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Faith Kandie

Ms. Curtin

Independent Research I

4 March 2019

Forensic Science: Methods to Solve Cases

“​Though the career is portrayed as thrilling and glamorous, those considering a career in

crime scene investigation should understand the practical role these professionals play in the

criminal justice system” (Hussung 1). There are various jobs in the criminal justice system

including forensic linguists, forensic artists, police officers, and detectives. Each job has different

and unique functions; however, they each play a significant part in solving cases.​ ​While there are

various jobs associated with forensic science, a forensic anthropologist and a crime scene

investigator are the two most vital professions that benefit the United States criminal justice

system today due to their ability to investigate scenes through blood spatter analysis, fingerprint

analysis, DNA analysis, and skeletal remains analysis.

Forensic anthropology is the application of anthropology to criminal investigations where

anthropologists identify the body and develop a biological profile for the individual. Within this

field, one primary initiative is the ability to analyze skeletal remains. The first step in identifying

the body is verifying whether the remains are human bones or not and if there are any missing

bones (“Anthropology”). If there are missing bones, anthropologists would have to locate them

to complete the identification of the body. By doing this, it can help other professionals in the

United States justice system in determine the motive behind the crimes. It is important to

understand if the bones age a determine the difficulty of finding the individual. The more ancient
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the bone, the more strenuous it would be to identify the individual. Thus, examinations are

completed to help verify what happened. For example, a taphonomic examination which is a

“taphonomic consideration has come to mean interpretation of all events affecting the remains

between death and discover” (Stanojevich 1). But, these are not the only procedures taken in

order to determine a biological profile.

Anthropologists have to develop a biological profile by: gender, age, cause and time of

death, and the height and ancestry of the remains. When doing this, the two main body parts that

anthropologists look at when determining the gender is the skull and the pelvis. If the skull is

larger and has larger muscular attachments, it belongs to a male, and if the skull is smaller and

smoother, it belongs to a female (“Anthropology”). Secondly, females have wider pelvises than

men, “The female pelvis is designed to offer optimal space for the birth canal, which is reflected

in its morphology and the relationship of its parts to each other” (Lundy and John 1). These

features in the skull and pelvis are important to figure out the sex of the person. The next step in

creating a biological profile is to estimate the age of the remains. Anthropologists do this by

looking at the growth of bones and teeth (“Anthropology”). They observe the length of bones by

looking at the ends of bones separated by cartilage plates, the growth plate, which change and

combine at different ages (Lundy and John 2). When analyzing teeth, it is harder to determine the

age of adult teeth when fully developed. However, it is easier to evaluate children’s teeth

because “​The stages at which different teeth erupt from the gums are well known, and can be

used to tell a child’s age to the year​” ​(Dunning 2017). Although, this is not the only physical

characteristic that need to be determined. They also evaluate the height and ancestry of the
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individual, “We usually measure a leg bone, such as the femur or tibia, and use the length in the

equation listed for males or females of a particular race” (Lundy and John 2).

Furthermore, anthropologists identify the cause and time of death. Firstly, they analyze

the injuries of the victim by looking at markers in the teeth and bones to identify patterns of

diseases across time (Dunning 2017). Looking at this can provide a reason for death and can help

anthropologists learn about trends in health over time. Anthropologists also classify events

resulting from sharp forces, gunshot forces, or blunt forces. “These evaluations help the forensic

specialist to determine the entrance and exit wounds, as well as how many shots were fired.”

(Stanojevich 2). Each trauma has a different effect on the body. Sharp force trauma is when a

sharp object is used against a bone while blunt force trauma is caused by impact from a blunt

object (Dunning 2017). Fractures is another form of trauma where there are stresses on the bone

which causes them to break. Finding trauma on the skeleton is substantial to determining the

cause of the death and the weapon that was possibly used. The final step in the process is writing

a report that explains the data found and present the evidence to the judicial system. Therefore,

anthropology is a useful resource for forensic scientists due to its capability of identifying the

body, however, crime scene investigators also contribute to the U.S. justice system.

A crime scene investigator is responsible for investigating scenes through blood spatter

analysis, fingerprint analysis, and DNA analysis. Their main job is to investigate and collect

any weapons or additional evidence. These individuals are required to have critical and

analytical thinking skills to establish what happened, how it happened, and who was involved

(Hussung 1).
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For blood spatter analysis, experts analyze blood spatters by photographing and

measuring the evidence to record the data and discover the location of where the blood spatter

came from, the length & width of the drop, and the distance from the drop to the place from

where the blood came from (Akin 2005). This helps determine which weapon was used on the

victim. Components of blood spatter is based on the speed of the blood leaving the body and

type of force applied (“A Simplified Guide” [Bloodstain]). This clarifies the number of shots or

stab wounds that occurred, the type of weapon used, and the position of the victim and

perpetrator before and after the crime (Akin 2005). Based off the velocities of the weapon, the

higher the velocity, it most likely has come from a gunshot because it has a greater external

force. The lower the velocity, the more likely it came from a blood-soaked item because of a

less external force (Akin 2005). Identifying the weapon can lead to the suspect and their


Based on the weapon used, there are three types of injuries. Sharp force injuries caused

by an object with small surface area, blunt force injuries can occur from a bat or hammer, and

gunshot injuries caused by bullets entering and possibly leaving the body. (“A Simplified

Guide” [Bloodstain]) In addition, based on the weapon, there are three different types of

bloodstains: passive stains, transfer stains, and impact stains. Passive stains are drops and flows

that result from gravity acting on an injured body such as loss of blood by the victim. Transfer

stains come from objects that come into contact with existing bloodstains and impact stains are

known as spatter (“A Simplified Guide” [Bloodstain]). Impact stains result from random

dispersal of smaller drops of blood. However, transfer stains is created when a wet, bloody

surface is in contact with another surface.

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To add on, another analysis method crime scene investigators use are fingerprints.

Fingerprints can be found on any surface. They can be found on porous, non-porous smooth,

and non-porous rough surfaces (“Fingerprint”). Porous surfaces, spaces through which liquid or

air can pass through, absorb liquid while non-porous surfaces don’t (“Fingerprint”).

Non-porous smooth surfaces are plastic and glass while non-porous rough surfaces are leather

and vinyl (“Fingerprint”). Those on soft surfaces are identified as three-dimensional plastic

prints, those on hard surfaces are either patent or latent. Patent prints can be seen by eye

(“Fingerprint”) while latent prints are formed when natural body’s oil and sweat are located on

a surface and cannot be seen by eye (“A Simplified Guide” [Fingerprint] ). Patent prints are

collected by high-resolution photography at different angles. On the other hand, there are

various ways to collect latent prints. The most commonly used method is dusting a smooth

surface with fingerprint powder, taking a photo of the evidence, and transferring the print, using

tape, to a latent card to preserve it (“A Simplified Guide” [Fingerprint]). An alternative

technique is using lasers with an alternate light source to expose the fingerprints (“A Simplified

Guide” [Fingerprint]). Also, cyanoacrylate is superglue processing which releases fumes of

cyanoacrylate to reveal fingerprint under a white light source (“A Simplified Guide”

[Fingerprint]). The last commonly used technique is the use of chemicals such as ninhydrin and

physical developer that can also identify fingerprints (“A Simplified Guide” [Fingerprint]).

When examining the surfaces, it is also important to determine the fingerprint class types.

Fingerprints can be identified as arches, loops, and whorls. This is then compared to the

suspect’s fingerprint at the crime scene (“Fingerprint”). After the fingerprint is analyzed, a

computerized system is used to search databases with known fingerprint archives to match
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fingerprints to an individual (“A Simplified Guide” [Fingerprint]). Throughout the examination,

fingerprint examiners use a technique called ACE-V. The A stands for analysis where the print

is determined if it can be used for comparison, C for comparison in determining the

characteristics and location of the print match, E for evaluation where it decides if the prints

are from the same source and V for verification which verifies the conclusions of the original

examiner (“A Simplified Guide” [Fingerprint]). With these multiple analysis methods, a crime

scene investigator is essential for forensics. However, there are other professions that can

contribute to analyzing crime scenes. Although there are multiple professions that can

contribute to analyzing crime scenes.

In the forensic field, there are various professions such as forensic linguists, forensic

pathologists, and digital forensics. As a forensic linguist, their main job is to carefully analyze

language. Forensic linguists study two parts of languages: written and spoken. Written language

focuses on spelling, word choice, and punctuation for written language (“What is Forensic

Linguistics?”). Forensic linguists are able to read a passage and compare it to a writing sample

to identify possible suspects. On the other hand, spoken language focuses on accent, the tone of

voice, and the rhythm of speech (“What is Forensic Linguistics?”). Forensic linguists can

identify whether the voice in a recording is the same as the voice of the potential suspect. By

using writing and voice skills, forensic linguists can find the person who committed the crime.

Forensic pathologists examine the deaths of people and the cause and manner of the

death. A well-known method in the examination of deaths are autopsies which discovers the

cause of death. This examination can be performed externally or internally. In an external

examination of the body, experts measure and weigh the body, observe the person’s
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characteristics, and look for injuries (Gerbis). This can provide a profile of the victim. An

internal examination is executed if necessary by removing the organs from the body and taking

samples from it (Gerbis). This can find out if the victim had any diseases. These analyses are

crucial for other departments in the forensic field because it provides investigators with

information on how the death happened. Not only is it beneficial to the forensic field, it is also

helpful for the medical field. Autopsies can identify diseases that could possibly be lent down

to the next of kin and lead to new strategies on preventing disease and injury (“What is a

Forensic Pathologist?”). Thus, forensic pathologists has an imperative impact in the forensic

field as well as the medical field.

Digital forensics is where investigators can research a hard drive or network to find

evidence of wrongdoing. There are two investigative scenarios: people using a computer to

accuse others of a crime and people using a computer to hack other computers (Miller). These

are also known as corporal or criminal investigations. In corporate investigations, inspectors

may want to track a hacking incident. If they discover something, they decide whether or not to

prosecute. If they want to prosecute, they need to prove it by gathering evidence with a certain

process (Miller). Their main goal is to force out the employee performing these acts or make

them stop the behavior. On the other hand, criminal investigators may use messaging threads to

form a case of a murder investigation (Miller). This can be considered as motive which

supports as a reason as to why a suspect committed the crime.

In order to come to a conclusion, there are a few steps to how a digital forensics

investigation is conducted. The first step is to obtain all data and make a copy of it which is

then preserved. (Miller). If there is missing data, experts use dtSearch which is an advanced
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search to locate the missing evidence. Analysts then evaluate what is on the drive and divide it

into specific sections to conduct reports from it (Miller). Finally, digital forensic scientists

corroborate the information and confirm the findings. These steps help identify the culprits who

committed the crime.

Through investigating scenes by analyzing blood spatter, fingerprints, DNA, and

skeletal remains, a forensic anthropologist and a crime scene investigator are most essential to

the U.S. justice system.​ ​With these crucial professions, advancements could be put forth to

other professions to help strengthen the system. By reinforcing the system, finding the suspects

who commit the crime will be more efficient and beneficial to everyone.
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Works Cited

Akin, Louis L. "Blood Splatter Interpretation at Crime and Accident Scenes."

Blood Splatter Interpretation at Crime and Accident Scenes.​ ​EBSCOhost,​


=16789125. Accessed 7 Nov. 2018. Originally published in ​FBI Law Enforcement

Bulletin,​ Feb. 2005.

A Simplified Guide To Bloodstain Pattern Analysis​.


A Simplified Guide to Fingerprint Analysis,

Dunning, Hayley. “Analysing the Bones: What Can a Skeleton Tell You?” ​Natural History

Museum​, 31 May 2017,


“Fingerprints.” ​Crime Museum​,


Gerbis, Nicholas. “What Exactly Do They Do During an Autopsy?” ​LiveScience​, Purch, 26 Aug.


Hussung, Tricia. "Crime Scene Investigator: Job Description and Responsibilities." ​West

Virginia State University,​ 27 Feb. 2017,

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Lundy, and John K. “Forensic Anthropology: What Bones Can Tell Us.” ​OUP Academic,​


University Press, 1 July 1998,

Miller, Ron. "The truth is in there: sleuthing for data with digital forensics." ​EContent,​ Mar.

2007, p.38+. ​Professional Collection​,

35a5. Accessed 17 Jan. 2019.

Moore, Carole. "Scientific Sleuths." ​Scientific Sleuths.​ ​EBSCOhost,​


27&db=f5h. Accessed 5 Nov. 2018. Originally published in ​Career World​.

Simon Fraser University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. “Anthropology.” ​Resources |


Stanojevich, Vanessa. “The Role of a Forensic Anthropologist in a Death Investigation.” ​The

Role of a Forensic Anthropologist in a Death Investigation,​ 18 June 2012,


“What Is Forensic Linguistics?” ​Language Matters!​, 12 Dec. 2016,

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"What Is a Forensic Pathologist?" School of Medicine,