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Theoretical and Practical Considerations in Crime Scene Reconstruction

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 57 Issue: 6 Dated: November/December 2007 Pages: 891-929
Ross M. Gardner; Tom Bevel
Date Published
November 2007
39 pages
This paper examines the history of crime-scene reconstruction (CSR) in order to identify basic concepts associated with traditional reconstruction methodologies.
The authors identify five common themes in the major writings that have influenced the development of CSR. First, the data define the conclusion. Second, the objective data are found at the crime scene in objects and scene context. Third, the effective forensic evaluation of evidence leads to refined data, which produces more refined conclusions. Fourth, "what happened" and "in what order it happened" are critical components of CSR. Fifth, crime-scene analysis uses reductionism; i.e., it is a bottom-up approach in which the analysis is based on and proceeds from the physical evidence. These five common themes must be incorporated into any practical methodology used in CSR; however, having a methodology is not sufficient. In order to meet the "scientific" standard, such a methodology must be built on a basic theory and supporting principles. This leads the authors to a discussion of the theoretical aspects of crime-scene reconstruction. Further, since a theory is always supported by specific principles or laws that are applied through a supporting methodology, the authors also address associated principles in CSR. The article concludes with a detailed description of a practical methodology for CSR. The seven basic steps are to collect data; establish specific event segments; establish which event segments are related to one another; sequence these related segments, establishing a flow for that event; consider all possible sequences, auditing the background evidence to resolve contradictions; establish a final order for the events based on event segment sequence; and flowchart the entire incident and validate the sequence. 4 figures and 12 references