generally causes the protein in body to contract d. Electrical burns occur in pairs; one from point of contact, other from grounding point where current passes out of body 4. Traffic Fatalities a. Analyzed to determine if victim was driver, passenger or pedestrian b. Motorcycle injuries most severe c. Automobile drivers often have circular impression in chest area d. Passengers normally have extensive knee and spinal injuries e. Pedestrian injuries i. Extensive lower body injuries bumper fractures ii. The lower on the leg the bumper fracture the more likely it is the driver attempted to slow down iii. Run-over injuries are distinguishable by amount of compression tissue damage Internal exam i. Y incision ii. Organs removed and examined for injury and disease and then weighed iii. Stomach contents examined may help determine time of death and tie victim to certain places iv. Blood for tox screens v. Bladder fluid removed for drug analysis vi. Reproductive organs for pregnancy




vii. Generally, organs are replaced unless something is amiss viii. Head 1. Eyes/eyelids sample vitreous fluid 2. Hemoragges may indicates hanging or strangulation 3. Cut of face to examine skull 4. Skull opened and brain examined Special Case Autopsy a. Fetal Death i. A fetus of less than 500 g is miscarried expelled from mothers body through natural or traumatic means 1. No autopsy done and no death certificate issued ii. A fetus of more than 500 g is born dead a still birth 1. In absence of violence or suspicion, a special fetal death certificate is issued with cause of death non-viability of fetus iii. A fetus of more than 500 g is born alive and then dies 1. Standard death certificate 2. Autopsy usually done b. Exhumations i. Order to exhume a body must be obtained from the court ii. Problems embalmed bodies have had blood drained and replaces with formaldehyde compounds; remains may have skeletonized c. Partial Bodies/Amputations i. Difficult to establish cause of death is entire body is not present Autopsy Reports a. Pathological diagnosis b. Cause of death c. Contributing cause of death usually a pre-existing illness or condition i. Ex. Pneumonia or asthma d. Mechanism of death i. Usually anthing expressible only in medical jargon ii. Ex. Lung sacs become obstructed and could no longer transport oxygen e. Immediate cause of death i. Usually gets at the cause of death ii. Expressed in medical jargon or in laymans terms iii. Ex. Asphyxia or wound f. Manner of death- usually is mechanism plus immediate cause; suicide, homicide, accidental, natural or unknown