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e-Journal

 

The Medicolegal Death Investigator
An Evolution in Crime Scene Investigations Relating to Unexpected Deaths

(Released October 2008)

 
  by Emil Moldovan  

Review

Key Citations

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Editor
 
Conclusion

Contents

Medicolegal death investigation has evolved from the archaic "English Coroner system" to a highly scientific and technical forensic field of study. (Hanzlick, 1998) The field encompasses other scientific disciplines including Anthropology, Entomology, Odontology, Botany and others that, combined with law enforcement, examine death circumstances to determine whether or not a criminal act occurred, and to establish the manner and cause of death.

police line tape

Today, the medicolegal death investigator is a professional who responds to some of the most horrific death scenes imaginable. The men and women who enter this forensic profession must possess strength in body, character and ethics in order to perform this important service. They enter crime and accident scenes dealing with death on a daily basis. They encounter all aspects of diseases, body fluids, drugs and weapons that may have potential harmful effects on them, simply from their presence. They enter homes ranging from dirty, pack-rat conditions, to executive mansions of the rich and famous. They deal with emotionally charged conditions involving the death of children, parents, wives and husbands, and always maintain a professional attitude regardless of the circumstances. They collect and handle property involving expensive jewelry, cash, and other valuables that they must protect and return to the decedent's next of kin. They must be capable of examining decomposed and mangled bodies as well as reading and interpreting important medical records to help determine the manner and causes of death. They must coordinate their investigative efforts with other law enforcement agencies, medical staffs, fire department and rescue personnel, and at the same time, protect the interest of the deceased person, whom they represent in death.

Medicolegal death investigators present a specialized ingredient to the crime scene investigation. Through training and experience, combined with fortitude in character and mental well-being, the medicolegal death investigator contributes to the investigative process in a unique manner. They must possess a highly motivated desire to help families of decedents at a time when the need for the most gentle yet professional demeanor, is demanded of them. They must interact with highly trained medical doctors, a multitude of law enforcement personnel, sometimes angry and confused family members and the bureaucracy of public service to achieve one of the most difficult and important aspects of the criminal justice system.

© 2008, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated all photos are by Emil Moldovan

References

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  2. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2004). Medical Examiners and Coroners' Offices, 2004. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice.

  3. California Government Code 27472a http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=80769025929+0+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve downloaded September, 2008

  4. California Government Code Sec. 27491 http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=80760325313+0+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve downloaded September, 2008

  5. California Penal Code Sec. 830.35.c http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=80707320082+3+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve downloaded September, 2008

  6. Clark, S. C., Ernst, M. F., Haglund, W. D., & Jentzen, J. M. (1996). Medicolegal Death Investigator: A Systematic Training Program for the Professional Death Investigator. Big Rapids, MI: Occupational Research and Assessment, Inc.

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  28. U.S. Department of Justice. (1999). Death Investigation: Guide for the Scene Investigator. Washington, D.C.: US Department of Justice.

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