As a medico-legal death investigator, you will work with many agencies and members of the public while performing your duties. An important consideration to keep in mind as you progress in your criminal justice career is the respect and understanding due to victims, family members, and next of kin. The interactions you have with these parties will shape the public’s opinion and support of forensics and law enforcement.
For this assignment, you will be given a case study to review. You will write an external briefing to be attached to the case report and the autopsy report. The briefing will go to the family of the deceased. Include the following:
All aspects of the death scene, including location, conditions, and pertinent information
All aspects of the property of the deceased that either was on the decedent when he or she was taken to the medical examiner’s office or was taken from the scene for evidence, and the disposition of any other property, such as residence
Condition of the body as regarding the possibility of a funeral and options available to the family regarding funeral contacts, services, and methods
Information you still need from the family and how would you like to get that information
Explain and describe the investigative procedures which may have been or were used during the investigation (based on information discussed and learned in class)
In writing this report, be mindful of your audience. What do you think a family member would need to know or want to know, and how should the information be presented? Be mindful of ethical disclosure, legal implications, and level of discretion when writing your report.
The report should be organized in a logical manner and written with professional language with the following requirements:
Between 3-5 pages in length
Business letter or memorandum format.
Double spaced, 1â€ margins
At 2:18am (0218) on July 18, 2014 John Michael Phillips was discovered by Duane NMN Johnson and Anthony Alonzo Capri. The body founders are self-reported to be friends of the deceased. The deceased was discovered with a needle in his arm and multiple contusions and lacerations to his face and scalp. The police are treating this death as suspicious. The discovery occurred at 64 Church Street, Virtual, MD, which is located next to the Westview housing project. This housing project has had multiple police calls and requested police presence over the past 12 months. In addition, the Narcotics Task Force has conducted multiple drug stings and other drug enforcement operations in the Westview Housing Project in the past 12 months. The police stated that there are two John Michael Phillips listed in their records. The record for each lists multiple charges of drug possession. Neither of the men who reported the body claims to know the birthday of their friend. The Phillips with a DOB of 07181991 is currently incarcerated in the Virtual Jail. Based on the booking photo of the other Phillips (DOB 01201992) the detectives made a preliminary ID. However, the multiple lacerations to the face are making a positive ID difficult.
The reason the police are treating the death as suspicious, despite the indications it is a drug overdose death, are the lacerations to the face, the contusions to the skull and the fact that the back of the victim’s skull is caved in. As the ground where the body was discovered is rocky, it is possible that the victim hit his head after overdosing. However, there was a lack of blood in the area the victim was discovered which made the detectives suspicious.
The victim was discovered wearing blue jean shorts, Levi’s, size 34, a white cotton t-shirt, size large, Calvin Kline briefs, medium, Sketchers athletic shoes, size 10, white with blue stripes and no socks. The victim also wore a gold-colored Citizens watch, multiple fabric (yarn) type bracelets, one beaded necklace and one silver colored ring on his right ring finger. The victim did not have a wallet or any type of identification on his person. The victim was carrying $117 in cash (5 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill and 7 $1 bills). The victim also had $1.45 in change (4 quarters, 3 dimes and 3 nickels). Except for the clothing, all other property was removed by the death investigator sent to the scene by the medical examiner’s office and turned over to the police.
Office of the regional coroner
Date and hour report generated:
July 18, 2014; 2:18 A.M. by
Summary report of the external briefing
Name: John Michael Phillips Case #: 1227-2014
Date of birth: Unknown Age: Unknown
Body discovered by: Duane NMN Johnson and Anthony Alonzo Capri
Investigative agency: Regional Sheriff’s Department
The deceased was presented to the medical examiner’s office at 1.07 A.M on July 18, 2014. Self-reported friends of the deceased discovered the body on the material night, and the body was presented to the medical examiner’s office covered in a white body bag. The police crime scene information say the deceased was discovered with a needle in the arm as well as multiple contusions and lacerations to the face and scalp. This has made the case suspicious and the police are treating it as suspicious. The discovery happened at 64 Church Street, Virtual, MD that is situated adjacent to the Westview housing project. This area has attracted multiple police calls and police presence over the last year has increased in an attempt to contain crime. The Narcotics Task Force, also, has sought to contain the wave by carrying out a number of drug stings as well as other drug operations in the area over the past year.
Information in police record state that there are two John Michael Philips in their records and positive identification has also been made complicated by the fact that both individuals going by that name have attracted multiple drug possession charges. In addition, neither of the self-reported friends of the victim knows his date of birth and police records indicate that one of the Phillips with a 1991 date of birth is presently incarcerated in the Virtual Jail. The second Philip in record has a date of birth recorded as 1992 and a booking photo is available to detectives, but the multiple lacerations to the deceased face make a positive identification challenging. This has led the police to request additional assistance from the family members to enable positive identification of the victim. Any available information, which would lead to positive identification of the body, is highly welcomed and the police is requesting for full cooperation with the concerned parties to resolve this seemingly mysterious case (Beers and Beers, n. d). Any individual with helpful information should contact the regional sheriff’s office or any other law enforcement establishment nearest to them.
Despite the victim being discovered with a needle in his arm and in an area that is renowned for relatively high drug- related cases, the police are treating the death as suspicious. This is because initial investigative procedures revealed lacerations to the victim’s face, the contusions to his skull, as well as the fact that the skull is caved in at the back. This raises suspicion that the victim’s death could be unrelated to apparent drug use, and unnatural causes could have led to the death possibly through excessive trauma from blunt object (s). Yet, the area where the victim was discovered in known to be considerably rocky and it could be that the deceased simply hurt his head following an overdose. The lack of blood in the crime scene, however, raises additional questions that the investigating is determined to provide answers. The investigation of the events leading to victim’s death is exploring all the possibilities, and the police team assigned the case have promised to leave no stone unturned. Nothing is left to chance regarding positive identification and circumstances of the death of this victim.
Information from the discovery scene implies that the victim is presented as he is presented to the medical examiner’s office. The body structure is that of a normally developed male, and the body is cold. He is clad blue jean short labeled Levi’s, size 34 and a white cotton t- shirt, size Large, and briefs labeled Calvin Klein that read medium size. He is also wearing sketchers athletic shoes, size 10, which are white in color and have blue stripes. The victim is wearing no socks, and he has a gold- colored Citizens watch, multiple fabric –yarn- type bracelets, a beaded necklace, as well as a silver colored ring on his right finger. At the time of discovery, the deceased had no wallet or any other type of document relevant to help in the identification process. The victim was carrying $117 in cash made up of five (5) $20 bills, one (1) $10 bill, and seven (7) $1 bills. In addition, the deceased had $1.45 in change made up of four (4) quarters, three (3) dimes, as well as three (3) nickels. Save for the clothing, all the described property was removed by the death investigator sent to the crime scene by the medical examiner’s office and made available to the police.
The family is highly encouraged to contribute to this case and, hopefully, serve the investigating team with crucial information that could lead to positive identification and proper closer.
Beers, D and Beers, K. (n.d). Professional investigations. Retrieved from http://www.forensicmag.com/sites/forensicmag.com/files/Reviewing%20and%20Comprehending%20Autopsy%20Reports.pdf