STUDY OF PHYSICAL AND BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCES ON CLOTHES AMONGST AUTOPSIES CONDUCTED AT M S RAMAIAH MEDICAL COLLEGE, BANGALORE.
6.0 BRIEF RESUME OF THE INTENDED WORK 6.1 NEED FOR STUDY
In medico legal autopsies importance is often placed on the external and internal findings to opine the cause, manner and time since death and seldom the other corroborative evidences are looked into which may lead to a failure in the administration of justice. The clothes worn by the individual though reflects the social status of the person, in unnatural deaths the information that can be gathered by the evidences on the clothes is very pertinent.
Clothes play a significant role in identification of an individual by means of fabric, colour, make, size, laundry mark or tailor mark and their pocket contents. Further various biological and physical evidences present on the clothing when observed carefully would solve various other objectives of medico legal autopsy-viz cause of death (saliva in case of hanging, vomitus in case of poisoning, mud in case of drowning, blood and grease stains, railway and tyre marks in road traffic accidents etc), manner of death(pattern of cuts or tears and blood stain pattern, source and location on the clothes would help in determining whether the manner is suicidal/homicidal or accidental) and further presence of seminal stains, hairs on the clothes would be a clue in sexual assault cases, so also the various other physical evidences like mud stains, grass stains, glass shards, grease stains etc would be helpful in ascertaining the place of occurrence. Thus much depends upon the evidences on the clothes, which when documented by photograph and collected in a scientific way would form an important link in the chain of custody and would give valuable inputs to the investigating officer in the detection of crime and thereby in the administration of justice.
But, very few studies have been done in this regard, thus this study is taken up to ascertain the role of various biological and physical evidences on clothing which are medico legally significant.
6.2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE Whether or not the pathologist has been to the scene of a death, he should take notice of the clothing and other property of the body upon which he is to carry out an autopsy. This applies not only to every criminal or suspicious death, but also to many traffic and industrial accidents, as well as to the victims of falls from a height, drowning and so on.
The mortuary staff should be trained to regard the clothing and property as important items of evidence and a system should be established to retain, identify and store these, both from the evidential aspects and for the safety of valuables. The clothes themselves, the style, fabric, colour and labels all assist in identity.
Blood, seminal, vaginal and other body secretions may be found on the clothing, and though this is primarily the responsibility of the forensic science laboratory, the pathologist may be the first or only person to detect their presence.
If the body is not bleeding or otherwise fouled, it is best to remove clothing in the usual way by pulling over the head and limbs, unless this might interfere with any injuries or soiling. If rigor is intense or if there is blood on the face or hands, it may be advisable to cut off some or all of the clothing. This should be done after consultation with the forensic scientists, if they are present, so that the cuts will be made where they will least interfere with later laboratory. In any event, cuts should avoid passing through pre-existing damage or staining of the garments. Each item of the clothing should be placed separately into a paper bag to allow them to ‘breathe’.1
Locard’s exchange principle states that “when any two objects come into contact, there is always a transfer of material from each object on the other.” Traces from the scene may be carried away on the person or tools of the criminal, and at the same time, traces from all or any of these may be left at the scene. It is actual evidence, and its presence is absolute proof of the crime.2
In traffic fatalities, clothes need to be examined for tears, contamination by oil or grease and presence of foreign fragments such as glass or paint. It may all assist in reconstructing the event and in identifying the unknown vehicle in a hit and run tragedy.3
In a retrospective study, the results from 786 samples of alleged sexual assaults during a 5-year period were evaluated. Of the samples, 758 were from female victims and 28 were from male victims. The material examined during this 5-year period consisted of 561 cotton swabs with swabs taken from the genitals, mouth, anus, or skin surface. In addition, textile products were examined 191 times and other evidentiary materials 11 times. Sperm could be found microscopically in 3% of cases with a negative acid phosphatase(acP) test, and DNA analysis was also successful. However, an individual investigative strategy has to be determined for each case, as, depending on the structure of the case, the evidence of male DNA on a female victim, or on her clothes, for instance, can also have evidentiary value without microscopic proof for sperm.4
Part of assessment of stab wounds must include examination of the deceased’s clothing. The importance of overlying garments has been discussed in relation to self inflicted injuries. In homicide cases, careful examination of the defects of garments produced by a sharp weapon such as a knife can be very instructive and frequently assist the pathologist in assessing the number of times the deceased had been stabbed. Although clothing will be examined by the forensic scientist after the autopsy, the pathologist must not miss the opportunity to examine the clothing and the various tears produced by a knife, in conjunction with the wounds found on the body.5
In firearm injuries, purpose of examination of clothing is to establish range of firing, whether it is wound of entry or exit and also sometimes to locate the bullet. Clothing is to be removed layer by layer. All layers should be listed and their condition, any stain, holes, etc in each item should be noted. The number and location of bullet holes should be recorded. A number should be assigned to each one and they should be described in relation to distance from collar, pockets etc. Due to creases in clothing, a single bullet can produce more than a single hole. Preferably with a magnifying hand lens one should try to find out if the fibers of clothes are turned inwards or outwards. Clothes with bullet holes or tracks should be photographed with a scale placed nearby. Infrared photography may be useful in detecting the soot deposits on dark or black coloured garments.6 6.3. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
To ascertain the role of physical and biological evidences on clothing in opining the cause and manner of death and place of occurrence.
To ascertain the role of clothing in sexually related deaths.
7. 0 MATERIALS AND METHODS 7.1 SOURCE OF DATA
This study shall include medicolegal cases subjected for autopsy where biological and physical evidences present on the clothing are medicolegally significant. 7.2 METHOD OF COLLECTION OF DATA Firstly, preliminary examination of the body with the clothes in situ will be done. After removal of the clothes, various evidences on the clothing will be examined with clear description of the site, physical examination of stains and correlation of damage to clothing with the injuries.
The findings will be documented with a standard proforma and substantiated with clear photographs where ever necessary.
INCLUSION CRITERIA: All Cases with biological and physical evidence visible on the clothing.
EXCLUSION CRITERIA: NIL
The study would be from October 2011 to April 2013 for a period of 18 months on cases where in the physical and biological evidence on the clothes is medico legally significant. Subsequently they would be sub stratified on the basis of specific type of cause of death.
Descriptive statistics mean (SD) and Percentage (Proportion) for continuous and discontinuous data, chi square test of proportion for association between various subtypes and evidence. Pearson’s correlation coefficient for correlation between evidence from clothes and injuries observed.
7.3 DOES THE STUDY REQUIRE ANY INVESTIGATIONS OR INTERVENTIONS TO BE CONDUCTED ON HUMANS OR ANIMALS?
YES, Human cadavers subjected for post-mortem examination.
7.4 HAS ETHICAL CLEARANCE BEEN OBTAINED FROM YOUR INSTITUTION?