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Animation Takes a Forensic Twist: 3D Moves From the Big Screen to the Courtroom

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 30 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 92-96,98,100
Jennifer Mertens
Date Published
September 2003
8 pages
This article discusses the uses of forensic animation in police work.
Forensic animation is an art that is increasingly used in civil suits and criminal cases. Animations are illustrated by using expert testimony and can be used to portray anything. The purpose is to demonstrate better than any other way the important point trying to be made to the jury. If the situation is hard to understand or envision, animation helps give the jury the image. An illustration of a body in 3D is known as a body chart. A crime involving a gunshot or knife-wound victim would be typical of using a body chart animation in court. Body charts are the most common animations. Trajectory rods illustrate to a judge and jury the entrance and exit wounds as well as angle of entrance. These animations are prepared most commonly under the supervision of a forensic pathologist as an expert witness. The second most popular animations are automotive crashes. Crashes are a bit more difficult because of the immense detail that must be accurately measured and included in crash reconstructions. The responsibility for obtaining those precise details is placed on the law enforcement personnel collecting them. Total stations have become the primary surveying equipment used for obtaining such information. This provides data in a digital format, which is more accurate and easily transferred than if taken by hand. An accurate digital drawing can provide a ready-made basis for a forensic animation, increasing efficiency, and reducing production time and costs. Then the data can be directly inputted into animation software. Using a digital camera also offers forensic animators a variety of images to recreate objects, especially when including color and texture in an animation. Images can be used to show the animator an object from different views and make the virtual scene as real as possible. Sequence of events is another type of animation created for police departments. The danger of animation is that it has tremendous psychological power. If an animation is too realistic, it could be inadmissible at trial.