Hidden Science in CSI: Las Vegas Season 10, Episode 10

19 03 2010

Better Off Dead

In this episode the team tries to find out the truth about how a major shootout at a gun store might connect to a young woman who may have committed suicide, who was involved in a suicide pact.

Now let’s look at the science involved in this episode

1. Autopsy

The body of Carrie Warren is examined by a pathologist by doing an external autopsy. An evidence of a bullet shot is found during the autopsy.

There is a big wound on her head that looked like a wound from a gunshot. The team finds a bottle of milk in Carrie Warren’s bedroom along with milk vomit stain on the side of the bed.

One of the investigators collect the milk sample for DNA analysis. There is another autopsy done with Carrie’s dog. A bullet is extracted from the dog. Lack of outer response in the surrounding tissue showed that he was shot postmortem.

Further autopsy revealed that the German Shepard of Carrie was poisoned to death, and the same poison is found in the milk. Carrie’s stomach, on the other hand, was clean. It turned out that Carrie’s boyfriend, named Sam, who had Carrie’s key, which is known because there was no sign of forced entry, poisoned the dog to death to make it be quiet, and killed Carrie with her own gun. However, this was wrong. It turned out that the vomit was Sam’s, and he tried to commit suicide in Carrie’s room, and it failed. The dog drank the rest of the milk.

2. Bullet

Bullet analysis done showed how the Two grooves showed that the bullet went pass Carrie’s head, bounced off, and hit the dog.

Also, bullet analysis done by an expert showed that the bullet is only used in rare types of guns. At that point, the investigator who was investigating the shootout at the store says that he found that gun at the scene. It is found that it is the same gun by comparing the serial number, and a piece of skin that was stuck at the back of the gun, because the criminal blocked the slide, shows who that belongs to.

This told the two investigators that they are looking for the same criminal, named John Rakow. John Rakow lives right behind Carrie’s lawn, which made it evident that the two crimes are related. However, interview with John Rakow showed that he was trying to protect Carrie using that gun. The man doesn’t have a scar from the gun, and his shoes are too big to fit in the sneakers that left footprints at the store. The skin from the gun turned out to be Carrie’s after DNA analysis, which tells that Carrie also tried to commit suicide

So this whole crime was thought to be about a suicide pact made between a couple. Sam and Carrie tried to commit suicide together, but both failed. However, it was all because of jealousy. Sam tried to get Carrie to see him dead, but he saw Carrie dead on the floor when he woke up. Carrie saw her dog dead, and committed suicide. Sam tried to save her life. However, on the way, Carrie fell out of the car and died. Wanting to die with Carrie, Sam went to the gun shop. Not knowing that the gun was jammed, he thought he was out of bullets. The owner of the shop did not give him bullets, so he threatened her, which led to the whole shootout. However, ironically, he came out alive. After finding out about Carrie’s death, John Rakow decides to kill Sam and breaks into Sam’s house. Sam’s dad, noticing how serious the situation is, tells Sam to take whatever he wants. He only takes eight dollars, which is spent to buy the ticket to the tower Sam and Carrie used to go often. He tries to commit suicide, but John Rakow holds him back, trying to kill him. Later, when John lets him go, he jumps off the tower, but he lands on a cushion prepared.

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Forensic Photographer

16 03 2010

When you see crime scenes on TV, you can see people taking pictures here and there.

Photography is simply an art of taking and processing photographs. However, FORENSIC photography is a little bit different. Forensic Photography is an art of reproducing an accurate image of the crime scene for the laboratory and the court.

Forensic Photographers take pictures of…

  • Crime scenes
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Bitemarks
  • Weapons
  • Trace evidence
  • Autopsy procedures

(From www.all-about-forensic-science.com)

Forensic Photographers help out the process of investigation by supporting the laboratory by documenting and enhancing the evidence. You should not think that it is an easy job of just taking random pictures of the crime scene. Documentation of evidence is extremely important in the whole process of investigation. If the photographer misses an evidence, that changes the fate of the victim. You need a high level of responsibility to do this work. The most important things that the photographer should take pictures of are bloodstains and cuts. The overall picture of all evidence collected together are taken, and important evidences are taken as closeups. The important evidence is, as I said, the bloodstains and cuts.

Also, the forensic photographers require special techniques. Sometimes, the evidence is too small that photomacrography, a technique using bellows to increase magnification, has to come into place. There are lots of other techniques, including alternate spectrums, which is a technique used to see evidences in different lights in order to see them in a most clear state, and using infrared film for gun shot residue on clothing.

Like all most of other forensic jobs, you need a strong stomach. Sometimes, you will have to take pictures of victims that are very inhumanely distorted due to an attack. Also, you need to know the court procedure, for you are the one who will be presenting the evidence to the jury.

In order to perform all the special tricks, it is best if you major in photography. You will get to encounter advanced technology as you take pictures at crime scenes, since you will always have the best equipment. And yes, the equipment costs a lot. However, since it is an important job that requires a good quality, you need to be ready to invest that money.

This is a video that helps us understand what the career in forensic photography really is.





How much money do forensic scientists, in general, earn a year?

15 03 2010

Even though you might say that money isn’t the most important thing in life, money is very important. This is why many people are interested in the average amount of money that they can earn when they get employed to do a specific job.

This video is not the most exciting video, but it is very informative. It says that the forensic scientists earn $30000 per year on average. However, it may vary depending on your job in the forensic field. You will get more salary depending on your job, area, experience, etc.

This video also tells us what you should do to become a forensic scientist. You can major in biology, chemistry, criminology, or even law. There are people specializing in many different fields. I know that it is little compared to other jobs people can do when they major in the same subjects. You can earn more money as a pathologist than a forensic pathologist, you can earn more money as a physicist than a forensic physicist, and you can earn more money as a biologist than a forensic biologist.

Go here to find out specific details about forensic science.





DNA Analysis

15 03 2010

Q

A homicide has been committed. A middle-aged woman was chocked with a rope. The rope is the only evidence left at the crime scene. What would you do to solve this crime?

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A

In order to find out who the murderer is, you will carry out DNA ANALYSIS. There will be DNA sample left on the rope, which was touched by the murderer.

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DNA is the thing that makes you, you. Each person has a unique DNA with unique sequences. This helps C.S.I. figure out who is who by just analyzing evidences, such as blood, saliva, skin cells and figerprints, left at the crime scene.

Do you know the case of the thievery of Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911? If you do, do you know how the thief got caught? It was FINGERPRINT. The fingerprint left at the crime scene. It took a long time – two years – for the detectives to figure out who the thief was. It was a man names Vincenzo Peruggia, an employee at Louvre. He left some fingerprints on the protective glass that was shielding the Mona Lisa, and this led to his capture.

What would have happened if each person didn’t have a unique sequence of DNA? Do you now get why DNA is important?

All biological samples contain DNA, or deoxiribonucleic acid. It contains the genetic information that makes each individual unique. DNA differs between each individual; this is why blood, saliva, skin cells and fingerprints have DNA that can be analyzed in an investigation. DNA can be used as a link between a suspect and a crime. Only identical twins have identical DNAs. All cells in human body have DNA, but all DNA in one individual is same regardless of the part of the body we get the DNA from.

In the DNA lab, there are four steps taken to process DNA

  1. Extract
  2. Amplify
  3. Separate
  4. Analyze

1. Extract

The DNA analysts first get the DNA out of the cell to work with it. Bucal swabs are used most often to extract a person’s DNA, since it is painless and easy. Once they get the DNA, they take the DNA out of the cell. DNA is located inside the nuclear membrane. In order to get the DNA out, they lyse the cells and nuclei by dipping the swab into the lysis solution.

2. Amplify

Then, PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is used to copy the DNA markers millions of times. DNA markers make up less than 0.01% of a person’s DNA, but using PCR makes them stand out despite the big proportion of the rest of the DNA. DNA sample is added to the replicating solution in order to amplify.

3. Separate

After amplification, DNAs have to be sorted by size. This allows us to determine different lengths of markers that are present. The sample from the PCR machine is moved to the Gentic Analyzer, which pushed the DNA through a very small tube filled with a gel-like substance. Small fragments move through faster than large fragments. This is like gel electrophoresis. A laser scans each group of DNA markers in the tube. Then, it records the time the markers exit and send the information to the computer.The computer shows the data from the Genetic Analyzer. A peak is formed each time a group of DNA fragments exit. The computer separates the DNA by size.

4. Analyze

Forensic DNA analysts use DNA profiles to compare DNA samples, because every person’s DNA contains a lot of information. A complete DNA profile will only match one person in one hundred quadrillion. The DNA profile gets processed through the CODIS database that finds the possible matches.





What happens AFTER the investigation?

7 03 2010

After all the investigation is done at the crime scene, what happens?

All evidences collected and the corpse are sent to the laboratory for in-depth examination.

The scientists who work in the forensics field come together and work to solve the hidden mystery of the crime by scientifically analyzing the case. The scientists referred here are specialists in many different fields. Only a few really majored in forensic science. Others majored in Criminology, Genetic Biology, Molecular Biology, Toxicology, Pathology, Serology, Computer, Accounting, Anthropology, Odontology, Ligustics, Enthomology, Engineering, Environmental Science, Art, Photography, and many other subjects. One is required to take a Ph D programme to work at a good agent, and to become a forensic pathologiest, who examines the dead human bodies to figure out the cause of death, he/she needs to has MBBS degree, followed by MD in forensic medicine.

This is a list of things that forensic scientists usually specialize at

1.) Forensic Chemical Science

  • Chemistry
  • Narcotics
  • Explosives
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology

2.) Forensic Physical Science

  • Physics
  • Ballistics
  • Image processing
  • Speaker recognition
  • Lie detection
  • Instrumentation

3. Forensic Biological Science

  • Biology
  • Serology
  • DNA finger printing
  • Osteology
  • Odontology
  • Anthropology

4.) Forensic Documentation Science

  • Ink analysis
  • Paper and fiber analysis
  • Cyber Forensics
  • Handwriting analysis
  • Credit card frauds

With specializations in these things, forensic scientist gather the puzzle pieces together to determine how the victim got killed.

To see what they really do, click on “Forensic Science” tab on the right.





Forensic Pathologist

3 03 2010

Pathology is the study of disease. Forensic Pathologists are specialists in medical field concerned with pathology that focuses on the investigation of sudden or unexpected death of victims.

The pathologists …

  • Determine cause of death
  • Do forensic examination of the body
  • Identify absence/presence of disease from tissue samples
  • Examine post mortem wounds and injuries
  • Collect evidence to give to criminalists, toxicologists, or others for specialist analysis
  • Carry out investigation with other speicialists
  • Act as an expert witness in civil or criminal proceedings

(From www.all-about-forensic-science.com)

Out of all the things pathologists do, the most important thing is examining patterns of injury to figure out the cause of the victim’s death. They conduct an autopsy to figure out what happened to the victims of crimes. Above, is a picture of actual forensic pathologists conducting an autopsy. Autopsy is a postmortem examination done to discover the cause of death. Yes, it is a little disgusting for commoners to look at :(, but this is what they do! This is why you need a strong stomach! You will be encountering numerous rotting corpses. I think there is no job that is makes you sicker than forensic pathologist.

Forensic pathologists spend their day performing autopsies, gaining data from investigating officers, and testifying at the court. It is very rare for a pathologist to visit a crime scene, even though some may visit sometimes. Besides working to solve the mystery of the crime, forensic pathologists also examine patterns of injury in the living . This is important in saving people’s lives and in increasing the possibility later developments of cure.

If you want to become a forensic pathologist, you should take courses to meet prerequisites for med school. You do not necessarily have to major in science, though you are encouraged to take biochemistry and psychology.

In order to become a forensic pathologist, you need four years of college education(gain a bachelor’s degree), four years of medical school education(gain MD), four or five years of residency, and 1 or 2 years of forensic pathology fellowship. It takes minimum thirteen years, after high school graduation, to become a forensic pathologist. You will be over 30 years old by then! 😮 If you want to be a forensic pathologist, you should really rethink if you are not the person who wants to study as long as they studied in elementary, middle, and high school.

Even though you have to suffer a lot to become a forensic pathologist, it will be rewarding. The hours will be better than other physicians, and you will never be bored at work! Pay is not that great compared to other physicians though. You will make about $60,000 to $180,000 depending on your skills, experience, area, and responsibility.





What happens at the CRIME SCENE?

3 03 2010

What do crime scene investigators do at the crime scene?

The main purpose of visiting the crime scene is crime scene reconstruction. The investigators examine the scene carefully to figure out what happened and who did it. The law enforcement officer’s ability to find relevant evidence plays a vital role on solving the crimes.

If you watch the drama C.S.I. they just take a few pictures here and there and go to the laboratory to discuss. However, it is not that simple in the real world. It is a time consuming job that requires the investigator to be alert at all times. Also, it seems like one person is doing all the job. Surprisingly, many people are part of the investigation. There is team leader, photographer, sketch preparer, evidence recorder, and many other people assisting.

When they first arrive at the scene, they first prepare to examine the case closely. They go through basic stages in the stage: they approach the scene and secure it. Preliminary survey is then driven. Then, the important part starts. They evaluate the corpse to get physical evidence and prepare narrative description. They do not just come up with one theory; they come up with mutiple theories. The photographs of the scene are taken for further evaluation, and a sketch of the scene is drawn. Detailed search is driven, then, the final survey comes. When everything is done, they release the crime scene.