Forensic Anthropologist

14 05 2010

Anthropology is the science of human zoology, evolution, and ecology according to the dictionary. Forensic Anthropologists apply the science of physical anthropology to the legal process. They identify skeletal human remains

Anthropologists…

  • Search and recover human remains
  • Estimate the time since death
  • Does osteological analyses to establish the biological profile of the victim
  • Does pathology assessment from human skeletal remains to figure about if the victim had a trauma or a disease

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

Forensic anthropologists are called in for death investigation. In solving the crime, anthropologists’ main goal is to create a biological profile. They do so by examining human remains. They use their expertise in doing human skeletal anatomy to do their part of the investigation. The profile, which serves as a critical evidence, is given to the police. They also calculate the recency of the remains that will be used to see how they fit into the general context of the crime scene. They are sometimes called to distinguish the human remains from non-human remains. It is told by people who experienced it that the smell and the sight of decomposing human is just unbearable.

The skull is the most diagnostic area for building a biological profile. The biological profile includes age, sex, ancestor, height, and whether the deceases had a disease. When creating a biological profile of a human being, first you determine the sex of the victim. You will have to examine the brow ridges to figure out the sex. Females’ tend to be less robust than males’. You can also look at the rear of the skull. There is this bun looking region there. This is also more robust in males. The cranial suchers, the top of the skull, can help determine the age of the deceased. The older the person gets, the cranial suchers become diffused together more tightly. The teeth can be also used. If one has the third molar, it indicates that that person was an adult. DNA is also preserved in teeth better than in bones. However, when dealing with forensics, hair, tissue, skin, and other parts of the body will be more useful in DNA analysis.

This video explains what I have explained above about skeleton analysis in depth.

Forensic anthropologists do not work full time, because they mostly work with colleges and provide consultation. Almost all of them are professors of biological or physical anthropology with Ph.Ds. If you are considering to become a forensic anthropologist, you should look at this aspect of the job and reconsider.

An anthropologist integrate many other subjects to do their job. They need to know osteology, which includes skeletal anatomy and biology, in details. They also need to know bits of biology, archaeology, genetics, and cultural aspects. To become a forensic anthropologist, Undergrad majors in Human Biology or Physical Anthropology are recommended. Physical Anthropology is preferred. You will need to cover hominid physiology, anatomy, and other anthropology classes. Then, obtaining masters degree is your next step. Ph.D specializing in forensic anthropology is preferred. Becoming a forensic anthropologist is a long tiring career. One has to withstand the smell and the pain of seeing a decomposing human being. In the United States, there are only about 150 active forensic anthropologists. However, it is rewarding.

The forensic anthropologists earn $40,000 to $50,000 if they have MA/MS degree. If they have a Ph.D, they earn about $60,000 to $85,000. However, it mostly depends on your skills, experience, and responsibility, like all other forensic jobs. You have to constantly work hard to get this job.





Step by Step

19 04 2010

I know that I have explained how investigators investigate a crime, but I wanted to walk you through the investigation step by step.

Prior to the investigation, you have to make sure you got the agreement and access to search all property and everywhere. A warrant is optional. One needs to get an warrant if he/she cannot get a suspect to cooperate.

  1. The investigation starts by observing the crime scene.
    Field kit is something that you take when you go out to investigate the crime scene. It contains impression materials, tweezers, swabs,  luminol and many other things that are needed to collect evidences.
  2. Collecting evidences
    A crime is solved by sewing the pieces of evidences together. There are evidences everywhere at the crime scene. If you just pay attention and investigate thoroughly, you will be able to find some evidences that will help you with your investigation.

    – Food as evidence
    Food can serve as an important evidence that can help us figure out the cause of death. We can analyze whether the food contains toxin or not to figure out if the food was used to sedate or poison the deceased. The food will be taken to the toxicology station in the lab to be analyzed.
    – A notepad as an evidence
    A notepad can serve as an evidence too. There might be something crucial written, such as the victim’s schedule, or there might be indented writing that has to be taken to the lab and observed under the light table.
    – Hair (or other things that can serve as DNA) as evidence
    DNA Analysis can be done to analyze the DNA left at the crime scene. It can later be compared with the suspects’ DNAs. Not only hair, but also things such as saliva, skin cell, and bodily fluid can be used for DNA analysis.
    – Corpse as evidence
    The corpse of the deceased is certainly a cruicial evidence. It can be used to figure out the cause of death and the manner of death by doing a medical examination. Specifically, pathologists will carry out autopsies. By doing an autopsy, the time of death can be estimated. The body temperature at the scene tells the recency of the death. We must look for swelling, contusions (bruises), lacerations (cuts), and bone fractures. A puncture wound shows that the victim was possibly injected with a drug or a chemical that led him/her to death. A bite mark serves as a wonderful evidence that can possibly lead to the identification of the culprit. It can be used to compare with the impression of the suspects, and the saliva on the bite mark can also be used to compare the DNA with the suspects.
    – People as evidences
    If someone hated the victim, that person is a suspect. If someone knew the victim well, that person is also a suspect. People’s DNA can be collected for DNA analysis to see if that person is who left their trace at the crime scene. Teeth impression can be collected to compare the teeth structure with a bite mark, if there is one. Comparison microscope will be used to complete such tasks.
  3. Testing the evidences
    After you collect all the evidences you want, you will go to the lab, or the morgue for the corpse, to find useful clues from the evidences.

    – Fingerprint Station
    The Fingerprint Station has the powders and chemicals necessary for processing any fingerprints. The computer has a database called CODIS with DNA information of previous suspects.
    – Toxicology Station
    The toxicology station is valuable when detecting the presence of drugs and other chemicals in substances such as blood, urine, and other bodily fluids.
    – DNA Station
    The DNA station processes evidences with DNA. They are things such as hair, blood, saliva, and sweat. CODIS is used here also.
    – Light Table
    The light table is useful when analyzing and comparing pieces of evidence in detail
    – Comparison Microscope
    The comparison microscope is used when comparing two objects. It can be used when comparing teeth impressions or fingerprints.
  4. Step 2 and 3 are repeated constantly until sufficient evidences  and clues are found.
  5. If clues are found adequate enough to surely hypothesize the culprit and how the crime occurred, the culprit is called upon and questioned.
  6. After the suspect confesses his/her crime, they are sent to the court to be sentenced.
  7. CASE CLOSED 🙂

As I wrote down the process of investigation step by step, I, once again, realized how important evidences are. The evidences start the investigation and end the investigation. I think a crime scene investigation is all about  how well you find the evidence, how well you sum them up together, and how apply the evidences to solve the crime. To become a crime scene investigator, I think the most important skill to have is finding and using evidences efficiently.





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.





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.