Let's Talk About It
It is Fall here in Texas, and the weather is turning, which makes this a perfect time to discuss the importance of atmospheric conditions when reconstructing crime scenes.
When I begin a case, whether it is fresh, or decades old, the first thing I do is reconstruct the crime scene. It’s important to make the reconstruction as detailed as possible, which includes making sure I know what the weather conditions were at the time.
How about the effects of weather on a human body? A good investigator needs to study and be aware of the changes expected in different weather conditions. This knowledge may allow you to challenge the theory being put forward by the state, or to prove your own theory. Good sources of reference would be the two Body Farms, currently being operated in San Marcos, TX (Freeman Ranch, Texas State University), and in Knoxville, TN (Forensic Anthropology Center, University of Tennessee). I have had great cooperation from doctors there, who have been willing to review crime scene photographs and give expert opinions on things like insect or animal predation, rates of decomposition, etc.
The weather can also be used as a chronological marker. In one case, I was able to use the starting time of a rain shower to triangulate a witness’ testimony, and establish a timeline for the victim’s disappearance to within two minutes, versus the previous law enforcement investigation's estimate of fifteen hours.
In an investigation, anything can be meaningful if the context is understood, and weather is almost always a consideration. This is true even for crimes that happen indoors. Did the rain create soft ground that can be searched for footprints outside a window? Does the heat explain why the air conditioner was turned all the way down? Was it so cold outside that the killer left the windows open to delay decomposition and confuse investigators? If so, what does that tactic say about the killer’s sophistication?
You can contact your local meteorologist, who can provide you with Doppler radar loops, and interpretation about the weather at the location you are studying. There are also weather records kept by local airports, and university science programs.
Good luck, and always keep searching for the truth.
Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs, and using those measurements to create hyper-realistic/accurate depictions of the subject.
I do a fair amount of pro bono work under my non-profit, Actual Innocence Review (www.airtexas.org), and I recently had an opportunity to use photogrammetry. The experience was exhaustive and exhausting, but turned out to provide the information I needed to prove my client’s innocence. By creating an accurate 3D map of the crime scene, I was able to demonstrate that the primary witness against my client couldn’t possibly have seen what she claimed.
There are basically two types of photogrammetry, aerial and terrestrial (close-range), and both can be combined to assist with criminal cases. Photogrammetry has been used for years to recreate crime scenes, to include traffic accidents, but the technology has improved significantly, even in the last ten years. Due to the expense of the laser positioning equipment and whatnot, photogrammetry has almost exclusively been a tool of the state, but affordable new software programs are making it available to everyone.
As with any process claiming to be “science,” photogrammetry has and will continue to face challenges. For example, where do you find an “expert” in this field? I can suggest the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (www.asprs.org), but you can also give a free software program called Tinkercad a shot. If you want to really nail it, you can invest in a program called Photomodeler.
Add this capability to your defense arsenal, and get better results for your clients.
Daryl Parker is a published author, investigator, inventor, criminal justice reform activist, retired U.S. Marine, and treasure hunter.