Art of a Killer
For those of you who are unfamiliar with some of the better known serial killers, John Wayne Gacy was one of the most prolific and infamous serial killers in the history of the United States. He was sentenced to death in the electric chair, which was carried out back in 1994, for the murder of 33 people. As the story goes, he could have continued for a lot longer – he was an organised killer and a sexual sadist who disposed of the bodies of his victims in the crawl space of his house. It was only when he ran out of room under his house that he started to dispose of the bodies in the local rivers, which ultimately led to his capture.
Isn’t anthropology just the study of people?
You would be correct, of a fashion; technically the broad definition of anthropology is simply the study of people everywhere and throughout all of time. More specifically though there are a few variations or specialties within the field. In our case, forensic anthropology is comprised of biological or physical anthropology (this includes human and biological evolution) and human osteology (studying the human skeleton). In a legal setting, one of the most common things that a forensic anthropologist will do is examine human skeletal remains.
So… like… what is forensic psychology?
This has to be my favourite discipline within the forensic field, and one that i am personally very involved with (i am currently working towards my Master of Forensic Psychology degree). But for the ‘newbies’ the role a forensic psychologist actually plays in the real world can be somewhat confusing – partly due to Hollywood’s version of what a forensic psychologist does. Forensic psychologists are classed as scientist-practitioners as they are constantly applying their skills and psychological knowledge to the understanding and functioning of the criminal justice system as a whole.
Crime Scene Basics – First Responder & Forensics
The various forensic disciplines may run a vast number of tests once evidence has been collected from a crime scene but there is an immense amount of work that needs to be conducted before they get to this stage. This article will focus on those procedures and the job of first responders, whether they are police, paramedics or other emergency services, as well as the roles of crime scene investigators once they are called out.
The Lockerbie Tragedy – Flight 103
In 1988 many horrific events occurred but our focus in this article will be on just one of these – a Pan American airlines flight en route from London to New York suddenly broke up in the air at just after 7pm on December 21st while at an altitude of 31,000 feet above Western Scotland. While the vast majority of you may not remember the actual event, one tends to believe that the second the name ‘Lockerbie’ is thrown into the mix the severity and heinous nature of the event may jog a few memories.
Identification Through Forensic Testing
In the world of forensics there are an amazingly vast number of tests that can be conducted on a material in order to establish various things that may be useful in a trial. Listed below are just a few of the more commonly used techniques:
Firearm Identification (Forensic Ballistics)
Firearms identification, more commonly referred to as forensic ballistics, has been around in some form or another since as early as 1835 when, in England, investigators were able to match the markings on a bullet taken from a victim’s body to the bullet mold owned by the suspect. Obviously this was back in the days before traditional rounds were invented, that is, when ball rounds were the type of ammunition available. As was to be expected, the murderer in this particular case confessed to the crime when confronted with the evidence.
But what is forensic ballistics exactly? What is included in this field?
The Rifling and the Scientist
In the field of forensic ballistics, studies have significantly shown that no two firearms are alike; that is, no two firearms when firing ammunition leave the exact same marks as another (on said ammunition), even if that other is an identical model from an identical manufacturer. This makes it very easy for experts in the field to differentiate between weapons in the same fashion that fingerprints differentiate between individual people.
How does this all work though i hear you ask?
Forensic Pathology: The In’s and Out’s
Forensic pathology is yet another important field within the forensic sciences, yet not for those with a weak stomach. If you have ever seen how they conduct an autopsy you’ll know what i’m talking about, and for those of you that haven’t, just imagine systematically slicing open sections of the body and organs, including removing the brain, emptying the stomach and a few other things that although necessary, look very macabre – like something out of Silence of the Lambs.
Over time this list of links will become an excellent, easy to refer to list of all forensic and criminal justice system related organisations, law enforcement agencies and educational resources for people wishing to pursue a career in a certain field of expertise.