Download and read the scenario in:
Explain how you would respond to the scene of the incident from the perspective of initial patrol officer. Then, explain how you would process the scene from the perspective of the GBI agent in the scenario.
Answer the discussion prompt according to the material in your textbook. You can also add additional references. Ensure you use in-text citations in APA format. Make sure to include "References" at the end of you post.
(I have text book I can copy materials from)
Objectives After reading this chapter, you will understand:
• The steps to take when processing a crime scene.
• That type of evidence determines what packaging should be used.
• Why the chain of custody must be preserved.
You will be able to:
• Isolate, record, and search for evidence at a mock crime scene.
• Collect and package evidence at a mock crime scene using proper forensic procedures.
The Crime SceneChapter 3
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“Oh, how simple it would all have been had I been here before they came like a herd of buffalo and wallowed all over it.”
—A. Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Myster y, 1892
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Forensic science begins at the crime scene, which can provide useful information that must be carefully, systematically, scientifi cally, and legally
collected. If the crime scene is not treated carefully, it can make vital information not only useless, but even deceptive, pointing an investigation in the wrong direction.
Crime scene investigators gather important information at the crime scene that must be used later in reconstructing the sequence of events,
the modus operandi, and the motive for the crime. Investigators must treat the crime scene meticulously and accurately, taking great care to observe and collect all evidence that will be used for scientifi c analysis and its legal application.
The main reason to carefully analyze the crime scene is to learn what happened and to gather evidence that can be used to identify and, ultimately, convict the people responsible.
The crime scene investigator’s experience, knowledge, and capabilities are critical for deciding which items at the crime scene are actual evidence, because if all physical objects at the scene were gathered for analysis, the lab would be overwhelmed with insignifi cant testing unrelated to the case. Sometimes errors made during the investigation may be corrected, but errors at the crime scene in protecting, gathering, and analyzing the evidence can never be made right.
Sometimes a crime scene may be more than one single place; for example, a person whose body is found in one area may have been murdered in another and kidnapped in a third!
There are special steps the investigator must follow in handling the crime scene, beginning with securing and isolating it.
Preserving and Isolating the Crime Scene The fi rst offi cer on the scene determines the nature of the crime. He or she has a basic responsibility, fi rst, to get medical assistance for anyone who is injured and,
At the Crime Scene
crime scene: any place where evidence may be located and
gathered to help explain events
modus operandi: the characteristic method of operation
of a criminal; sometimes referred
to as MO
Preparing to process a crime scene
GO TO www.sclinks.org
TOPIC crime scene
The TRCD for this chapter
includes a PowerPoint
is an overview of the
chapter. It can be
used as introductory
material or at the
end as a review.
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if possible, to make an arrest. Saving lives is the absolute fi rst priority, even if this means that important evidence may be missed or destroyed. The scene must immediately be protected from unauthorized people who might add new material or alter evidence. Also, suspects and witnesses must be detained. This is a lot to ask of the fi rst responder!
The fi rst offi cer on the scene, the crime scene investigator, and sometimes the lead detective perform a preliminary walk-through or crime scene survey. The walk-through has several purposes. Any transient or conditional evidence that could change with time must be noted; some examples are temperature, odors, whether lights are on or off, whether windows are locked or unlocked, and trace evidence that may be blown away. Points of entry and exit, as well as the path of travel, are noted. Any special needs to consider or precautions that are needed are noted.
If there has been a death, the medical examiner should note the body’s condition and, if possible, estimate the time of death. Physical evidence (such as fi ngerprints, hair, fi bers, and the like) can be very fragile and must be protected against destruction or alteration. Destroyed or altered evidence can never be used. As additional personnel arrive, crime scene tape, barricades, rope, and strategically placed guards may all be used to isolate and protect the scene.
The investigator interviews the fi rst responder, victim, or witness to learn what may have happened. Law enforcement offi cers should try to note and record details such as weather conditions, particular odors, whether lights are on or off, any signs of prior activity at the scene, light, and visibility.
Observing and Documenting the Scene The investigators should examine the crime scene to get an overall view, to fi nd possible items of evidence, to identify the points of entry and exit, to consider what may have happened, and to mentally outline how the scene should be handled. Keen observation and detailed notes are essential.
A good observation technique to use indoors on hard surfaces such as fl oors, tables, countertops, and the like is oblique lighting, where the beam from a fl ashlight is swept back and forth at an angle about one inch off the surface
Offi cer interviewing witnesses at a crime scene
A short exercise on observation
and sketching can prepare
students for processing the
more detailed crime scenes to
follow in the course. Find an
area of a room that will remain
undisturbed for a day or so.
Place a number of objects on a
table or desk and maybe a few
underneath it. These objects
may include a pen, a pencil, a
notepad (with a written note),
a paper clip, a matchbook, or
whatever. Rope or tape the area
off so nothing can be touched.
Have each student investigative
group make notes and a sketch
of what they observe. After the
students leave, change a few
items—for example, put in a
different brand of pencil or
type of pen, or change a word
on the note, or use a different
matchbook cover—and bring
the students in again to note
changes. You may wish to use
the photographs in the TRCD,
Blackline Masters 3.1 and 3.2,
as an example for this exercise.
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in a semidarkened area (see Figure 3.1). This technique can reveal items not visible under ordinary light.
There are several methods of documentation: Notes, photography, sketches, and video are all important.
Notes Note taking is one of the most important parts of processing the crime scene. It forces investigators to be more observant; when writing things down, people frequently remember details that may otherwise be overlooked. Notes should be complete and thorough, written clearly and legibly. They should detail step-by-step every action that the investigator takes and the order in which it is taken. The investigator should measure the scene and refer to these measurements in describing all evidence and where it was found. Notes should include the date and time; a description of the location, weather, and environmental conditions; a description of the crime; the location of the evidence relative to other key points; the names of all people involved, including authorized personnel, witnesses, and victims; all changes that have occurred; and any other relevant information.
The investigator should continue to take notes throughout the processing of the scene. He or she needs to make a written description of the physical
evidence, its location, the time of its discovery, and packaging. The investigator may also tape- record descriptions; the tape can be transcribed later and the transcription added to the notes.
Offi cer taking notes at a crime scene
Collecting physical evidence; a palm print
Figure 3.1 Oblique lighting
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Photographs and Videotape There is an old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Photographs can capture details that even the most observant investigator may miss. Before making any detailed examination and before touching or moving any evidence, the investigator should photograph the scene. He or she should give special attention to points of entry and exit. Photographs help the investigator and witnesses remember details; they show where evidence is placed in the scene, and sometimes they help the judge and jury visualize the crime scene.
The investigator should take photographs that clarify the scene, close-up photos of evidence, photos of the scene as viewed through the eyes of a witness, and photos of the location of the scene and its surroundings. Several photos of the same object may be taken from different angles to provide different perspectives and perhaps new details. All photographs should include a ruler for scale and be carefully documented and kept as evidence.
Videotape is becoming more common as another way to record and show details of the crime scene. The investigator can narrate, giving relevant information while moving through the scene. Videotaping should begin outdoors and move into the indoor scene, including the external setting. Videotape should be treated as evidence and not edited or erased.
Sketches As well as taking photographs, the crime scene investigator draws sketches. Sketches and photography work together, with the sketches giving perspective to the photographs. As with note taking, sketching the scene can help the investigator to notice and remember details. Sketches also give a permanent record of the relationships of different points of interest to each other in the scene. Sketches may give a better overall layout of the scene than photographs. They allow for selectivity; that is, the investigator can leave out extra details that may be confusing.
One of the most important roles of the sketch is to give measurements, scale, and relative placement of all important details in the crime scene. Sketches can combine the best features of crime scene notes and photography. They should include the date and time; scale; reference points; distance measurements; the names of investigators, victims, and suspects; and a legend.
An original sketch is considered evidence and must be treated as such, never changed or tampered with after completion. The original must be properly safeguarded.
An example of a rough sketch is shown in Figure 3.2 on the next page.
Offi cer taking photograph of vehicle in possible hit and run
59The Crime Scene
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Figure 3.2 Student sketch of crime scene
Searching the Scene for Evidence Investigators must methodically and thoroughly search the crime scene for physical evidence. This search can be the most important phase of the investigation. Basically, the investigators are looking for anything that should not be there. Anything that might carry trace
evidence, such as clothes, documents, or rugs, may have to be collected for later examination in the lab. The search involves extreme care in identifying, packaging, and labeling each piece of evidence. Special lighting, such as ultraviolet light, may be used to spot body f luids that would be invisible in normal light.
Different search methods may be employed depending on the circumstances and the area to be searched. A line, or strip, method is best used in large outdoor scenes. Offi cers form a line, shoulder to shoulder, and walk through the area searching for evidence. The grid method is basically a double line search, with offi cers moving parallel to each other and then repeating the sweep from a different direction, making a grid pattern, as shown in Figure 3.3. The zone method is most effective in houses or buildings; teams are assigned rooms or small zones for searching. The wheel, or ray, method is best used in small areas. Offi cers begin at the center of the scene and move outward in a pattern that makes a circle. The spiral method may move inward or outward, with team members
Figure 3.3 Grid search
GO TO www.sclinks.org
TOPIC forensic analysis
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BOTCHED EVIDENCE KILLS MURDER CASE The wrong hair strand submitted for DNA test leaves prosecutors without a case.
moving in a circular or spiral pattern; it is best used in areas where there are no barriers or walls.
How the investigator carries out the search depends on the location, the size of the area, and the complexity of the crime scene. Too many investigators get in each other’s way and may destroy evidence; too few may miss evidence. A large area may be divided into designated sections for systematic searching.
Collecting and Packaging Evidence The next step in processing the crime scene is to collect and package the evidence. The investigators must put each item collected in a separate container or package, and then label it. This helps protect the item and avoids any contamination. The most fragile evidence, such as fi ngerprints, bloodstains, and other trace evidence, is collected and packaged fi rst. If evidence is found sticking to a larger object, for instance blood or hair on a piece of clothing, the whole garment is collected, packaged, and sent to the lab.
Generally, pill bottles, vials, manila envelopes, and plastic bags are good containers for most evidence. There are some special considerations:
Wet items must be dried before packaging to prevent mold and mildew.
Containers should be sealed tightly to prevent leaks or breakage.
Biological items should be dried and kept in a freezer.
Clothing with trace evidence (such as a hair) should be packaged carefully to avoid disturbing the evidence.
Firearms should be fi xed rigidly inside a wooden container.
Evidence from a suspected arson should be kept in an airtight container so that fumes from an accelerant cannot evaporate. A collection may be made using adhesive tape to pick up the evidence. This method, however, picks up everything, not just the traces associated with the crime.
Offi cer collecting evidence in possible hit and run
accelerant: a fl ammable substance used to help start a fi re
Midterms and fi nals should involve
a crime scene, which can be set
up in the back of the room or in
an isolated place in the school, for
students to process. The crime can
be of any type and can include
evidence that has been studied
as well as extraneous material.
You may wish to assign each
investigative group a specialized
task such as fi ngerprints, soil
analysis, and so on. The students
should decide how to process the
crime scene. They should consider,
among other things, the following
questions: What specialists should
go in fi rst so the scene is the least
disturbed? At what point should
photographs be taken? When may
a particular piece of evidence be
removed for analysis? A digital
camera should be available and
all photos logged in. See the crime
scene schematic in the TRCD,
Blackline Master 3.3, for ideas in
setting up a crime scene.
If you have a mock
murder or suicide, a
(CPR dummy) makes
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A vacuum cleaner with a special attachment is sometimes used, but it, too, picks up everything.
Controls must also be collected to compare with any evidence from the crime scene whose source is unknown. Remember that controls are samples with a known origin. For example, if blood is found at a crime scene, its source will be unknown until it is compared to the blood of the victim and suspect (controls). These control samples can later be compared with evidence found at the crime scene. The source of evidence at a crime scene is considered unknown (or questioned), even though it may seem to be obvious where it came from.
The investigator should properly package all evidence and controls, sealing the items with tamper-proof tape and labeling each. If there
is a body, it is considered the property of the coroner or medical examiner; this department does collection of the evidence on the body.
Maintaining the Chain of Custody There must be a written record of who has had possession of the evidence at all times. This is called the chain of custody. The court needs to know who has been responsible for evidence from the
time it is collected to the time it may appear in court. The record shows who collected the evidence; who had contact with the evidence, at what time, and under what circumstances; and what, if any, changes were made. The record of the chain of custody is frequently a label on the package itself. It is not uncommon for every person who collected, transported, or tested the evidence to testify in court.
Crime Scene Investigation Crime scene investigation is based on the scientifi c method, the Locard Exchange Principle, logic, and forensic techniques. It involves not only processing the crime scene but also the steps that lead to reconstruction of the crime. The crime scene processing, recognition, documentation, and collection come fi rst. Next comes identifi cation and classifi cation of evidence. The investigator must determine what the evidence is and where it came from. Individualization is always the goal, involving comparison testing, evaluation, and interpretation of the evidence. In the end, an
chain of custody: a written record of all people who have had
possession of an item of evidence
Plastic evidence bag
A sample chain of custody label
a good body. Ask your local Red
Cross or fi re department to donate
one that is worn out.
If you have an “Annie,”
it can be dressed up
and positioned in the
crime scene. A store
mannequin is next
best; otherwise, a chalk outline on
the fl oor will work. Use yellow tape
to isolate the area.
Crime scene tape is very important.
You want to make your scenes and
evidence handling as authentic
as possible. Tape is available from
many lab supply houses, as are
evidence bags, labels, and other
materials. See, for example, Ward’s
Natural Science website at www.
wardsci.com, or use the evidence
labels from the TRCD (Blackline
Master 3.4) as a format for
generating your own evidence tags
and labels. The small ones can be
printed on a page of clear, suitably
sized labels (like those made by
Avery) and used to seal plastic
zipper-style baggies, which are far
less expensive than “professional”
A description of each suspect can
be distributed. See, for example,
the Personal Information Form (PIF)
in the TRCD (Blackline Master 3.5).
As each investigative group reports
Teacher Note, continued
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attempt is made to reconstruct the crime, determine the sequence of events, and then report and present all fi ndings.
After the crime scene has been investigated, evidence is sent to the forensic lab to be analyzed. The investigator may ask for a particular type of examination to be made with each piece of evidence; but the analyst is not strictly bound by specifi c requests.
Mock crime scene in high school lab with CPR dummy
3.1: Jeffrey MacDonald
Captain Jeffrey MacDonald called military police in the middle of
the night on February 17, 1970. He said he had just regained
consciousness and found his wife and two young daughters massacred
in their home. He told the military investigators that he had been asleep
in the living room when he was abruptly awakened by four hippies
saying, “Acid is groovy . . . kill the pigs.” The intruders had tried to kill
MacDonald with an ice pick, but he fought them off.
As the MPs arrived at the scene, they all entered the house, walking
around and touching what may have proven to be evidence. Investigators
looking at the crime scene believed that the scene looked as if it had
been staged. It seemed odd to them that MacDonald’s injuries were
relatively minor, considering he had been fi ghting for his life. His wife,
Collette, had been stabbed more than 20 times in the chest, and her
head was crushed by a half dozen blows. One of the daughters, two-year-
old Kristen, had 33 stab wounds, while the other, Kimberly, age fi ve, had
been both beaten and stabbed.
Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald
its fi ndings, you can fi ll in a matrix
matching clues to suspects. See
the TRCD, Blackline Master 3.6, for
an example of a matrix. You should
discuss a probable reconstruction
of the crime. A recap of failures,
anomalies, and errors may help
make the next event better.
Consider also initiating a mock
trial with judge and jurors, where
a speaker for each investigative
group can be the expert witness,
subject to cross-examination (by
the teacher, perhaps). See the
TRCD, Blackline Master 3.7, for an
example of a grading scheme for an
expert witness at a mock trial.
Teacher Note, continued
Have students review the
case study on Mark Winger on
page 64. This case illustrates the
importance of using accurate
sketching techniques; good
sketches can be used in a court
of law as evidence.
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3.2: Mark Winger
After a strange, two-hour shuttle-van ride home from the St. Louis
airport on August 23, 1995, Donnah Winger was stalked by the driver
of the van, Roger Harrington. When she got home, she told her
husband, Mark, about this incident.
Six days after that ride, police were called to the Winger home, where they
found Donnah Winger bludgeoned to death, Harrington shot twice in the
head, and Mark Winger distraught. Mark Winger said that while he was
in the basement, he heard a scuffl e, ran upstairs, and found Harrington
beating his wife with a hammer, so Winger shot him.
The obvious conclusion was that because Mrs. Winger had complained
to family, friends, and the airport limousine company about Harrington,
he had come after her to retaliate. However, a crime scene site
survey was done, and a three-dimensional, scale trial model was
constructed and sent to the police department in Springfi eld, Illinois.
The reconstruction depicted the distance between the two victims and
Mark Winger’s path inside the residence during the time of the deaths.
The exhibit also illustrated Mark Winger’s line of sight according to his
statements, which were inconsistent with the evidence and physical
layout of the residence. A visual information specialist from the
structural design unit testifi ed as an expert witness to the accuracy
of the reconstructed crime scene. As a result of these inconsistencies, Mark
Winger was convicted of murder and sentenced on August 1, 2002, to life in
prison without the possibility of parole.
—from the 2002 FBI annual report
Many types of evidence were gathered: blue fi bers matching MacDonald’s
pajamas, knives wiped clean, an ice pick wiped clean, hair, candle wax, a blood
trail that led from room to room, but, strangely, no fi ngerprints. The evidence
was carelessly gathered, and the chain of custody was poorly maintained. Not
all evidence given to the prosecution was given to the defense, judge, or jury.
Ten years after the crime, after several motions, countermotions, and
delays, MacDonald was convicted of the murders, although he maintains
his innocence to this day. He has plenty of supporters who believe in his
innocence, while plenty of others believe in his guilt. How do you think things
may have turned out if investigators had properly documented the scene,
collected and packaged evidence, and maintained the chain of custody?
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Activity 3.1Evaluating a Crime Scene
Crime scene: The body of a scientist, whose name and identity are being withheld, is discovered in a science lab at the local high school. The body
is located in the corner of the classroom in a sprawled position, faceup.
The victim is wearing a disguise of some kind, and a small amount of dirt
is lying nearby. There is some evidence of a struggle, and foul play has not
been ruled out. A broken beaker is found next to an overturned microscope.
It appears that the victim may have attempted to identify the aggressor by
writing an incriminating note, which is found torn and crumpled next to the
body. Blood, hair, and fi ber evidence are collected at the scene along with a
variety of fi ngerprints. Police are baffl ed about what actually took place.
Consider each of the possible scenarios as to how the scene was handled.
Carefully review each, taking into account proper crime scene processing.
Scenario A: One morning, a teacher, Mr. Woodward, enters a classroom to fi nd the body of a former science teacher sprawled on the classroom fl oor.
He immediately checks the body for a pulse. Hearing a janitor in the hall,
he calls him into the room. The janitor notices the blood around the body
and, wearing gloves, attempts to clean it up, hoping to avoid its spread to
the rest of the room. Meanwhile, Mr. Woodward runs next door and calls the
principal, Mr. Glynn. The principal, having just entered the offi ce, hurries
down to the crime scene. He moves around the area, carefully avoiding the
body. Making a quick decision, he calls the superintendent at home, who
immediately calls the police. The fi rst offi cer to arrive at the scene puts up a
barrier and posts guards at the entrance to the room. The forensic technician
soon arrives to process the crime scene.
Scenario B: An early-morning janitor spots the body through the classroom door and immediately calls the police. The fi rst offi cer to arrive enters the room
and walks around the body, accidentally stepping in the blood and tracking it
through the soil, leaving a bloody shoe print on the fl oor. He quickly wipes his
shoe on a lab coat and checks the body for a pulse. Finding none, he calls for
additional help. As he waits, he views the crime scene. Spotting the torn and
crumpled paper on the fl oor, he smooths it out and pieces it together. Some
blood, apparently from the body, is on the note, making it diffi cult to read, so
he replaces it where he found it. The second offi cer to arrive at the scene puts
up barrier tape and isolates the scene, preventing the teacher and principal
from coming in. The forensic technician soon arrives to process the scene.
Scenario C: Patrolling the halls in the early morning hours, security offi cer Morgan notices a light on in the classroom. She slowly opens the door and
notices the body on the fl oor. She immediately calls for backup and secures
and isolates the scene, preventing anyone from entering the room. As the
supporting offi cers arrive, she places a barrier around the area and posts
guards at the scene. The second offi cer to respond attempts to enter the
area but is not allowed to enter until the forensic experts have completely
recorded the scene and collected the evidence.
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Answer the following questions. Keep the answers in your notebook, to be turned in to your teacher at the end of the unit.
1. What is physical evidence? List some examples.
2. In addition to the location where the crime was committed, what other places may be considered part of the crime scene?
3. How does the investigator decide which evidence at the crime scene is signifi cant and which evid
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