Reports and Publications
The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Evidence (OSAC) develops documentary standards for forensics through a standards developing organization or other consensus-based process that allows for participation and comment from relevant stakeholders. Standards under consideration as well as approved standards are available in the OSAC Registry. Standards are being developed for each forensic discipline.
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences Standards Board develops documentary standards for forensics through a consensus process, involving participation by all directly and materially affected persons. The standards that have been published are available on the ASB website. Standards are being developed for each forensic discipline.
The Health In Justice Action Lab of the Northeastern University School of Law has created a toolkit for attorneys defending death by distribution of drugs. This toolkit will be useful to defenders in handling charges of this sort in NC, both for the old murder by distribution and the new death by distribution.
Investigative series compiled by Pro Publica, in partnership investigation with NPR and Frontline that looks at the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices and reports on problems identified with the system.
U.S. Department of Justice, FBI Laboratory Division. Provides guidance and procedures for methods of collecting, preserving, packaging, and shipping evidence and describes the forensic examinations performed by the FBI’s Laboratory Division and Operational Technology Division.
U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. A best-practices guide for death scene investigators produced by the National Medicolegal Review Panel, an independent multidisciplinary group of both international and national organizations whose constituents are responsible for investigating death.
See pp. 241-268 for the National Research Council’s assessment of the disciplines of forensic pathology and death investigation.
- Medical Examiners’ and Coroners’ Handbook on Death Registration and Fetal Death Reporting, Center for Disease Control
National Association of Medical Examiners. Drafted to improve uniformity in manner of death determinations for death certificates. View additional position papers and accreditation information on the NAME website.
This 2001 report by the North Carolina Medical Examiner Study Group was requested by the legislature in part in response to a series of news articles that raised concerns about the quality of death investigation in North Carolina. The report provides information about the structure and responsiblities of the Medical Examiner system and makes a number of recommendations for improving the system including improved training, utilization of trained death investigators, and assuring adequate resources for the performance of death investigation and autopsies throughout the state.
2001 report by the North Carolina Medical Examiner Study Group was requested by the legislature in part in response to a series of news articles that raised concerns about the quality of death investigation in North Carolina. The report provides information about the structure and responsibilities of the Medical Examiner system and makes a number of recommendations for improving the system including improved training, utilization of trained death investigators, and assuring adequate resources for the performance of death investigation and autopsies throughout the state.
Review of book by M. Lee Goff that uses case studies to explain the process by which different species of bugs break down decomposing bodies.
From the Blog
- Attorneys have asked me what discovery should be available from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in cases where an autopsy was performed by that office. The Autopsy Report is a public record. It can be requested through the OCME website, or it can be provided through discovery. Photos, videos, or audio recordings of …
- Homicide: Manner of Death vs. Legal Conclusion, 12/12/2019Like many other experts, medical examiners use terms of art which might be confusing for non-experts. The use of the term “homicide” to classify a death might confuse jurors and attorneys alike. It may, therefore, be worthwhile to take steps to ensure that a medical examiner’s testimony conveys the proper information despite using a potentially …
- There will be an autopsy viewing and tour of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh for defense attorneys on Friday, August 30th, 2019 starting at 8:45 am. Attorneys and defense investigators will have an opportunity to witness an autopsy and then engage in a guided tour of the OCME and its toxicology …
- According to the North American Entomology Association, it is easy for investigators to attribute postmortem damage to a body due to insect activity to antemortem occurrences. Studies have shown that the insects that feed on decaying bodies often leave behind marks or abrasions that can be misinterpreted by investigators. A recent study conducted at the …
- Cognitive Bias and Forensic Anthropology, 8/4/2014A study looking at how the conclusions of forensic anthropologists may be influenced by extraneous information highlights the importance of protecting all scientists from potentially biasing information. Forensic anthropologists determine the gender, national origin, and age of a person at the time of death. In some cases this determination must be based solely on skeletal …
- Researchers at Texas State University’s forensic anthropology research facility, one of the country’s five “body farms,” have discovered that failure to take into account the role of vultures may have affected time of death calculations in homicide investigations. See Associated Press coverage here. The scientists observed a flock of vultures reduce a corpse that had …
This study investigates the effects of contextual information on forensic toxicology testing and analysis. By Hilary J. Hamlett & Itiel E. Dror
- Cognitive bias in forensic pathology decisions, Journal of Forensic Sciences
The annual Western NC Death Investigation Conference will be presented via live webinar on April 10, 2021. The program is being offered by the Northwest AHEC. 6 hours of CLE credit is anticipated. Topics include expert witness testimony, investigation of death due to possible elder abuse or neglect, gunshot wound characteristics, identification and forensic aspects of radiology, and more.
- Live webinar, Sponsored by NACDL
The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence is offering this free webinar program.
Given the vital role of medical examiners and coroners (ME/C) in recognizing emerging trends in drug overdose deaths, partnering epidemiologists with ME/C offices can greatly enhance the utility of the significant volume of data generated by medicolegal death investigation. Epidemiologists from three unique ME jurisdictions—North Carolina, New Mexico and Virginia—share their experiences with monitoring drug overdose deaths, trends observed, and how best to utilize ME/C data to inform public health policy.
Detailed Learning Objectives:
1) Describe the potential role of epidemiologists in medical examiner offices and how they can assist in utilizing medicolegal death investigation data.
2) Understand current trends in drug overdose deaths as analyzed by three large statewide ME jurisdictions.
3) Understand the challenge of balancing state-mandated priorities with research and public health outreach.
Dr. Sarah L. Lathrop
Kathrin ‘Rosie’ Hobron
Sample direct and cross-examinations of various forensic witnesses, including a firearm/toolmark expert, fingerprint expert, pathologist, DNA expert, and other forensic experts.
The NIJ has a number of free or low cost software tools that may be of assistance in understanding forensic evidence disciplines of digital forensics, arson investigation, DNA, death investigation, and more.
Bartleby.com edition of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body features 1,247 illustrations and a subject index with 13,000 entries.
The North Carolina Medical Examiner System is a network of medical doctors and allied health professionals throughout North Carolina who voluntarily devote their time, energy, and medical expertise to see that deaths of a suspicious, unusual or unnatural nature are adequately investigated. The OCME investigates all deaths in North Carolina due to injury or violence, as well as natural deaths that are suspicious, unusual, or unattended by a medical professional.
The Medicolegal Death Investigation Subcommittee of OSAC focuses on standards and guidelines related to sudden, unnatural, unexplained or suspicious deaths, including homicides, suicides, unintentional fatal injuries, drug-related deaths and other deaths that are sudden or unexpected; determination of the cause and manner of death.
Motions and Briefs
- Order of Dismissal with Prejudice – 2011 Superior Court order dismissing the charge of first degree murder with prejudice where forensic evidence was destroyed prior to the defense having the opportunity to examine it, despite defendant’s filing of a motion to preserve evidence. The Court found that material and favorable evidence to the defendant was intentionally destroyed and that the defendant suffered irreparable prejudice as a result of the violation of his constitutional and statutory rights.
- Court of Appeals decision – reverses the trial court’s order granting the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Vacates trial court’s order imposing discovery sanctions against the State.
Death Investigation in the News
- The Police Called It An Accident. She Went to 1-800-Autopsy., by Erika Hayasaki, New York Times, 7/8/2021
- Chauvin trial aftermath: Dr. David Fowler and the case of the incredible expert, by Dan Rodricks, Baltimore Sun, 4/30/2021
- ‘Excited Delirium’: The Medical Debate Lurking Behind Chauvin Trial, by Andy Monserud, Courthouse News Service, 4/16/2021
- With George Floyd, a Raging Debate Over Bias in the Science of Death, by Shaila Dewan, New York Times, 4/14/2021
- Another Week Of Testimony Ends At Derek Chauvin’s Trial, by Scott Simon and Martin Kaste, NPR, 4/10/2021
- Prosecutor, medical examiner talks underscore complexity of Derek Chauvin case, by Libor Jany and Chao Xiong, Star Tribune, 4/9/2021
- George Floyd’s Cause of Death Is Crucial in Trial. Forensic Pathologists Explain., by Sheri Fink, New York Times, 4/8/2021
- EXPLAINER: Why would an expert witness go without pay?, by Kathleen Foody, Washington Post, 4/8/2021
Death Investigation Experts
- John L. Almeida, M.D., F.C.A.P., Jacksonville, NC
- Jonathan L. Arden, MD, VA
- William Bass, Ph.D., Knoxville, TN
- Robert C. Bux, MD, Colorado Springs, CO
- Dr. Yale H. Caplan, Ph.D., D-ABFT, Baltimore, MD
- MGF Gilliland, M.D., Greenville, NC
- Lee Goff, Ph.D., Kaneohe, HI
- Neal H. Haskell, Ph.D., Rensselaer, IN
- Karen Kelly, M.D., Greenville, NC
- Patrick Lantz, MD, Winston-Salem, NC
- Louis A. Levy, MD, San Antonio, TX
- Murray Marks, Ph.D., Knoxville, TN
- J. Thomas (Tom) McClintock, Ph.D., Lynchburg, VA
- John Meyer, Ph.D., Raleigh, NC
- George R. Nichols II, MD, Louisville, KY
- William Oliver, M.D., Seymour, TN
- Janice Ophoven, MD, Woodbury, MN
- Thomas Owens, MD, Harrisburg, NC
- Jonathan Privette, M.D., Charlotte, NC
- Christena Roberts, MD, Black Mountain, NC
- Thomas A. Sporn, MD, Durham, NC