Forensics Daily #11: Forensic Countermeasures

Q: what is the definition of forensic countermeasures? This phrase sounds fancy!

A: this phrase in fact is pretty self-explanatory. First, you have to understand what “countermeasure” means. “Countermeasure” means an action, an incident, or a process that prevent the normal forensic protocols. It threatens the integrity of the forensic works.

Take an outdoor crime scene as an example. The forensic countermeasure could be the unpredictable rain (though it is a natural one), which would watch away unprotected evidence. It also could be scavenging animals, trespassed people, and so forth. As long as the acts that threatens the validity of forensic evidences that are not yet protected by the chain of evidences, regardless if it is natural or artificial, it is already a sort of forensic countermeasures.

Simple concept but with fancy saying, isn’t it?

Forensics Daily #10: Estimating the Time of Death from Drowning and Remains Found in Water

Q: Is it possible to tell if victims died from drowning and the time of death of remains found in water?
A: yes, for sure there are several ways to tell if the victims were drowned. One of the ways, that is also help determine the time of death of remains found in water is to evaluate the diatom level.
Diatom refers to a diverse group of algae. It has no specific structure or characteristics as it is consider a general term of groups of algae that inhabit the remains. Yet, the migration of diatoms, meaning the sequences of diatoms in the body should tell the time of the body in the water by calculating the schedule.
The same applies to the drowning victim too! Yet, during the drowning process, victim should also have inhaled some of the fresh water (only in fresh water will find diatoms!). So in the lungs, ME should be able to find fresh water and diatoms for calculation, as well as backward calculating the appearance of diatoms in order to work out the time of death.
P.s. Diatoms belongs to the Forensic limnology department, which is a sub-discipline of forensic botany, fyi : ) !

Forensics Daily #9: Dead Wives Tales

Q: are the dead wives tales true at all? Meaning, our nails and hair do grow after we died ?

A: Yes and No. Yes, because it does look like it grows, like illusion. No, because it is NOT REALLY GROWING.. Both hair and nails look like they grow after the heart stopped working because of the skin surrounding them are dehydrated. They shrink, and thus make it appear to be longer. Funeral homes sometimes will moisturize the bodies when they are doing the prep to counteract this.

Other than the hair and nails, the chin also dries out, and pulling towards the back of a skull, thus looks like more prominent. So does the goosebump effect, because of the contraction around the hair muscle (remember we talked about in the last few q&a, after we died, our muscles are not able to relax, not unable to contract!).

These all biological responses give the sense of horror!

Forensics Daily#8: Chain of Evidence?

Q: What is chain of evidence? Is this important?
A: Two solid Yes to the questions! Chain of evidence basically refers to the sequencing of evidences found following to this order:- identification,collection,analysis,storage, preservation, transportation, presentation in court and return to owner/ next of kin. In short, it includes where, when and what the evidence was retrieved from. Also, the chain of people that have handled the evidence are also included in the long description list. This being said, the concept is SUPER important because without the proper chain of evidence executed, the evidence could be contaminated, and resulted from test failure, and more importantly, could be invalidated by the judge and jury. On top of that, this is very important as some crimes could have gone cold yet have not passed the Statute of allegation/Prosecution. The contaminated evidence would not help if in any of the cold case.

Forensics Daily#7: Signs of Biological Death

Q: Seriously, in general, what will happen to our body once our heart stopped?

A: The story goes: when the heart stopped beating, no pressure to chase the blood around, gravity causes the red blood cells sink through and settle in the dependent parts. This results a red/ purplish discoloration, which we called LIVOR MORTIS Then we have RIGOR MORTIS, which is the stiffening in the muscles. It is because the brain stopped working, and stopped RELAXING (Not Contracting) the muscles. As well as, cooling of the tissues or ALGOR MORTIS. The latter two usually kicked in as soon as 20mins after death to 3 hours; capillaries will be congealed in 4-5 hours and maximum livor mortis occurs within 6-12 hours (though size of the patches increase within first 3-6 hours)

Forensics Daily #6: Detecting Blood Stains

Q: If CSI found a possible murder weapon on scene, spotted some red stains on it, and wondered if that was actually blood, what and how to do?
A: CSI would carry out a test called “Kastle-Meyer test”. This test consists of spraying two chemicals to the stain and observe the chemical reaction to it. The two chemicals are Phenolphthalein and Hydrogen peroxide. In general, if there is blood, the swap would fade to pink instantly. The instant change was because the chemicals react with each other under the presence of blood. The instant change was because of the haemoglobin in the blood acted as a catalyst.

Forensics Daily #3

Q: what do we do with unknown or unidentified remains from the morgue, or those excavated from exhumation?
A: we clean them by a process called maceration. When forensic anthropologists come into the scene,these remains are most likely in advanced decomposition stage (usually most of the soft tissues are gone), we need to clean the remaining attached soft tissues before doing examination or identification. This process is called maceration (which is no different than the maceration we know in food preparation- sorry if I just ruined your meals :(. #sorrynotsorry ) anyways, these usually can be done by either having forensic anthropologists handpick the attached tissues with tweezers or other tools. They have to be careful that the tools may leave marks on the bones. They have to remove as many soft tissues as they can during this process. This process usually starts by dismembering the remains. Or, we can ask our lovely bugs friends- beetles for help by inviting them to this feast. They will usually focus on the tissues only without damaging the bones. After all of these are done, bones are being boiled in a big pot filled with detergent like bleach, soap and water. Cook the bones for a while, and drained it. In research institutes or in morgues, these cleaned bones will be stored in a long shoe box for storage until someone can give them a positive identification, or reclaim them.

Last thought: can u imagine we all can reduce into a size of a shoe box only at the end of the day? Sighhh…