Friday, 31 July 2015

Investigating A Murder Crime Scene

A young woman was killed in Ibadan, Nigeria. Her murderer took her body to a woodland area along the local Eruwa community to secretly  bury.  He buried her body but her head and some parts of her body were still exposed. The body was at an advanced stage of decomposition when it was found. There was high concentration of  maggots around her cranial region(head) and other exposed body parts.
The police has invited
you to be part of the investigating team.
Q. As a Forensic Scientist, what procedures will you follow at the crime scene?
This was the assignment given to us by my professor in Forensic Archaeology. I thought  it convenient to share my answer with you..
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Having been invited to be part of the murder investigating team as a forensic scientist, I will establish communication with the crime scene management especially the senior investigating officer and other members of the team on arrival at the crime scene. Processing the crime scene shall be my principal assignment. Maintaining the integrity of the crime scene and any evidence recovered shall be my mission . I shall carry out this task by:
1. Securing The Crime Scene 
This is by estimating the extent of area that will cover the area to be processed. I will ensure a considerable area of space is surrounded with the restraining tape in order to restrict access to trained and authorised personnel only. The objectives of this is to ensure the security of the investigation team and most importantly, maintain the integrity of the crime scene and potential evidence as much as possible.
2. Recording The Crime Scene.
This is to capture every available detail of the crime scene. I will ensure to retrieve relevant information from the first officer(s) arriving (FOA) at the crime scene. They may have information  from eye witnesses as well as seeing first hand conditions of the crime scene before the arrival of the investigating team.
I will ensure that photographs and videos of the crime scene be appropriately taken with High Definition(HD) cameras. Sketches and drawings according to dimensions as well as detailed notes shall be taken. I will also make an audio recording of my findings throughout the investigation process. This will ensure I don't miss any detail that might be relevant in solving the crime.
Maintaining the integrity of the crime scene will ensure investigators have as close as possible the conditions and elements that were present when  and after the crime was committed. Clues are preserved and could lead to suspect apprehension.
3. Systematic Crime Scene Logging
This is the deliberate and systematic documentation of all actions carried out at the crime scene. In simple terms, if officer A is transferring to officer B the wrist watch he recovered at the crime scene, his name, rank, evidence he is transferring, name of officer B and rank should be captured in the log book. Also officer B will sign that he has received the evidence and at so so time. This is called 'chain of custody' of the recovered physical evidence. This is to hold anyone responsible for handling evidence in order to reduce the incidence of  contaminating physical evidence as much as possible.
During court proceedings, a brilliant lawyer can help to a very 'valuable evidence' useless or inadmissible due to possible manhandling, or contamination of evidence. There are standard procedures to follow when transferring physical evidence from place to place. If these are not followed, smart lawyers can poke at the loopholes due to the possibility of contamination.
4. Search And Recovery of Evidence.
This task involves trained personnel who will assess the crime scene for potential evidence and attempt to recover it in a way that the integrity of the evidence is not compromised. Since it is a murder case, the search for possible murder weapon, victim and perpetrator personal items such as rings, phones, handkerchief s etc will be a priority. A forensic archaeologist  will be needed to exhume the partially buried remain. I shall attempt to recover shoe print impression around the burial area. At advanced stage of decomposition, the body will be examined by a forensic entomologist who will recover the maggots in other to determine the possible time of death.
5. Proper Packaging and Labelling Of Recovered Evidence.
I will ensure all recovered physical evidence are properly packaged and labelled before being transported either to the laboratory for analysis or the police storage custody.
The integrity of the recovered evidence may be compromised if it is not properly packaged. Also concise labelling is needed which should include the date, time, unique identification and possible weather condition. After exhumation, the recovered body remain will be secured in a body bag and transported to the forensic pathologist for autopsy to determine the possible manner and cause of death.
6. Proper Storage Of Recovered Physical Evidence.
Depending on the kind of evidence recovered from the crime scene, I shall ensure adequate evidence preservation by ensuring that excellent storage facilities are available to keep the evidence safe and preserved from evidence degradation. For instance, recovered blood evidence will be kept in a refrigerator until it is needed by the serologist for analysis for possible DNA profiling. A poorly stored sample may degrade and therefore may not be useful for forensic examination thereby rendering the recovery effort useless.
7.  Forensic Analysis And Examination
This is the scientific analyses carried out by various forensic specialists on recovered physical evidence in order to extract information that could be relevant and admissible in a court of law for the purpose of achieving conviction of guilty suspects. Among others, it can involve the extraction of DNA from biological samples by a DNA analyst, locating trace evidence on trace samples and determining the presence and concentration of chemicals or trace samples by a forensic chemist.
8. Report Writing
After the result of the forensic analyses have been gotten, it is my duty to report the actions I took at the crime scene and the subsequent result of the scientific evidence obtained from the recovered evidence. This report shall be objectively written without prejudice as it is a scientific report and my expert opinion on the murder case investigated  shall be subjected to legal scrutiny in a court of law. In addition, my report and possible presentation will greatly influence the admissibility of scientific evidence in court;  the more reason why I must be objective in my report.
Have your say:
So, if you were my professor how will you grade me?