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Cracking Cases: The Science of Solving Crimes

NCJ Number
Henry C. Lee; Thomas W. O'Neil
Date Published
303 pages
This book describes the facts, investigations, and legal resolutions of five American case studies of murder.
The term forensics is the direct application of scientific knowledge and techniques to matters of law. The forensic scientist must combine the findings, intuition, and common sense to find the truth. All five cases involved male spousal abusers and the murder of a female victim. Spousal abuse can be physical or psychological, or both. Control is a common element in both forms. Legal medicine is defined as the application of the medical sciences to the legal fields of crime and punishment. The first case involved a police officer in Hawaii, Sergeant Kenneth Mathison, who was well respected but suspected of killing his wife. The question regarding this case was whether police officers could be expected to thoroughly investigate a fellow member of the force. The second case, the Woodchipper case, contributed to a change in the criminal justice system because only fragments of the body were found. Odontology, pathology, serology, blood spatter evidence, credit card tracing evidence, fabric and hair examination, time-line analysis, and weather evidence, were just some of the forensic fields that played a critical role in the case’s successful prosecution. The third case was the O.J. Simpson case, which brought out the worst in the country’s media. Among the issues of the trial were race, wealth, fame and celebrity, and spousal abuse. A number of intractable and critical errors had been made by some of the investigators handling the case, which resulted in an acquittal for the defendant. The fourth case, the Sherman case, involved the murder of a pregnant woman by her husband. This case was about the importance of establishing the victim’s time of death. The fifth case, the MacArthur case, was complicated by the fact that the defendant was an experienced homicide detective who killed his wife. The successful outcome of this case was very dependent on the preservation of the crime scene and the physical evidence. Bibliography