A Chicago native, Kathleen J. Reichs is an award winning international bestseller, winner of the 1997 Ellis award for best first novel. Her novel Deja Dead was only the first in a series of books. She went on to write four more novels: Death du Jour, Deadly Decisions , Fatal voyage and Grave Secrets. Kathy Reichs is a internationally recognized forensic anthropologist working on cases around the world, from examining the tomb of the unknown soldier, and working at ground zero, New York, to being an expert witness between Charlotte and Montreal were she currently divides her time. These experiences are what gave birth to her novels, each of her stories is based on her own personal experiences.
Evil exists in every human being, the closest most get to this evil is by criminal activities. But, most people also have a natural need for justice when this evil called crime is committed. Justice is often acquired through the means of forensic science, or simply forensics, the application of science to law. Scientific procedures, methods, and technologies are used in investigating these crimes and proving the guilt of an accused suspect in a court of law.
After the evidence is gathered from a crime scene, and photographs have been taken. A crime involving a body normally begins with the Medical Examiner ( also referred to as the ME) conducts an autopsy, the examination of the body after death. The ME studies the deceased to determine his or her identity, as well as the cause, method, mode and time of death.
The ME determines the time of death by pathology. When a human dies he or she shuts down in stages, the bodies live temperature of 98,6 degrees, is maintained for one to two hours after death, then begins to cool, till it finally drops to it‘s surroundings temperature. But, this method is only used if the body has been discovered within 48 hours. For those cadavers found weeks after death a forensic entomologist enters the scene and uses his or her knowledge of insect life to determine the time and date of death.
Insects are attracted to a decaying corpses odour. This may smell bad to humans, but for an insect it’s chow time, and a perfect place for laying eggs. Since insects go through different stages of life at different times, a forensic entomologist (FE) will take samples of the insects surrounding the body, and identify what species they are. Then the FE will cultivate the larvae to discover the time each stage takes. Once the species and stages of their life has been established, the entomologist can determine how many hours and days the body has gone unfound. Insects can also tell if the body has been moved after death by comparing the local insects found around the body and the insects inside the body.
Identifying a corpse is sometimes very simple, people usually carry with them a wallet or some kind of identification, it’s a simple task to simply examen the contents of a wallet. But, in some infrequent circumstances a body is not carrying any identification and no one is able to identify him or her. Under these circumstances, the ME, and other forensic specialists are brought in to work with the evidence and make an identification. The easiest things to do are to describe the victims appearance and search the missing persons reports.
The next step would be to take the body’s fingerprints and compare it with the federal fingerprint files. Since no two people have the exact same fingerprints and the pattern is unchanged through life if a match is found the deceased has an identity. Fingerprints can also link a suspect to his crime, fingerprints found at the scene of the crime are compared to a suspect’s fingerprints establishing absolute proof the suspected was there.
If a body part or a bodies skeleton his found, enter the forensic anthropologists to identify the victim’s remains. A forensic anthropologist must suggest the age, sex, stature, ethnic group, and other unique characteristics of a descendent with anthropology, the study of human beings. In the novel Fatal Voyage, author Kathy Reichs has her heroine, forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan, investigating plane crash victims. Body parts have been scattered and Dr. Brennan must determine which body parts go together to identify the body by comparing her description to the description of the passengers on the plane. In other cases without a passenger list investigators can take the description made by the forensic anthropologist and compare it to missing persons files.
Forensic science depends on evidence to help solve a crime, and bring criminals to justice. Evidence is a reliable witness, it can be anything and everything in the physical universe that helps establish the facts. From a single hair, to a trail of blood, we humans are made of a cocktail of biological materials that can be left behind at the crime scene, which all can be used to identify the criminal with DNA analysis. Other evidence can suggest contact between the victim and the suspect.
Like Sherlock Holmes depended on his trusty magnifying glass, the forensic scientists of today depend on their tools of the trade to uncover evidence. Without these technologies some evidence needed to solve the crime would be obsolete and others not even uncovered. An example would be the chemical luminol, used to highlight blood that has been washed away from the crime scene. .
Many books, television programs and movies have based themselves on the idea of forensic science and detective work, from Sherlock Holmes to the popular television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. These stories show a glimpse of the work involved in forensics, but only a glimpse. On the television and in movies the hero or heroine often reveals the identity of the criminal with one piece of evidence, one clue, that solves the hole case. The real investigators are much harder working and cannot reveal the criminal that instantly. Very often the cases cannot be solved due to an insufficiency of evidence.
The search for justice is a hard and long process, which involves many scientific methods procedures, and technologies. For some the search of justice is to strenuous, but for others who remind themselves that justice is needed in a society of laws, it’s a living. Kathy Reichs describes the reasons for doing what she does in her book Fatal Voyage when her heroine Dr. Brennan says, ”I want to serve both the living and the dead. The dead have a right to be identified .To have their stories drawn to a close and to take their places in our memories. If they died at the hands of another, they also have a right to have those hands brought to account.” Forensic scientists require extensive knowledge, training, and skill. They also require a healthy appetite of curiosity, a quean eye of observation, the emotional stamina to work with human tragedies, and to be able to view the evil of man.
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