OMG! Person shot by cops

 

Yeah, well, don’t let those click-bait headlines get your unmentionables all bunched up, because ALL, and I repeat, ALL killings of human beings by other humans are homicides. And certain homicides are absolutely legal.

That’s right, L.E.G.A.L., legal.

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Yes, each time prison officials pull the switch, inject “the stuff,” or whatever means they use to execute a condemned prisoner, they commit homicide. People who kill attackers while saving a loved one from harm have committed homicide. And cops who kill while defending their lives or the lives of others have committed homicide. These instances are not a crime.

It’s when a death is caused illegally—murder or manslaughter—that makes it a criminal offense.

Murder is an illegal homicide.

For example, in Virginia:

§ 18.2-32. First and second degree murder defined; punishment.

Murder, other than capital murder, by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or in the commission of, or attempt to commit, arson, rape, forcible sodomy, inanimate or animate object sexual penetration, robbery, burglary or abduction, except as provided in § 18.2-31, is murder of the first degree, punishable as a Class 2 felony.

All murder other than capital murder and murder in the first degree is murder of the second degree and is punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than five nor more than forty years.

Therefore, those seemingly dramatic headlines that read “Shooting By Cop Ruled a Homicide,” well, they’re often nothing more than words used to affect people’s emotions, induce a reaction, or to encourage people to click over to their website, which, by the way, is how many so-called news outlets pay the bills.

So please, un-wad those unmentionables and don’t be a victim of media sensationalism.

By the way, how many of you clicked over to this blog because of the headline/blog-post title? Gotcha…

 

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How to properly rot your corpses

 

Putrefaction is the destruction of the soft tissue caused by two things, bacteria and enzymes.

As bacteria and enzymes do their jobs, the body immediately begins to discolor and transform into liquids and gases. The odd thing about the bacteria that destroys the tissue at death is that much of it has been living in the respiratory and intestinal tracts all along. Of course, if the deceased had contracted a bacterial infection prior to death, bacteria, such as septicemia (blood poisoning), would aid in increasing the rate of decomposition.

Temperature also plays an important part in decomposition. 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal range for bacteria and enzymes to do what they do best, while lower temperatures slow the process. Therefore, and obviously, a body will decompose faster during the sweltering days of summertime.

A blood-filled circulatory system acts as a super-highway for those organisms that destroy the body after death. Without blood the process of putrefaction is slowed.

Therefore, a murder victim whose body bled out will decompose at a slower rate than someone who died of natural causes.

People who were overweight at the time of their deaths decompose faster than skinny people. People who suffered from excessive fluid build up decompose faster than those who were dehydrated. And people with massive infections and congestive heart failure will also decompose at a more rapid rate than those without those conditions.

Bodies adorned in thick, heavy clothing (the material retains heat) decompose more rapidly than the norm. Electric blankets also speed up decomposition.

A body that’s buried in warm soil may decompose faster than one that’s buried during the dead of winter.

The type of soil that surrounds the body also has an effect on the rate of decomposition. For example, the soil in North Carolina is normally a reddish type of clay. The density of that clay can greatly retard the decomposition process because it reduces the circulation of air that’s found in a less dense, more sandy-type of earth.

Adult bodies buried in a well drained soil will become skeletonized in approximately 10 years. A child’s body in about five years.

The rule of thumb for the decomposition of a body is, (if at the same temperature) 8 weeks in well-drained soil equals two weeks in the water, or one week exposed to the air.

Now, hold on to your breakfast…

The first sign of decomposition under average conditions is a greenish discoloration of the skin at the abdomen. This is apparent at 36-72 hours.

Next – Small vessels in the skin become visible (marbling).

Marbling is followed by glistening skin, skin slippage, purplish skin, blisters, distended abdomen (after one week—caused by gases), blood-stained fluid oozing from body openings (nose, mouth, etc.), swelling of tissue and the presence of foul gaseous odor, greenish-purple face, swollen eyelids and pouting lips, swollen face, protruding tongue, hair pulls out easily, fingernails come off easily, skin from hands pulls off (gloving), body swells and appears greatly obese.

Internally, the body is decomposing and breaking down. The heart has become flabby and soft. The liver has honeycombed, and the kidneys are like wet sponges. The brain is nearly liquid, and the lungs may be a bit brittle.

Hmm… Flabby hearts and liquid brains. Sounds like the internal workings of quite a few living and currently-working (well, they call it working) politicians in this country…

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Life after death

 

It’s 9pm and Officer Smith has just left the scene of a homicide. The father of two small children, and husband to a loving wife, had gone to the store to pick up a gallon of milk for morning Lucky Charms when he was caught in the crossfire between two rival gang members. The barrage of bullets that pierced his flesh, striking more than one vital organ, killed him instantly. The violent exchange of rounds was over in mere seconds. Luckily, a passerby saw the whole thing, and with his statement the police were able to arrest the suspects within hours of the senseless killing. The two shooters were eventually convicted and sentenced to serve ten years each in the state penitentiary.

But let’s back up to the night of the shooting. Officer Bernard “Buzzy” Smith had the unpleasant task of delivering the bad news to the victim’s family. So he located the man’s wallet and ID and wrote the address in his pocket notebook. A few minutes later, with a lump in his throat he couldn’t make disappear, the officer parked his patrol car in front of a small brick rancher on the east side of town. He switched off the ignition and waited for the headlamps to click off before calling in his location. He searched his mind for the right words and how to say them. An owl hooted twice from the depths of the tree canopy above his car.

The house was well lit and the driveway littered with plastic kid toys. A girl’s bicycle stood propped against the lop-sided chain-link fence separating lawn from concrete pavement. A blueish glow flickered in a front window. The TV was on. Wednesday night. Maybe the family was watching the remaining eight American Idol contestants croon their way toward the final prize. Someone on that Hollywood stage would go home at the end of the show. The man of this particular house, however, would never come home again.

Officer Smith stepped from his patrol car, adjusted his gun belt, and headed for the front door. He took his time walking up the three brick steps before slowly reaching for the brass knocker.

She’s young—20-ish—with short curly brown hair. A little boy clinging to one hip. The girl at her knees, clutching her mother’s dress, is around six. Seven tops. She’s missing a tooth.

Somebody on TV is singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, a newer, modern version of the classic song.

The woman smiles at first, but the grin quickly melted away. She knows. Tears filled her eyes. Next came the trembling. Shaking. Gut-wrenching sobs.

Officer Smith has seen it all before, many times. But he can’t get emotional. It’s part of the job and he must be strong while doing it. He leads the woman to the living room. She has a seat on the couch while he grabbed the remote and switched off the TV, stopping Ryan Seacrest from announcing the names of the bottom three contestants. Officer Smith sat in a chair across from the new widow. He leaned forward—gun leather creaking and keys tinkling—resting his elbows on his knees. He began to speak…

So what happens next? You know, long after the funeral. What happens to the families of murder victims then? Do they simply go on with their lives? Not hardly.

The families of murder victims say they must deal with many unexpected things that aren’t always associated with death by natural causes. Things such as:

– Always seeing and remembering the condition of their loved one as he/she lay in the morgue. Remember, sometimes family members must go there to identify the body, and this can be an extremely devastating experience.

– The general public can be extremely cruel, sometimes blaming victims for their own demise and the violence that caused the death.

– Some less than reputable media outlets want sensational headlines, even if that means publicizing inaccurate statements about the victim and the victim’s family. After all, they can always retract the statements later, right? Please know that not every media source is this insensitive. In fact, most are not, but the inaccurate stories that do make their way to the eyes and ears of the families of the deceased are very hurtful.

– The financial burden that comes with losing one income. There are sometimes large medical bills left behind as well.

– Families sometimes must deal with public sympathy for murderers.

– The murder trial is difficult to sit through, hearing all the gruesome details.

– Short prison sentences often cause outrage (too lenient for the crime).

– Having to see and hear about the case on TV. Family members do not consider the death of a loved one as prime time family entertainment.

– It’s extremely frustrating to be told, as a family member, that you cannot be in the courtroom during certain parts of the trial.

– Being the last to know anything.

– Wondering if the victim suffered.

– Remembering the things you said, or didn’t say, the last time you saw the victim alive.

– Plea agreements that allow some participants involved in the murder to walk away free and clear of the crime.

– The appeal process.

– The parole process.

– Nightmares.

So many nightmares.

And the grief goes on and on and on…

A pictorial visit to the morgue

Death investigations are conducted by both police investigators and medical examiners or coroners. Each city, county, and/or state determines whether or not to utilize a coroner or medical examiner system.

A coroner is an elected official and may or may not be a medical doctor. In fact, even the ticket-taker at the local Bijou Theater could be elected as coroner in some places, as long as he/she meets the local requirements. In some locations the requirements are minimal, such as being a citizen of the area for a year, and being of legal voting age with a non-violent criminal history.

In some counties, in California for example, the county sheriff also serves as coroner. Elected corners with no medical background employ pathologists to conduct autopsies.

A medical examiner is a medical doctor that has been hired by a city or county to conduct autopsies and investigate the cause(s) of suspicious deaths.

The police are in charge of all murder scenes, but medical examiners and coroners are in charge of the body. Medical examiners and coroners do not interrogate suspects and detectives do not examine bodies.

Bodies are placed in sealed body bags and delivered to the morgue in specially equipped vehicles.

Upon arrival at the morgue, bodies are placed on gurneys and rolled onto scales where they’re weighed.

After weighing, the body is placed inside a cold room until autopsy. Black or dark gray, leak-resistant body bags are used pre-autopsy. The paper bag resting on the body of the murder victim at the top of the photo contains the victim’s personal belongings.

Autopsy station

Former Butler County, Ohio coroner, Dr. Richard Burkhardt, M.D., at autopsy station.

Carts containing the necessary tools of the trade are wheeled next to the autopsy station within easy reach for the pathologists.

Bone saw for removing the top of the skull, and sometimes to make the rib cuts for access to internal organs.

As organs are removed they’re placed on hanging scales for weighing.

“If a medical examiner were allowed to do only one thing during an autopsy, that one thing should be to weigh the heart of the victim. The weight of a heart is key to most of death’s mysteries.” Dr. Richard Burkhardt, Butler County Ohio Corner. (Excerpt from Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland)

Once the autopsy is complete, an assistant begins the process of closing. Pictured above, an attendant replaces the top of the skull and then stitches the scalp back in place.

Pathologists make a “Y” incision, starting at each shoulder, meeting at the bottom of the sternum (the xiphoid process is the cartilaginous/bony tip at the base of the sternum), continuing to the pubic bone, typically bypassing the navel.

Body – post autopsy.

Samples of organs are often kept for future examination, and/or DNA testing.

Cold rooms also store amputated body parts. The gray trays on the right contain severed limbs. White, paper-like body bags, like the one lying on the gurney in the rear of the cold room above, are used post-autopsy for bodies waiting to be transported to funeral homes.

*Attendees of the first Writers’ Police Academy were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the morgue featured above. Hmm…only writers would consider a trip to the morgue as a treat.

Hotdog Murder

 

Solving a murder case is sort of like working a jigsaw puzzle in reverse, starting with a whole picture—the puzzle-parts all in place. Investigators then begin to pick apart, examine, and scrutinize those individual sections, one-by-one, hoping to quickly locate and identify key pieces.

All murders have them, you know—those oddly-shaped pieces that lead detectives to MOMMotive, Opportunity, and Means. Then, with a killer’s MOM firmly in hand, detectives should easily be able to identify the person who possesses those all-so-important elements…the murderer. Simple, huh? Well, that’s not always the way it works out. Actually, more often than we see in the always-solved cases in our favorite whodunit novels, real-life puzzles are often missing a vital element or two.

Sure, murder cases are often solved quickly, especially those cases where the killer remains at the crime scene waiting patiently for police to arrive. And that happens quite often, believe it or not. And, there are cases where the killer murders someone in the presence of scores of witnesses. The solvability rate in those cases is, of course, very high.

For example, I once worked a case—The Great Hotdog Murder of ’91— that started out as a nice Saturday noontime lunch, with twin brothers enjoying all the hotdogs they could eat, their favorite meal. To the teens’ delight, their father had fired up the charcoal grill and, within a few minutes, the two boys were busy wolfing down dog after dog without wasting the time or energy to bother with buns or forks. Instead, they used their fingers to grab the tube steaks, dragging them through dollops of yellow mustard before nearly inhaling the processed meat sticks.

The grill-marked dogs disappeared at an equal rate, one each per hungry mouth. But dear old dad tossed a monkey wrench into the works when he decided he’d eat one, leaving an unfortunate odd number of piping hot all-beef weiners on the platter. Therefore, the eldest brother (by three or four minutes) was highly offended when his twin grabbed the last dog and quickly chomped off nearly half with one bite.

Knowing that dear old dad kept a loaded revolver in the top right-hand drawer of the buffet, the elder and now dogless twin, grabbed the gun and fired a round into his brother’s forehead, killing him in mid-chew. When I arrived, the dead twin still clutched a bite-size piece of hotdog in his hand. His murdering brother sat at the table waiting patiently for police to cart him off to jail. No tears. No emotion. Just a matter-of-fact, “He shouldn’t have grabbed the last hotdog. He knew I don’t play when it comes to my food.”

Yes, those cases are easily and quickly stamped “CLOSED.” However, when murders are committed by strangers, well, that’s when investigators begin to find a piece or two missing from the puzzle. Such as, cases where racial and ethnic minorities are deliberately killed. Those cases are far less likely to be solved than, say, when any child under the age of 5 is murdered. In those instances, the killer is identified approximately 90% of the time. This is so, because in murder cases involving younger children, the child killers are usually a close family member, or a friend of the family.

How about female murder victims as opposed to male? Well, according to a Scripps study of FBI reports, homicides involving women are solved three-fourths of the time, as opposed to two-thirds in cases involving male victims.

Cases involving prostitutes, gang members, drug dealers, and/or runaways are extremely difficult to solve, because the victims in these cases are in a higher risk category than, say, soccer moms, preachers, teachers, and business people.

The solvability ratio is the most glaring along racial lines, with only 67% of the cases solved when the victim is a young black male (only 64% when African American male victims are between 20 and 24-years-old), as opposed to over 75% of cases solved when the victims are non-Hispanic whites.

In cases of stranger on stranger murder…well, they’re the most difficult to solve.

Then, there are the cases involving lover’s spats and cheating spouses. Those cases are solved nearly every time (98%).

Alcohol or drug-related fights ending in death—90% of those cases are solved by police. And, ethnicity is not a factor in these cases. It is also not a factor in cases of lover and spousal fights that end in murder.

Strangely, when women are the victims of gang-related murder, well, those cases are highly unlikely to be solved.

So, I guess the lesson to be learned from all these facts, figures, and other information is…always share the last hotdog, especially if you are a female gang member who sidelines as a prostituting drug-dealer.

*Stats source – Scripps-Howard News

Peach State death

 

Each state in the U.S. has its own laws and standards regarding medical examiners and coroners, and under which circumstances that autopsies are to be performed.

Georgia operates a unique system, in that both a medical examiner and a coroner may be involved in a single death investigation. Also unique is that the medical examiner’s office, where autopsies are conducted, falls under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Bureau of investigation (GBI), the equivalent to the investigative division of the state police in many states.

GBI also investigates drug crimes, homicide, rape, robbery, fraud, and other major crimes, and they maintain specialized units ready to respond to a variety of incidents—human trafficking, child exploitation, body recovery, and  counter-terrorism, to name a few. They are also available to assist local police departments with investigations.

Georgia’s chief medical examiner oversees the medical examiner and coroner programs throughout the state. Autopsies in Georgia are conducted at the state’s main headquarters in Decatur, or at one of the regional labs in Savannah, Macon, or Augusta.

The main headquarters, as part of its team of eight medical examiners, employs one medical examiner whose specialty is pediatric pathology and fatal and non-fatal pediatric injury. Also on staff is a forensic anthropologist.

Georgia medical examiners investigate all deaths that fall under one the following categories:

1. Those deaths that are apparently homicidal, suicidal, or occurring under suspicious or unknown circumstances

2. Resulting from the unlawful use of controlled substances or the use or abuse of chemicals or toxic agents

3. Occurring while incarcerated or while in the custody of a law enforcement officer

4. Apparently accidental or following an injury

5. By disease, injury or toxic agent during or arising from employment

6. While not under the care of a physician during the period immediately preceding the death

7. Related to disease which might constitute a threat to the health of the general public

8. In which human remains have been disposed of in an offensive manner.

The Georgia Death Investigation Act requires that a medical examiner and/or coroner be notified in death cases, and that a medical examiner conduct a formal investigation and/or autopsy in cases where the victim/deceased died as a result of:

  1. As a result of violence
  2. By suicide or casualty
  3. Suddenly when in apparent good health
  4. When unattended by a physician; no person shall be deemed to have died unattended when the death occurred while the person was a patient of a hospice licensed under Article 9 of Chapter 7 of Title 31 of the Georgia Code.
  5. In any suspicious or unusual manner, with particular attention to those persons 16 years of age and under
  6. After birth but before seven years of age if the death is unexpected or unexplained
  7. As a result of an execution carried out ursuant to the imposition of the death penalty under Article 2 of Chapter 10 of Title 17
  8. When an inmate of a state hospital or a state, county, or city penal institution; or
  9. After having been admitted to a hospital in an unconscious state and without regaining consciousness within 24 hours of admission

    There are five determinations for manner of death:

    1. Homicide – the death was caused by the actions of another person.

    *Remember, homicide and murder are NOT the same. Murder is the unlawful taking of a human life by another. While all murders are homicides, not all homicides are murders. In Georgia, for example, if a homeowner, fearful for his or her life, kills an intruder, or a law enforcement officer kills someone in the line of duty, both are considered homicides but not necessarily murder.

    1. Natural – the death was from diseases or medical conditions such as cancer or heart attack.
    2. Accidental – an unintended death
    3. Suicide – a death that is intentionally self-inflicted
    4. Undetermined – there is little or no evidence to establish
*Writers – please check with the local officials in the area where your story is set. The above information pertains only to the state of Georgia. Laws, rules, and regulations may differ in other areas of the country.

*Source – GBI/Medical examiner’s office

 

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Autopsy: from crime scene

Death investigations are conducted by both the police and medical examiners or coroners. Each jurisdiction determines whether or not they have a coroner or medical examiner. A coroner is an elected official and may or may not be a medical doctor. A medical examiner is a medical doctor who has been hired by a city or county to conduct autopsies and investigate the cause of suspicious deaths. Elected coroners who are not doctors must hire a pathologist to conduct autopsies.

The police are in charge of all murder scenes, but medical examiners and coroners are in charge of the body. Medical examiners and coroners do not interrogate suspects and detectives do not examine bodies.

Bodies are placed in body bags and delivered to the morgue in specially equipped vehicles (pictured above).

Upon arrival at the morgue, bodies are rolled onto scales where they’re weighed.

After weighing, the body is placed inside a cold room until autopsy. In this jurisdiction black or dark gray, leak-resistant body bags are used pre-autopsy. The paper bag resting on the body of the murder victim at the top of the photo contains the victim’s personal belongings. Notice there are no individual drawers for bodies.

Cold rooms also store amputated body parts. The gray trays on the right contain severed limbs. White, paper-like body bags, like the one lying on the gurney in the rear of the cold room above, are used post-autopsy for bodies waiting to be transported to funeral homes.

Our tour of the morgue continues with a peek into the autopsy room/suite, where we’ll examine some of the tools of the trade. If your stomach holds up we’ll even have a glimpse of the star of the show, a murder victim.

The photograph above is of an autopsy station. Think of it as a pathologist’s workshop. To begin the autopsy, a body is placed on a gurney and is then positioned against the center, sink area of the station (feet-first in this morgue).

WARNING – GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW!

Pathologists in this particular morgue select instruments from a rolling cart placed at each workstation.

Tools of the autopsy trade.

Some M.E.’s prefer to use a bone saw used for cutting through the rib cage beneath the “Y” incision. It’s also used for cutting through the skull.

Scales for weighing internal organs.

GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW!

WARNING>>>WARNING>>>WARNING>>>WARNING>>>WARNING>>>

Not for the weak of heart, or those who are squeamish or offended by graphic images of death and/or autopsy. 

IT IS TIME TO EXIT THIS PAGE IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO VIEW THESE IMAGES!!!!!!!

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Bodies are positioned on a gurney, at the autopsy station, prior to autopsy. Notice the lividity (the gravity-indiced purplish staining of the tissue at the lowest point of the body). This indicates the victim above was lying on his back after the heart stopped beating, and remained in that position until the lividity became fixed (12 hours, or so). Had this victim been found on his stomach with the lividity fixed on his back, well, that would be a sign that the body had been moved sometime after death.


Upper chest area of a murder victim. Ligature mark on the neck from strangling – upper left of photo.

Post autopsy “Y” incision sutures, above and below. Below image is of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Autopsy table, during autopsy. Body fluids are washed down the drain.

The end. Really … it is.

Dr. Denene Lofland

Our guest expert today is Dr. Denene Lofland. Dr. Lofland received her PhD in pathology from the Medical College of Virginia, and she’s a trained clinical microbiologist. She has served as the Director of Clinical Laboratory Sciences at Wright State University, and has worked in biotech/drug research and development for many years.

Denene has worked on drug development programs for the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).  She contributed to the FDA approval of gemifloxacin (Factive), an antibiotic for the treatment of bacterial pneumonia, a drug that is now on the market and prescribed by physicians worldwide. She recently served as Manager of North Carolina Operations for a company that conducts high-level research and development in areas such as anti-bioterrorism.

She also supervised several projects, including government-sponsored research which required her to maintain a secret security clearance. Denene has published several articles in scientific journals and recently contributed to the thirteenth edition of Bailey and Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology. She currently works as a professor at a medical school.

Microscopic Murder


What’s so interesting about microbiology?

Microorganisms were here before man walked the Earth, and they’ll be here after we’re gone. Actually, you would find it difficult to survive without them. Some bacteria, called commensals, live in and on our bodies to our benefit, protecting  us from invading pathogens (disease causing germs), and they produce vitamins.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the bad bugs. They’re responsible for more deaths than cancer, heart attacks, and war. They can disfigure, eat flesh, paralyze, or just make you feel so bad you’ll wish you were dead.

There are four major types of pathogenic microorganisms: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. They can cause damage directly, or they can release toxins that do the dirty work for them.

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HIV virus

E.coli bacteria

Aspergillus (fungi)

Loa loa (parasite) in eye

So, how can your antagonists use microorganisms to kill? They’ll need a fundamental knowledge of microbiology, such as information that’s taught in a basic college course. Next, the bad guy will need a source of bacteria. Microbiology labs all over the world contain bugs of all types.

Biological safety hood for the safe handling of bacteria

Most of these laboratories are locked, so a little B & E would be in order. Or, maybe your antagonist has a connection with a person who has control of the bug of interest. If so, the evil-doer could make what’s known in the trade as a V.I.P. trip. He’d fly to the friend’s lab, place the bug in a plastic vial, hide the vial in his pocket (V.I.P.), and get back on the plane for the trip home.

Once the antagonist has the bug, he has to keep it alive and reproducing. Bacteria are grown on agar plates (food for bugs) in an incubator. In general, bacteria double in number every 20 minutes. So, if you start with just a few bugs, let’s say 10, and allow them to grow overnight…well, you do the math.

Once the killer has enough of the bug, then it’s time to deliver it to the intended victim.

Picking up bacteria from agar plate. The brownish-red material is the agar. The grayish coloring at the top of the agar is E.coli bacteria.

Now for a true story. It wasn’t murder, just an unfortunate accident that involved a woman, some green beans, and a home canning jar. Canning jars have lids designed to exhibit a slight indentation in their centers when food is fresh. If the indentation inverts (pops up), the vegetables may be contaminated, and should be discarded.

A woman was preparing dinner for her family and decided to serve some of her home-canned green beans that evening. She picked up a jar of beans, but thought the pop-up didn’t look quite right. So, to satisfy her curiosity, she opened the jar, touched her finger to the bean juice, and tasted it. It tasted fine to her, so she cooked the beans, and served the steaming hot dish to her family. The next day, the woman died, but her family survived. The beans contained botulism toxin, produced by the bacteria, Clostridium botulinum. C. botulinum lives naturally in the soil.

Botulism toxin is one of the most powerful neurotoxins known to man. About 10 ounces could kill everyone on Earth. It works by paralyzing its victim.

Oh, why didn’t the other members of the woman’s family die? The toxin is inactivated by heat.

* Per request, we’ve re-posted today’s article. I hope it helps with your research.

Fingerprinting the dead

 

Sometimes, investigators have the unpleasant task of identifying a body that’s not in the best of conditions. Decomposition, animal scavengers, and even murderers can often alter a body’s condition so much that a visual ID is impossible. In those situations, fingerprinting the deceased may be the best method available for learning the victim’s name.

(Keep in mind, the following procedures and techniques are normally performed in the morgue by the coroner or medical examiner, not police detectives).

Occasionally, all that’s needed is a standard ink pad and ten-print card (above). Other times, the joints are rigid and unbendable, so investigators must use finger straighteners to help unclasp the digits.

finger-straighteners.jpg

 

 

Finger straightners

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Horizontal ink rollers are easier to use on the fingers of the dead than the standard vertical ones.

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Investigators use printing spoons and fingerprint card strips to print the fingers of the dead. (Photo – FBI)

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Printing spoons

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Single-digit, pre-inked pads are more convenient than the standard pads normally used where investigators roll ink onto a large, hand-size pad.

strips1.jpg

Print strip

Flesh is often decomposed, or too soft, to take a print; therefore, investigators inject a solution called tissue builder into the fingertips to make the skin firm enough to print.

finger-softening-kit.jpg

Tissue building kit.

Sometimes, the fingers are too badly twisted, or they’re clasped too tightly together to take a print, so investigators remove them from the hand. To do this they use bone snips.

shears1.jpg

Bone snips

When all else fails, investigators cut off the stiff finger, strip the skin away from the bone, and place the fingertip skin over the end of their own finger. Then they apply ink to the tiny “glove” and press it to a fingerprint card. A perfect print!

To recover prints from the body of a murder victim, investigators can perform standard brushing techniques with magnetic or other powders. They can also place the entire body in a plastic tent and fume it with Superglue just like they would with any other piece of evidence.

 

* This is a repeat article. My wife’s 104-year-old grandmother fell on Mother’s Day and broke her hip/femur. As a result, she had surgery yesterday to help alleviate the pain. Since the break was so severe there’s no real fix. Anyway, we’ll be traveling most of the day today on our way to the hospital. We’ll be back on schedule soon. Thanks for your patience.

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Torture, Or Justified Use Of Restraint And Force?

Nick Christie, a 62-year-old Florida tourist, is not confined in Gitmo. He’s not in a secret CIA prison. He’s not being held by terrorists. He was, however, at the time the photo above was taken, being tortured. At least that’s what Christie’s wife claims. And clearly the man was bound, gagged, and in a lot of distress. And yes, that is pepper spray running down the center of Christie’s nude body.

So who held and tortured Nick Christie? Who stripped him of all his clothing and then restrained him to a chair? And who, after the man was clearly in no position to harm anyone, including himself, would cast aside common sense and excessively douse Christie with an exaggerated amount of pepper spray? Oddly, strangely, and shockingly, it was sheriff’s deputies who placed Nick Christie in the position you see in the photo above. And shortly after the photo was taken, Nick Christie died. A Florida medical examiner in charge of Christie’s autopsy ruled his death a homicide.

But no deputy was charged with Christie’s death. In fact, not a single deputy was even disciplined, which means an internal Lee County, Florida investigation found that jail officers acted properly and that the techniques they used when dealing with Christie were proper.

Sure, Christie was drunk and disorderly when arrested. And I’m the first to say drunks are a pain in the tush to contend with, especially when they’re non-compliant. And yes, I’m sure he’d become a real problem for jail staff. I’ve worked in a jail so I know and understand how trying and troubling it can be when prisoners are loud, abusive, destructive, and combative. Deputies absolutely must maintain control in order to, well, maintain control. And there are times when pepper spray must be used. Tasers and other devices as well. And one such device is a restraint chair, which, by the way, was used to help control Christie.

One thing Lee County jail deputies didn’t take into account was that Christie had a pretty serious medical history, a history of both mental and physical troubles. He was taking medication for depression, and he suffered from COPD and emphysema. Obviously, the man experienced trouble taking a normal breath of air, in the best of conditions.

Well, when Christie began whatever it was he did inside the jail that caused deputies to feel the need to restrain him, staff members did indeed place Christie in a restraint chair. They stripped him naked and strapped him to the device you’ll see in a photo below. I took this picture a couple of years ago to show one of the tools that’s available to help maintain control of out-of-control prisoners. However, once the prisoner is “attached” to the chair the threat he presented to himself and others is over. He can no longer do harm to anyone.

But in Christie’s case, according to news reports, deputies also sprayed the helpless man with copious amounts of pepper spray while he was restrained in the “the chair.” They also placed a spit hood over the lower half of his face, even while he begged them to take it off because he couldn’t breathe. But deputies left the hood in place and continued to pepper spray him—8 to 10 times, depending on whose story you hear. They also “fogged” Christie’s cell with pepper spray. So much of it was used in the foggings that it began to affect inmates in other areas of the jail.

The purpose of pepper spray, by the way, is to temporarily incapacitate someone until officers can restrain them. It is not intended to be used to make someone stop yelling, talking, spitting, singing, arguing, name-calling, etc. There is no other intended use for pepper spray. None. The spray should never be used as a means to punish someone. And I say this as a former police defensive tactics instructor who was certified to train officers in the use of pepper spray and in the use of force.

The same is true for a restraint chair. The device is not to be used for punishment, or for long periods of time. Speaking of the chair…

Prison and jail officers often encounter extremely violent inmates who are a serious threat to themselves, staff, and other inmates. In these situations, normal restraining devices—handcuffs, waist chains, and leg irons—are simply not enough to properly subdue the unruly prisoner. One effective means to safely restrain and transport combative prisoners is to utilize a restraint chair.

Restraint chairs completely immobilize the prisoner’s torso and limbs. Special attachments can also limit head movement. Once the inmate is securely fastened to the chair he can be wheeled (the chair is designed to tilt back on two rear wheels similar to a furniture dolly) to desired destinations, such as the medical department, court hearings, segregation and other areas, such as the special housing unit (SHU).

Again, under no circumstances should restraint chairs be used as a means of punishment. Also, prisoners should not be left seated in a restraint chair for more than two hours.

I’m guessing the civil trial regarding the wrongful death of Nick Christie will be more than interesting, especially since a jail deputy, Monshay Gibbs, has already testified under oath that she believed the way Christie was treated was excessive. Gibbs also said she heard Christie pleading with staff members to take off the mask because he couldn’t breathe.

Of course, the fact that Christie was received into the ER with pepper spray still coating his chest is a pretty damning picture as well. By the way, once someone is sprayed with pepper spray, it is the responsibility and duty of officials to seek treatment and relief for the effects of the spray on their prisoner. To leave someone exposed to the spray for a long period of time is…well, what do you think? Is it torture? Take another look at the photo.

Torture, or no?

Fox News photo

*By the way, since I was not present during the incarceration and restraint of Mr. Christie I can only offer a report based on news stories, videos, and, well, the photo above. I cannot say one way or another if there was any wrongdoing on the part of any official or by Mr. Christie. That will be for the courts to decide.