Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Crime Scene Forensics for Writers and Readers

The next workshop I attended was Crime Scene for Writers – Death Scene Investigations, presented by a Florida forensic consultant. To start she explained the difference between a medical examiner (ME) and a coroner. A medical examiner is a medical doctor. It’s an appointed position.  They perform autopsies and sign the death certificates. 
A coroner does not have to be a medical doctor. He is an elected official. (The presenter didn’t say anything, but as a writer I’m wondering if this would make him, or her, more open to political pressure – just a thought).  The coroner is responsible for identifying the body, notifying the next of kin and collecting and returning personal belongings on the body to the family of the deceased.

If the death is suspicious the ME /coroner can order an autopsy without the consent of the next of kin.

The individuals on a crime scene are the patrol officer, the EMT’s, firefighters, detectives or investigators, and hecklers. You may also get the Brass (depending on the visibility of the case), the media and helpful neighbors and friends – and the crime scene analyst.

The detectives’ interview, arrest, gets warrants and do surveillance. They have a BA in criminal justice or similar; no scientific training. They have taken the
police academy training and training to handle an arrest.

The crime scene analyst or investigator (CSI) has a BSc in science, analytical skills and training in forensics. They don’t have guns or make arrests.  They document, preserve, collect and submit evidence to the lab. They do not interview, prove guilt or chase subjects.

The ‘manner ‘of a death can be; homicide, suicide, accidental, natural or undetermined. The cause of the death can be gunshot, stabbing, blunt force, heart-attack, etc.
At the scene you need to decide if the death was a homicide. Things to consider:

- signs of a struggle
- attempt to conceal the crime scene
- attempt to clean up the crime scene
- does it look staged
- signs of a robbery
- sexually motivated
- motive
- did subject know victim
- ? weapon
- is it the primary crime scene
- did the victim see it coming
- organized or disorganized

The pictures we saw were great and showed how a person could misinterpret a crime scene

The consultant said when she arrived at a crime scene the police always wanted to use luminal.
Yes, it allows you so seen the blood and the spatter – but it also dilutes the blood, so if you need to test it – the results may not be accurate. 


  1. Interesting. So it's important to collect samples of any blood before using the Luminal due to the dilution. Does the dilution change anything about the blood? Or the ability to test it?

  2. It changes the ability to test it. It dilutes it about 1:10000 so if you need to test, instead of having 30cc's to work with, you might be lucky to get 1cc and only be able to run one test instead of ten on that specimen. Does that make sense?