Sharp Force Trauma Macroscopic Evidence on Bone Morphology Term Paper

Pages: 35 (9687 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 25  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Animals

Sharp Force Trauma Macroscopic Evidence on Bone Morphology

Reviewing the literature is of utmost importance. Without a comprehensive review of literature on the subject, readers of a study are left with a lack of understanding or with a misconception that the results of the study or the subject being studied exists in a kind of bubble and has no relevance to other areas of study that are along the same basic issues. In order to encompass the entire issue, some of the areas that surround forensics and pathology must also be addressed before bone morphology is specifically discussed.

This is done to give an overview of the issue and to show the different ways that are used in order to ensure that crimes are solved and understandings are made regarding testing procedures and concerns. Because of this, forensic entomology, DNA sampling, and fossil evidence will all be addressed before bone morphology is discussed.

Forensic entomology is a relatively new area of study when it comes to murder, but it can tell a great deal that is very helpful with homicide investigations and other areas of law and medicine. It is for this reason that the interest in forensic entomology has continued to grow, and the field appears to fascinate many people. This is especially true when they begin to realize how much insects can tell humans.

For the purposes of this paper, the field of forensic entomology will be discussed only as it deals with homicide and what the insects on a corpse can tell medical examiners and law enforcement about time and place of death. The dipteran life cycle will also be discussed as it plays an important role in many of these kinds of investigations and is quite often used by forensic entomologists that are seeking answers.

Many laypeople became interested in forensic entomology through movies such as "The Silence of the Lambs," because forensic entomologists figured somewhat prominently in the movie. These forensic entomologists are now considered "cool" by many people who find the field gruesome and fascinating at the same time. This somewhat morbid fascination with death and what can be learned from a corpse has propelled forensic entomology, if not into the spotlight, than at least out on the edge of the stage. Forensic entomology may or may not be "cool," but it is a serious science and has much to tell individuals that are studying a corpse to determine when that person died and where. If foul play is thought to be involved, when the victim died and where can be pieces of evidence that would be considered very crucial in bringing the murderer to justice.

The most popular insect utilized to determine the time of death is the blowfly (Benecke, Barksdale, Sundermeier, Reibe, & Ratcliffe, 2000). It is important not only because it colonizes every corpse that it finds, but also because it has a very set pattern about when it appears and what type of larval stages it goes through, including how long it takes for the eggs to hatch based on temperature (Benecke, Barksdale, Sundermeier, Reibe, & Ratcliffe, 2000). Issues such as whether eggs were laid by more than one group of blowflies can also be determined based on larval stages found on the corpse and whether the temperature of the body and surrounding area was hot or cold (Benecke, Barksdale, Sundermeier, Reibe, & Ratcliffe, 2000).

The blowfly, of course, is not the only insect that is considered when looking at insects to help determine the time of death, although it is the most common and usually the earliest insect on the scene. Other insects that can be found on or around a corpse include beetles, as there are many different varieties (Lord, 2004). These usually appear when the corpse has 'dried out' to some degree, and they continue the process that the flies have started (Lord, 2004). Butterflies and other insects also sometimes land on or around corpses, but they are generally not of forensic value, and it is the flies and the beetles that hold significance for any serious homicide investigation where forensic entomology is involved.

Also important to the insect colonization of the corpse is what type of weather existed between the time of the victim's death and the time that the body was found (Benecke, Barksdale, Sundermeier, Reibe, & Ratcliffe, 2000). Weather that was rainy, foggy, or otherwise damp can cause more activity from the insects that like shade and cooler weather, while some insects prefer sunny, dry weather and will be most active when this kind of weather is taking place (Benecke, Barksdale, Sundermeier, Reibe, & Ratcliffe, 2000). The weather may not seem very significant to many who come upon a dead body, but the role that the weather, and therefore the insects, play in determining the time of death can be very significant (Benecke, Barksdale, Sundermeier, Reibe, & Ratcliffe, 2000).

The subject has become so popular that various museums are creating exhibits that deal with the issue. One of these, the Science Museum of Minnesota, had a 2003 exhibit that dealt with forensic entomology, including fake corpses in various states of decay, many insects, information about forensic entomologists and what they do, and some hands-on studies that people could use to try to piece together clues and determine the 'time of death' based on information provided by the insects found (Harlow, 2003). The exhibit was designed by a forensic entomologist, M. Lee Goff, who was, at that time, one of only nine individuals in the world to be certified as a forensic entomologist (Harlow, 2003).

It does not appear to be work that many want to do, and most people do not even know about it (Sachs, 1998). If there were more knowledge, however, it appears likely that more crimes would be solved based on the evidence collected from insects. Naturally, there is no guarantee that this would happen, because much of what these individuals do will still not hold up well in court. However, there are more and more cases that are using some of this type of evidence to help convict murderers, and it is predicted by some that this trend will continue until forensic entomology is as well-recognized within the legal system and the courtroom as other tests used today.

DNA testing and other methods that are currently used and accepted to find the murder in many cases were not always accepted by the courts, or by others in law enforcement. It took a long time for these tests to be studied thoroughly enough to prove that they were reliable and valid. Once this was done, there was far less concern about these tests not being valid or convicting someone that was innocent. In fact, DNA testing has led to the release of several individuals who claimed that they were innocent - and they were. The evidence proved that they did not commit the crime, and although they cannot get back the amount of time that they lost, they are free men today.

One of the main ways that forensic entomology works to prove the time of death is through the dipteran cycle. This is the cycle that the diptera, or blowfly, goes through from the egg to the adult (Sachs, 1998). When a blowfly arrives it will lay eggs, and these will hatch. The larvae of the blowfly will then use the corpse for food, and they secrete a chemical that breaks down the body so that it can be consumed more easily (Sachs, 1998). The larvae go through three distinct stages where they grow larger and enough of their characteristics change that the three stages can be identified by those that study them, making identification much easier (Sachs, 1998).

These things happen in very predictable time periods, and because of this it helps to show when an individual died. If there was foul play involved in the death of the individual, establishing the time of death can help to show where that person might have been at that time, when they were last seen living, and who might have been in their company around the time of their death. From this, suspects can often be found and this can help law enforcement to catch a killer.

Unfortunately for the future of this science, it meets with a lot of objections in the courtroom, even though it has so far been shown to be very reliable (Sachs, 1998). Something as simple as the fact that the temperature readings for the day were taken 20 miles from where the body was found can have a bearing on the case (Sachs, 1998). The lawyers of defendants have argued that, just because it reached a certain temperature in one town, that does not mean that it reached that temperature in another town miles up the road (Sachs, 1998). Since temperature plays a large role in how fast the body is found by insects, how fast the eggs are lain and hatched, and how fast… [END OF PREVIEW]

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