FEATURED IN INVESTIGATION
The ability of investigators to explain both verbally and in writing how inferences (e.g., clues, evidence, etc.) lead them to draw logical and reasonable conclusions (e.g., probable cause, facts, etc.) remains a critical skill in investigative work. Solving the case and catching the bad guy isn't enough. Do you have excellent report writing skills? Can you write with such excellence that your work will withstand scrutiny within the department and externally from legal experts such as defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges? Are your verbal communication skills up to the task of testifying for hours in court (criminal and civil) and providing depositions to defense counsel? Mastering these skills requires practice continuous sharpening of the saw and seeking out constructive criticism from others you know to be excellent in these areas.
One of the ways I try to do this with my college-level criminal justice students is through a series of lectures followed by case studies. Each case study ends in questions the answers to which the student must defend both in writing and orally. The student is required to write a police report (an affidavit, a search warrant application, etc.) and appear before a mock trial court with a judge, defense attorney and prosecutor. Why? Because policing is a doing profession. Just knowing doesn't cut it. Can you translate knowledge into demonstrable and observable behaviors, such as writing and speaking in the unique world we call policing?
I created the following scenario because it covers a wide range of investigative topics, such as basic crime-scene procedures, the Fourth Amendment, the Mincey rule, powder burns, entrance and exit wounds, rigor mortis, post mortem lividity and a host of other investigative processes. Read the scenario and then write your answers on a piece of paper to the questions that follow. Determine your score at the end by reading the answer analysis and adding up the points. No cheating!
Investigative Case Student 1-1
The superintendent of an apartment building (Jason Johnson, age 52) is concerned about an elderly resident (Beverly Devivo, age 87) he has not seen in several days. Johnson goes to her second-floor apartment and observes that the front door is slightly open. After calling out and receiving no response, he enters the apartment and finds Devivo in her bedroom lying on top of the bed. He approaches and observes that she is not moving, and that there is a pool of what appears to be blood on the bed next to her head. He sees a gun on the floor next to the bed and rushes out and calls the police.
First-responding patrol officers and then detectives observe the following: The woman on the bed is clothed in a nightgown and lying on her back; a .38 caliber revolver lies on the floor next to the bed loaded with five bullets and one spent cartridge; the women has a blunt-force wound to the rear of her head, and a bullet entry and exit wound to her head with considerable tattooing and tearing of the skin surrounding the entry wound; a bullet hole is located in a wall next to the bed underneath a window, and a single spent bullet is recovered from this location; what appears to be blood is present on the bed and floor next to the bed; rigor mortis is fully developed; postmortem lividity is readily apparent on the front of the woman s body; a ligature wound is present on the woman s neck with signs of bruising and blood congestion just above and below the furrow caused by the ligature; and what appear to be blood splatters are located in the bathroom.
Note: For the purpose of this case study, you are the detective in charge of the investigation and have responded to the scene. In answering the questions, you don t need to write a detailed analysis of forensic evidence. A forensic team has processed the scene (e.g., photographs, video, fingerprints, crime-scene sketch, collection of evidence, etc).
Question 1: Based on the information contained in the case study, what are the most logical initial steps the first officer/investigator arriving on scene should take?
Question 2: Applying the exigent-circumstances exception to the search-warrant rule, at what point should you obtain a search warrant for the victim's apartment?
Question 3: Because considerable tattooing and tearing of the skin was found on the woman's head at the location of the bullet entrance wound, it's most probable that _________________?
Question 4: If the spent bullet recovered in the wall did not match the .38-caliber revolver found on the floor next to the bed, it most logically indicates that _______________________________?
Question 5: Based on the information provided, it's most likely that the woman's time of death was at least ____________________________________.
Question 6: What can you most logically deduce from the information relative to postmortem lividity on the woman's body?
Question 7: A laboratory test determines that the blood found by the bed was of the same blood group as that of the victim. However, the blood found in the bathroom is a different blood group than that of the woman victim. Based on these facts, you can most logically conclude that ______________________?
Question 8: What can you determine from the ligature wound to the woman's neck?
Question 9: Can DNA analysis determine the identity of the person(s) whose blood was found in the bathroom?
Answer Analysis & Point Totals
5 points Enter the apartment. Police can legally enter under the exigent-circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment to determine if the woman or others needs assistance and/or is a suspect is in the premises. (Flippo v. West Virginia, 120 S. CT 7 (1999).
5 points Determine if the woman is in fact dead. If not, have her taken to the hospital.
5 points Determine whether a crime has been committed.
5 points Search the apartment for a suspect(s) or other victims.
5 points Seize or have forensics seize any perishable evidence (i.e., evidence that would be altered while investigators wait to obtain a search-and-seizure warrant, such as a suspect's partial footprint in blood that might be altered by coagulation).
5 points Protect the scene by posting an officer outside of the apartment's front door.
4 points Detain, question and take a written statement from the superintendent.
3 points Start a crime-scene log.
2 points Advise headquarters of the situation.
5 points The police may enter the premises under exigent circumstances, provide aid to the injured, search for other victims or the suspect(s), and seize perishable evidence.
5 points In Mincey v. Arizona in 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there is no murder scene exception to the Fourth Amendment and the police must obtain a search-and-seizure warrant to search the scene beyond the parameters previously mentioned.
5 points The woman was shot at close range. Tattooing of the skin around the entrance wound results when a person is shot at close range.
5 points Tattooing is the distribution of gunshot particles that can provide an investigator an estimate of the distance the muzzle was from the victim (usually less than two feet).
5 points If laboratory analysis indicates the spent bullet recovered in the wall did not come from the .38-caliber revolver, it most logically indicates the bullet recovered was fired from another gun.
5 points The logical inference is that if another gun was not located on scene, the perpetrator took it. The .38-caliber handgun found on scene may belong to the victim, or maybe a second suspect.
5 points The case study indicated rigor mortis was fully developed. Rigor mortis is the natural stiffening of the body after death caused by the breakdown of amino acids and other chemical changes in the body s muscle tissues.
5 points Although many variables influence estimating time of death by rigor mortis, a good guesstimate is that the victim had been dead for approximately 12 hours.
10 points The case study indicates the woman was in bed lying on her back, and postmortem lividity was readily apparent on the front of her body. This indicates someone turned her over after she died. When the heart stops pumping, blood stops circulating, and gravity pools the blood at the body's lowest levels, causing a dark blue/purple discoloration. Maximum lividity stains occur within 10-12 hours after death.
3 points The blood in the bathroom probably is the suspect(s).
2 points A ligature is something used to tie or bind, such as ropes, ties, cords or under-garments.
2 points A ligature wound causes a furrow or groove to form.
2 points The presence of the wound to the woman s neck indicates she was strangled in addition to being shot.
2 points DNA can be extracted from blood and positively identify the person from which it came.
0-70 Junior Investigator
81-90 Inspector Clouseau
91-95 Ace Investigator
96-100 Sherlock Holmes