Photographing Bodies and Wounds, Part 2

The first post for January 2022–WELCOME TO THE NEW YEAR!!

Evidence Photography

Last month, I presented some special considerations when documenting wounds. Specifically, light requirements when documenting homicide victims. In case you missed it, I covered two techniques, diffusion of a direct flash and manipulating the f-stop setting, that should be used to overcome the exposure tendency when photographing skin.

This month, let’s discuss the photographic requirements required of homicide victims. Just like any other item of evidence, the photographic documentation of a body should include midrange photography, relating the body to fixed features of the crime scene.

A complete panorama of the body should be included as a series of photographs:

  • full view of the body, right side
  • full view of the body left side
  • full view of the body, from feet towards the head
  • full view of the body, from the head towards the feet
  • full view of the body from overhead
  • full-face view for identification

Observe the neck area for bruising, scratches, and ligatures. In addition, check the hands and wrists for defense wounds, injuries, hesitation marks, trace evidence, gunshot residue, and items clutched in the hands. Note any indicators of postmortem interval lividity (rigor, decompositional changes, or entomological developments).

Before the body is rolled, photograph items of evidence around the body in relation to the body and hands, along with identifying features, such as visible tattoos, marks, pre-existing scars, moles, and any other unique skin features.


We’re Moving…Stay Connected. Get Trained. ENOUGH SAID.



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Crime and Science Radio: Inside the Los Angeles Regional Crime Lab: An Interview with Dean Gialamas

Start Listening! Enough Said!
Great interview. Gives insight into the operations of the lab!

The Crime Fiction Writer's Blog

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This Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 10 a.m. PST join Jan Burke and DP Lyle as they welcome Dean Gialamas, Director of the Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department’s Crime Lab, to the show to discuss this unique lab, what it’s like be be a crime lab director, the new federal forensic science commission, and more!

Dean Gialamas is the former director of the Orange County Crime Lab, the current director of the LASD crime lab, and was recently appointed to the first-ever National Commission on Forensic Science.  He is a past president of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, and the president-elect of the California Association of Crime Lab Directors.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department of Scientific Services is an ASCLD/LAB-International/ISO 17025 accredited laboratory that operates from 10 facilities and employs over 300 personnel.  It serves a population of six million residents and over 100 local, state, and federal…

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A Special Circumstance. Positional Asphyxia.

Death. It is one of those “things” that people are afraid of and yet are intrigued when it comes to celebrity deaths or high profile cases. When asked how I can “freak out” at the sight of a fly being swatted upon and yet remain calm and objective when it comes to death scenes, I just shrug my shoulders and smile (I really don’t have a clear cut reason why but I’m sure many of you can relate). I mean they are two different things.

So this leads me to my next rant: training. I was thinking…”how can I get training to you when I’m here and you’re there?”—there: another state, another country, another time zone. I figured it out! Offer a webinar!!

A webinar. Online training for you, no matter where you are! Our first webinar, Positional Asphyxia: An Introduction, will be held on March 12th and on March 19th. Each day will be 1 hour of training and you will receive a certificate of completion. The webinar will cover the types of asphyxia, associated evidence, and will focus primarily upon positional asphyxia, defined as “when death occurs as a result of the body’s position”.

Asphyxia defined.

Asphyxia defined.

This topic was always one of interest to me during my time at the coroner’s office and my training in forensics (case presentations, education, seminars, etc).

So…remember one of the first blogs you read on our page? The one about training in 2014? The one you read about getting your forensic career started? YES…THAT ONE!!…now is the time!

You want forensic training? We have it! Now you have it! REGISTER NOW!

Ok…rant is over! Get Trained! Stay Connected! Enough Said!

Hear from the Experts! Enough Said!

I love talk radio, 80s music, satellite radio, and baseball! Oh, and I LOVE forensics, forensic science text books, journals, and hearing from the experts. When the plan to develop a forensic training program (later born as Forensic Training Unlimited) was on a yellow piece of paper (I think it was on the back of a fast food receipt), I wanted to use all the experts I knew to help me launch this program and I wanted students, from our local area, Southern California, and students from other states and countries, to take advantage of this program.

One of the “experts” I’ve followed, Dr. Cyril H Wecht, is a forensic pathologist and has been a consultant in many high profile cases. He is the author of many books, including one of my favorites, “Mortal Evidence“, in which he examines famous cases, reviews the evidence behind each, and reveals his conclusion.  wechtHe is a dynamic speaker, and his passion for forensics and the truth can be heard in his voice.

Don’t believe me? Watch this interview  and spend some time with an expert! Enough Said.

Stay Connected! Sign up!

Register Now! Enough Said!

Our goal is to give you training opportunities, whether you are near us (Southern California) or far away! I get lots of questions about what is the best way for students to get additional training courses. So…since some of you can’t come to us, we’ve decided to go to you!

We have scheduled a webinar, Positional Asphyxia: An Introduction. We are SO excited to be able to bring this unique style of training to you! The webinar will cover the different types of asphyxiation, asphyxiation evidence, and will focus on positional asphyxia. The webinar will offer 2 hours of training, over the course of two weeks. The webinar’s presentation will include case reviews.

This is a MUST for YOU! Training is a must to supplement your college degree, help you lateral to a different career choice, or for those still in school (high school or college).Come on…get trained!

Register NOW! The webinar will be limited to 25 participants. Register here.

What are YOU waiting for? Enough Said!

Choose Wisely. Enough Said.

I was asked recently the following: Is there any position in forensics or law enforcement where someone with a criminal record can be hired?

Although the answer to the question could be a big fat HECK NO, I think the answer needs to be explained. Surprising, there are some students who may not know the answer and some school administrators may be unaware of the “becauses”, the “due tos”, and “the reasons why”.

The competition for forensic related positions is FIERCE! Background checks are thorough, meticulous, and can take months to years to complete. Any “spot” of criminal activity would shoot that background check, along with your hopes of obtaining this forensic job (or any forensic job for that matter because your background check follows you), out of the running. With a pool of qualified applicants without a criminal record, why would an agency select an applicant with a record? Bottom line: the opportunity for employment for someone with a criminal record, especially in an age of background checks, could be quite slim.

Another point of view: integrity. Criminal records often are related to integrity issues. These integrity issues make it nearly impossible to hire anyone who might be placed in a testimonial role. Lawyers can have a field day with a witness with these integrity issues. Imagine hearing testimony from an expert witness only to discover this expert had history of assaults and drugs. Bottom line: if your integrity has been compromised (because of your choices), it may be too far gone to be repaired.

But what about….what about the young adults who have a record of local “run ins”, who then turn their lives around and excel in academics, civic functions, and employment history. There are many young applicants currently have a juvenile record but now lead a productive adult life. Depending on the jurisdiction, these individuals may have a chance to apply and be accepted into a forensic position. Some juvenile records are for very minor events that may not be considered a disqualifier. Bottom line: criminal record needs to be defined in order to give clear understanding to those applying for positions who have a criminal record.

In our training program, we stress to students their reputation is EVERYTHING. It’s all about choices: who your friends are, who you hang out with, how you conduct yourself in public, your Facebook page (that is another post), and how you ACT under pressure (peer, work, school). Bottom line: your credibility is one important thing about you that you need to keep it intact; protect it (along with your word).



Adermatoglyphia: The Genetic Disorder Of People Born Without Fingerprints | Science | Smithsonian

Adermatoglyphia: The Genetic Disorder Of People Born Without Fingerprints | Science | Smithsonian.

To The Dead We Owe The Truth. Enough Said.

In our “business” much has been written about how to investigate a crime, the murder scene, the suicide. You are trained (or being trained) what pieces of evidence you should document, record, and collect. The keys, the diet coke can, the fibers, the half smoked cigarette butt. You are trained to collect and preserve the evidence. Unlike the CSI shows of today (it cracks me up the crime scene investigators can stroll into the interrogation room and fire those crime solving questions at the suspects), your  “people” interaction is limited to those who belong to the same team, the crime scene investigation team. Yes, you are aware of victim or victims, the family left behind, and perhaps the suspects. Now add a body into your crime scene and it’s a whole new ball game!

A victim’s body is an important crime scene piece of evidence. When investigators scan the crime scene for evidence, their search centers around one crucial piece of evidence to the crime – the victim’s body.  The condition of the crime victim can provide many pieces of information that led to the victim’s death and that information is crucial during investigation. The dead victim’s body is a silent witness to the crime and qualifies as physical evidence.

But what about the surviving family? Who answers their “why” questions? And why should you be concerned about those questions? Dean Beers, a Certified Legal Investigator, and Karen Beers, a Certified Criminal Defense Investigator, have written a book, A Survivors’ Guide to Understanding Death Investigations, which will help answer these questions. The book provides a basic background of the steps the coroner takes during death investigations, the history of the coroner’s office, and how the process of notification is done.

This book is more than a guide for the family. It will provide you a better understanding of the role of the coroner, the modes and manner of death, and the duties of the coroner. So why is this important? The more you know, the more you’re trained, the closer you are to your position, and the less likely you are to forget who you’re serving—the victim and their survivors.

As Dean Beers, wrote to me: “To the living, we owe Respect. To the dead, we owe the Truth”. Enough Said.


SFR Sunday: Inside the Mind of BTK

This is one of those cases that made the hair at the back of my neck stand! When first introduced to this case, I, like you, wondered “why”. Take the time and listen to the program. Another way to get trained. ENOUGH SAID!