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  • Thanks to the popularity of TV crime dramas, we might just have some unrealistic expectations

  • about what it takes to solve a murder.

  • We expect the handsome and brilliant investigator to find all of the elusive pieces of evidence

  • at the scene, catch that obscure clue that's revealed during the autopsy, put all of those

  • details together to come up with a suspect, hunt down and capture the killer, and bring

  • them swiftly to justice - all within a neat, 60 minute episode.

  • DubbedThe CSI Effect”, experts worry that the general public - and even juries

  • - don't understand the realities of solving a crime.

  • So, what really goes on during a crime autopsy?

  • How does real life CSI solve murders?

  • TV dramas like CSI tend to make solving a murder look like a piece of cake, and most

  • of what the general public knows about crime autopsies comes from these sensational 'whodunnit'

  • shows and high profile celebrity deaths.

  • But in real life, there's actually a tonne of work and expertise that goes into determining

  • how someone died and if foul play was involved, and that work starts long before the body

  • finds its way to the morgue for an autopsy.

  • An autopsy is the internal and external examination of a body after death, when a trained pathologist

  • uses a variety of surgical techniques, laboratory tests and other strategies to determine the

  • exact cause and circumstances of death.

  • Even though the College of American Pathologists recommends that an autopsy be completed for

  • every death, that doesn't always happen - sometimes the cause of death seems obvious

  • or the family declines to pay 3 to 5 thousand dollars to have an autopsy performed.

  • But when a death is suspicious or the police suspect foul play, the autopsy is an essential

  • part of the investigation and can provide important legal evidence that can help solve

  • the crime or determine who is responsible for the victim's death.

  • On TV, the heroic detectives always seem to be the ones who find that key piece of evidence

  • at the scene, but in reality, it's actually the same medical examiner who will later perform

  • the autopsy that has the training and expertise to assess the scene, notice the important

  • details and determine what evidence should be collected.

  • The medical examiner is a leading member of the investigation team, and they actually

  • help to organize the scene and coordinate the investigation.

  • They are instrumental in defining the perimeter of the crime scene, securing the evidence,

  • and coordinating and tracking the activities of the many other people involved in the investigation.

  • It's their job to uncover if a crime was committed, and to determine how the location

  • and position of the body could be linked to the cause of death - for example, if an elderly

  • man with a history of heart conditions is found dead in the snowbank next to a shovel

  • outside of his home, it's the medical examiner who will make the call that he likely suffered

  • a heart attack while shovelling snow.

  • The medical examiner's job actually starts the moment they get the call informing them

  • of a suspicious death, and there's a mountain of work involved before they even get to the

  • autopsy.

  • In fact, scene investigation is often more important than the autopsy itself, and a thorough

  • investigation may reveal the cause of death before the body even gets to the morgue.

  • For example, an autopsy on a healthy 30 year old with no medical history and no toxicology

  • findings may not be able to provide a firm cause of death.

  • Only by attending the scene and noticing the body laying in a pool of water next to an

  • electrical outlet with a screwdriver stuck in it can the medical examiner know for sure

  • how the subject died.

  • As soon as the medical examiner gets the call that a body has been found, their work starts.

  • Even before they get to the scene, they start to gather as much information about the body

  • as possible.

  • At the very least, they try to determine the approximate age and gender of the deceased

  • and if there is any early evidence of foul play.

  • If the deceased has already been identified and the family has been notified, the examiner

  • will also start to gather a medical and personal history.

  • Next, the medical examiner will get ready to head to the scene and will gather all of

  • the tools and equipment they'll need to complete their investigation.

  • Among the many important items in their tool kit, they'll make sure to have an apron,

  • gloves, hair and shoe covers, and a face shield to protect the scene from contamination - and

  • to protect themselves.

  • Depending on the location of the scene and the weather, they may bring along things like

  • flashlights, rain gear, bug spray and sunscreen to keep themselves as comfortable as possible

  • during the often gruelling and always meticulous process.

  • They'll make sure to have a good supply of swabs, containers, and plastic bags to

  • collect important pieces of evidence.

  • Most importantly, they will bring along tools to help them carefully document the scene

  • - pen and paper, a tape recorder and a camera.

  • The medical examiner's first job is to determine if a crime was committed at the death scene

  • - every death scene is a potential crime scene until proven otherwise.

  • The first and most important rule of crime scene investigation is not to disturb or contaminate

  • the scene.

  • The examiner must wear protective equipment and avoid sitting on any surfaces or leaning

  • on any walls.

  • After making sure that the scene is safe and secure, the medical examiner will begin their

  • systematic and thorough examination of the scene and attempt to answer some very important

  • questions, likeDid the death occur at this location?”, “Can the death be attributed

  • to natural causes?”, “Is anything out of place at the scene?” andAre there

  • any signs of violence or foul play?”.

  • If foul play is suspected, the medical examiner will guide the investigators in further processing

  • the scene, directing them to collect latent impressions, trace evidence, and anything

  • else relevant to the investigation, like possible murder weapons or medications found nearby.

  • This is yet another misconception about crime scene investigation that comes from watching

  • too many crime dramas - although the medical examiner plays a lead role in this stage of

  • the investigation, their job is to observe a great deal, but to actually do very little.

  • Their 4 major tasks are notetaking, videography, photography and sketching - the rest of the

  • hands-on work will be done by other investigators and crime scene technicians at the medical

  • examiner's direction.

  • The medical examiner will take great care to document every detail of the death scene,

  • starting from the moment they are notified of the death.

  • Their highly detailed notes will start with details about the date, time and method of

  • notification and any details known about the deceased at that time.

  • When they arrive on the scene, they will document how they got there and when, and what personnel

  • are on scene.

  • Then, they'll turn their attention to crafting a full scene description, noting everything

  • from the layout of the scene to the furniture and structures nearby, to even the weather.

  • They will also take note of any containers nearby that might hold other pieces of evidence,

  • like trash cans and ashtrays.

  • They will document and analyze any blood spillage or spatter, noting the shape and flow patterns

  • of the blood.

  • The medical examiner will also have to be careful to keep track of any assignments they've

  • made to other team members, such as doing a walk-through of the scene or collecting

  • evidence.

  • Only once the scene has been thoroughly investigated and described does the medical examiner turn

  • their attention to the body itself.

  • They will create a highly detailed victim description that outlines the physical condition

  • of the body at the death scene, noting things like the body's position, any rigor mortis

  • or death stiffness, and the level of decomposition.

  • Generally, the more contorted the position of the body, the more sudden the death was

  • - the victim may have literally fallen in their tracks.

  • They will carefully photograph the body in the position it was found before carefully

  • moving it into a face-up position and beginning a head-to-toe examination.

  • Starting from the top and working their way down, the examiner will push aside clothing

  • without removing it to carefully check every inch of the body for any visible wounds or

  • bruising, and the presence or absence of clothing, jewelry and identification.

  • The most important goal of this preliminary examination is to establish a working theory

  • of the cause of death and to determine if the death occurred at the same location that

  • the body was found.

  • Once the death scene investigation is complete, the medical examiner is also responsible for

  • preparing the body and overseeing the transportation of the corpse to the mortuary for the autopsy

  • itself, while ensuring the least possible disturbance or loss of evidence.

  • They will place and secure bags over the deceased's hands, feet and head and place the body in

  • a body bag to retain any evidence like loose fibres as it's being transported to the

  • morgue in a hearse.

  • The autopsy itself usually only takes between 2 to 4 hours to perform, but it can take up

  • to 6 weeks for the results to be ready - yet another misconception from TV, where we've

  • come to expect the entire investigation to be neatly wrapped up within the timeline of

  • a 60 minute episode.

  • Autopsies are best performed within 24 hours of death before the organs begin to deteriorate,

  • but even autopsies performed on decomposed or exhumed bodies can still provide vital

  • new information.

  • The autopsy itself starts with yet another careful inspection of the body.

  • Something else we don't see much of on TV are the many, many layers of duplication and

  • redundancy that go into a real life investigation.

  • The medical examiner will carefully weigh and measure the body and document its characteristics

  • like age, gender, and hair and eye colour.

  • Once the clothing has been removed, they will examine the body yet again, this time looking

  • for trace evidence, signs of injury like bruising, scratches or wounds, and identifying marks

  • like tattoos or scars.

  • An x-ray may be done to look for any broken bones, skeletal abnormalities or to locate

  • bullets lodged in the body.

  • The medical examiner will meticulously record all of these findings on both a body diagram

  • and in recorded verbal notes.

  • Once the outside of the body has been thoroughly examined, it's time for the internal exam.

  • The dissection starts with making a large, y-shaped incision on the torso, from the shoulders

  • to the mid chest and all the way down to the pelvic region.

  • Then, a saw is used to cut through the cartilage and rib cage to expose the internal organs.

  • The organs are first examined and documented in place, and then removed one by one to be

  • weighed and carefully inspected.

  • Tissues samples may be taken, along with blood and urine samples, to be tested for drugs

  • or infections.

  • The stomach is also emptied so that the contents can be examined and tested.

  • Next the examiner makes a precise incision around the back of the head from ear to ear

  • and pulls the skin forward to expose the skull.

  • A specially designed saw is used to open the cranium without damaging the soft brain tissue

  • below, the skull cap is removed, and finally, gingerly, the medical examiner removes the

  • brain for closer inspection and further testing.

  • After carefully preserving and cataloguing the various tissue and organ samples, the

  • organs are carefully set back into place inside the body, after being sealed in bags to prevent

  • leakage.

  • The rest of the body cavity is stuffed with wool, the rib cage is set back in place, and

  • the large incision is sewn back up using the characteristicbaseball stitchso famous

  • from the big screen.

  • Finally, the body is carefully washed and prepared to be delivered to the funeral home.

  • The professional who performs the autopsy undertakes their work with the utmost care

  • and respect, so even a body that has undergone a thorough autopsy can still be presented

  • in an open casket to allow friends and family to see their loved one one last time.

  • With the crime scene thoroughly investigated and the autopsy carefully performed, the medical

  • examiner will use their mountains of documentation - their copious notes and voice recordings,

  • their carefully drawn sketches, the countless crime scene photographs and video, the test

  • results, and more - to prepare their official report on the cause and manner of death.

  • This report will be used by investigators to hopefully solve the crime and get justice

  • for the victim, but unlike in the TV shows, this process can take months or even years,

  • if it even gets solved at all.

  • Thanks to the CSI effect, we seem to expect crime scene investigation to be like what

  • we see on TV, but real life is not as flashy, as exciting or nearly as fast.

  • It is every bit as impressive, though.

  • The medical examiner plays a key role in the investigation from the very first moment that

  • the body is found right up until the body is sewn back together and prepared for the

  • funeral home.

  • The examiner oversees the investigation of the crime scene, completes the crime autopsy

  • and it's hard to imagine how real-life CSI could solve murders without them!

  • If you thought this video was fascinating, be sure and check out our other videos, like

  • this video calledWhat Happens When You Dig Up a Body?”, or perhaps you'll like

  • this other video instead.

  • As always, thanks for watching, and don't forget to like, share and subscribe!

  • See you next time!

Thanks to the popularity of TV crime dramas, we might just have some unrealistic expectations

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How Does Real Life CSI ACTUALLY Solve Murders?

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/21
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