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Forensics For Dummies

Forensics For Dummies

by Douglas P. Lyle

Paperback(2nd ed.)

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Understand the real-life science behind crime scene investigation

Forensics For Dummies takes you inside the world of crime scene investigation to give you the low down on this exciting field. Written by a doctor and former Law & Order consultant, this guide will have you solving crimes along with your favorite TV shows in no time. From fingerprints and fibers to blood and ballistics, you'll walk through the processes that yield significant information from the smallest clues. You'll learn how Hollywood gets it wrong, and how real-world forensics experts work every day in fields as diverse as biology, psychology, anthropology, medicine, information technology, and more. If you're interested in a forensics career, you'll find out how to break inand the education you'll need to do the type of forensics work that interests you the most. Written for the true forensics fan, this book doesn't shy away from the details; you'll learn what goes on at the morgue as you determine cause of death, and you'll climb into the mind of a killer as you learn how forensic psychologists narrow down the suspect list.

Crime shows are entertaining, but the reality is that most forensics cases aren't wrapped up in an hour. This book shows you how it's really done, and the amazing technology and brilliant people that do it every day.

  • Learn who does what, when they do it, and how it's done
  • Discover the many fields involved in crime scene investigation
  • Understand what really happens inside a forensics lab
  • Examine famous forensics cases more intriguing than any TV show

Forensic scientists work in a variety of environments and in many different capacities. If you think television makes it look interesting, just wait until you learn what it's really like! Forensics For Dummies takes you on a tour of the real-world science behind solving the case.

P.S. If you think this book seems familiar, youre probably right. The Dummies team updated the cover and design to give the book a fresh feel, but the content is the same as the previous release of Forensics For Dummies (9781119181651). The book you see here shouldnt be considered a new or updated product. But if youre in the mood to learn something new, check out some of our other books. Were always writing about new topics!

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119608967
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 06/12/2019
Series: For Dummies Books
Edition description: 2nd ed.
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 129,615
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

D.P. Lyle, MD, is the award-winning author of many nonfiction books and works of fiction. He is the co-host of Crime and Science Radio, and has worked as a forensics consultant with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Monk, Judging Amy, House, and Pretty Little Liars. Find him online at

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 2

Beyond the Book 3

Where to Go from Here 3

Part 1: Cracking Open the Case 5

Chapter 1: Understanding the World of Forensic Science 7

Defining Forensics: The Science of Catching Criminals 8

Integrating science into the practice of law 8

Drawing from other sciences 9

Getting the Big Picture: Forensic Science in Action 9

Starting out small: Basic forensic services 10

Looking at physical forensic science 11

Delving into biological forensic science 11

Investigating the Crime Lab 12

Creating the first crime lab 12

Identifying common procedures 13

Peeking Inside the Criminalist’s Toolbox 15

The Cornerstone of Forensic Science: Locard’s Exchange Principle 15

Looking at Locard’s principle in action 16

Reading the trace evidence 17

Determining who did what where 17

Chapter 2: Getting to Know the Forensics Team 19

Gathering the Evidence: The Criminalist at Work 20

From Analyzing Blood to Identifying Bugs: Forensic Science Specialists 22

Forensic Investigation’s Head Honcho: The Medical Examiner 24

Looking at two forensic systems 24

Checking out the duties of a coroner or medical examiner 25

Following the medical examiner in action 26

Dealing with the Dead: The Coroner’s Technician 27

Testifying as an Expert 28

Understanding the court system 28

Getting to the heart of the “truth” 30

Understanding the role of expert testimony 30

Chapter 3: Collecting and Protecting the Evidence 33

Assessing the Scene of the Crime 33

Distinguishing between primary and secondary crime scenes 34

Arriving at a crime scene 34

Preserving and processing the scene 35

Documenting the procedure 36

Reconstructing the crime scene 37

Recognizing a staged crime scene 39

Classifying the Evidence 39

Determining whether evidence is direct or circumstantial 40

Discerning physical from biological evidence 40

Understanding reconstructive evidence 41

Identifying associative evidence 41

Differentiating class and individual evidence 41

Analyzing the evidence 43

Locating the Evidence 43

Obtaining a search warrant 44

Searching without a warrant 45

Collecting and Preserving the Evidence 46

Searching the area 46

Gathering the evidence 47

Packaging the evidence 48

Collecting control samples 48

Protecting the chain of custody 49

Locating a Missing Corpse 50

Chapter 4: Delving into the Criminal Mind 53

Defining the Role of the Forensic Psychiatric Professional 53

Differentiating forensic from clinical psychiatry 54

How the mind matters in forensics 55

Assessing the Brain 55

Getting started with a medical history and physical exam 56

Digging into the psyche 57

Asking the right questions 58

Employing dubious techniques 58

Dealing with Deception 59

Recognizing lying perps 59

Debunking the eyewitness 60

Dealing with false confessions 61

Assessing Competence and Sanity 62

Determining a defendant’s competence 63

Defining insanity, loosely 63

Tracking Serial Offenders 64

Classifying the multiple murderer 65

Making the monsters 65

Profiling the Perpetrator 68

Assessing the perpetrator’s psyche 70

Taking trophies and souvenirs 72

Distinguishing MO from signature 72

Profiling the victim: Victimology 74

Drawing boundaries: The killer’s domain 75

Linking Criminals and Crime Scenes 76

Part 2: Analyzing the Evidence 77

Chapter 5: Fingerprints: Your Personal Signature 79

Getting a Grip on Fingerprints 79

Measuring bodies: A precursor to fingerprinting 80

Using ridge patterns 83

Making Matching Easier: Classifying Prints 84

Grouping by arches, loops, and whorls 84

Developing the Henry System 86

Speeding up identification: AFIS 86

Locating Those Sneaky Prints 88

Seeking latent prints 89

Powdering the print 89

Using chemistry to expose prints 90

Cleaning up the print: Digital techniques 91

Chapter 6: Painting A Gruesome Picture: Bloodstain Analysis 93

Understanding Blood’s Character 94

Thicker than water 94

Looking into blood clotting 95

Oozing, gushing, and dripping 95

Analyzing Bloodstain Patterns 96

Finding clues in passive bloodstains 96

Analyzing projected blood spatters 98

Classifying projected spatters 100

Latching on to transfer patterns 103

Reconstructing the crime scene from bloodstains 105

Putting It All Together: A Hypothetical Case 106

Chapter 7: Leaving Impressive Impressions: Shoes, Tires, and Tools 109

Stepping Out: Shoeprints as Evidence 110

Characterizing and using shoeprints 111

Matching sole to soul — so to speak 111

Collecting shoe impressions 113

Making the match 115

Tracking Down Tires 116

Analyzing tire-track evidence 117

Obtaining tire impressions 119

Prying Clues from Tool Marks 120

Characterizing and using tool marks 120

Capturing tool impressions 121

Finding Facts in Fabrics 123

Chapter 8: Burning Down the House: Is It Arson? 125

Striking the Match: Looking into Fire-Starters 126

Determining Where and How the Fire Started 127

Using other people’s eyes and ears 128

Locating the point of origin 128

Figuring out how it happened 129

Igniting the blaze 130

Heating Things Up: Accelerants 131

Collecting samples at the scene 131

Taking it to the lab 132

Digging deeper into iffy samples 133

Drawing conclusions from testing 135

Investigating Homicidal Fires 135

Location, location, location 135

Poisoned by air 136

Evaluating Explosive Situations 137

Defining explosives 137

Investigating a bombing scene 138

Part 3: Examining the Body 139

Chapter 9: Determining the Cause and Manner of Death: Forensic Autopsies 141

Defining Death and Declaring It as Such 141

Searching for a definitive method 142

Determining the causes and mechanisms of death 143

Uncovering the four manners of death 144

Shadowing the Forensic Pathologist 145

Discovering what makes an autopsy forensic 146

Deciding who gets autopsied 146

Performing an Autopsy 148

Identifying the body 148

Conducting an external examination 148

Dissecting the body 152

Sniffing out clues in chemicals: Toxicology 155

Filing the Official Autopsy Report 155

Chapter 10: Identifying Unknown Victims 157

Identifying the Body 158

Sifting through the artifacts 159

Examining scars, birthmarks, and tattoos 160

Finding evidence of wounds or disease 160

Fingerprinting the dead 162

Checking out the choppers 162

Using DNA To Make the ID 164

Dem Bones, Dem Bones: Working with Skeletons 164

Determining whether bones are human 165

Determining age 165

Estimating stature 166

Determining sex 167

Determining race 168

Seeking individual characteristics 169

Estimating time since death 170

Handling burned bones 171

Determining cause and manner of death 171

Reconstructing Faces 173

Comparing Photographs 174

Chapter 11: Estimating the Time of Death 177

Defining Time of Death 178

Examining the Body to Estimate Time of Death 178

Measuring body temperature 178

Stiffening up: Rigor mortis 179

Getting the blues: Lividity 181

Determining the rate of decay 182

Dealing with other possibilities 186

Breaking the surface: When sinkers become floaters 186

Gazing into the eyes 187

Gathering Other Clues 187

Discovering what was on the menu 187

Getting buggy 188

Checking other scene markers 189

Chapter 12: Ouch! That Hurts: Traumatic Injuries and Deaths 191

Unleashing the Power of Guns and Gun Evidence 192

Tracking those tricky bullets 192

Studying entry and exit wounds 192

Analyzing shotgun patterns 194

Slicing, Dicing, and Stabbing 195

Taking the Hit: Blunt-Force Trauma 197

Scraping and abrading 197

Bruising and battering 198

Breaking bones 200

Getting toothy: Bite marks 202

Moaning and groaning: My aching head 204

A Shocking Situation: Electrocution 207

Wreaking havoc: Electricity’s path through your body 207

Assessing the damage 208

The R Word: Dealing with Rape 209

Conducting a rape exam 210

Dealing with fatal assaults 212

Chapter 13: Gasping for Air: Asphyxia 213

Understanding Asphyxia 213

Gasping for Oxygen: Suffocation 214

Suffocating environments 214

Smothering 215

Choking sensations 215

Applying pressure: Mechanical asphyxia 216

Suffocating gases 216

Grasping Strangulation 217

Finding common threads in strangulations 218

Hands on: Manual strangulation 218

Applying a ligature 220

Hangings 221

Inhaling Deadly Air: Toxic Gases 223

That sneaky carbon monoxide 223

Deadly cyanide 224

Getting down with sewer gas 226

Drowning: Water, Water Everywhere 226

Finding the manner of death 226

Diving deeper to identify drownings 227

Part 4: Utilizing the Crime Lab 229

Chapter 14: Analyzing Blood and Other Bodily Fluids: Serology 231

Blood: Life’s Most Precious Fluid 231

Understanding blood 232

Blood typing: The ABO system 232

Identifying a Bloodstain’s Source 233

Answering the first question: Is it blood? 234

Knowing when blood’s really human 235

Narrowing the focus: Whose blood is it? 237

Testing for Paternity 239

Inheriting your blood type 239

Determining fatherhood 240

Looking at Other Bodily Fluids 241

Checking for semen 241

Checking for saliva 243

Detecting vaginal fluid 244

Chapter 15: Looking Deep Inside: DNA Analysis 245

Opening an Instruction Manual for Your Cells 245

Understanding the nuts and bolts of DNA 246

Mine, mine, all mine: Uniqueness and DNA 247

Fingering Criminals Using DNA Fingerprints 248

Tracking down and preserving DNA 249

Looking into the genome 249

Repeating yourself: How duplication identifies you 251

Understanding the DNA Fingerprinting Process 252

Getting even smaller with SNPs 253

Making the match 254

Shedding cells: Touch DNA 256

Keeping it in the family: Familial DNA 256

Using DNA to Determine Lineage 256

Who’s yer daddy? Paternity testing 257

Who’s yer granny and granddaddy? Mitochondrial and Y-STR DNA 258

Indexing DNA: The CODIS system 261

Chapter 16: Testing for Drugs and Poisons: The Toxicology Lab 263

Understanding Poisons 263

Defining Toxicology 264

Seeking Toxins 265

Collecting samples 266

Determining the cause and manner of death 268

Examining the Testing Procedures 269

Presuming the results 270

Confirming the results 271

Interpreting the results 272

Looking at Common Drugs 274

Understanding alcohol 275

Getting down with depressants 277

Hopping up: Stimulants 278

Taking a trip with hallucinogens 279

Dirty deeds: Date rape drugs 281

Sniffing and huffing 282

Bulking up 282

Checking Out Familiar Poisons 283

Chapter 17: Picking Apart Trace Evidence 287

Defining Trace Evidence 287

Understanding Analytical Instruments 288

Peering through the microscope 289

Testing the chemical makeup of trace materials 290

Splitting Hairs: Linking Crime to Coiffure 291

Dissecting hair’s anatomy 291

Matching criminal to curly lock 292

Fiddling with Fibers 296

Classifying fibers 296

Collecting fibers 297

Comparing fibers 297

Breaking down the fiber 298

Cracking the Mysteries of Glass 298

Looking into how glass becomes evidence 299

Analyzing and matching glass 299

Breaking glass 300

Puttering with Paints 302

Dissecting paint 303

Solving the puzzle 304

Getting Down and Dirty: Soils and Plants 304

Identifying soils 304

Looking at plants and seeds 305

Chapter 18: Bang! Bang!: Analyzing Firearms Evidence 307

Figuring Out Firearms 308

Extracting Info from Ammo 309

Handling bullets 310

Breaking down bullets 310

Determining caliber and gauge 311

Shuffling through shell casings 312

Getting Groovy: Comparing Rifling Patterns 312

Understanding rifling 313

Reading the ridges 314

Searching for answers in databases 315

The Proof’s in the Powder: Gunshot Residues 316

Tracing gasses and particles 316

Testing for GSR 317

Determining distance 318

Chapter 19: Questioning the Validity of Documents 321

Analyzing Handwriting 322

Obtaining standards 323

Comparing handwriting 324

Fingering forgers 326

Exposing Alterations 327

Wiping away writing 327

Eradicating the original 327

Adding words 328

Looking for Indentions 329

Examining Papers and Inks 329

Distinguishing papers 330

Identifying inks 330

Dissecting Typewriters and Photocopiers 332

Hunting and pecking for clues 332

Finding distinctive traits in copies 333

Part 5: The Part of Tens 335

Chapter 20: Ten Famous Forensic Cases 337

Using a Homemade Ladder: The Lindbergh Kidnapping 337

Sacco and Vanzetti and Sacco’s Gun 339

Ted Bundy’s Bite Marks 340

Stella Nickell’s Trail of Fingerprints 341

Finding Fibers on Jeffrey MacDonald 342

Georgi Markov and the Lethal Umbrella 344

The Hendricks Family’s Last Meal 345

Picturing John List 346

Being Anastasia Romanov 347

Faking Hitler’s Diaries 348

Chapter 21: Ten Ways Hollywood Gets It Wrong 351

The Quick Death 351

The Pretty Death 352

The Bleeding Corpse 352

The Exact Time of Death 353

The One-Punch Knockout 353

The Disappearing Black Eye 354

The Fast-Acting Poison 354

The Untraceable Poison 355

The Instant Athlete 355

The High-Tech Lab 356

Chapter 22: Ten Great Forensic Careers 357

Criminalist 358

Crime Scene Investigator 359

Forensic Investigator 359

Forensic Pathologist 360

Forensic Pathology Technician 360

Forensic Anthropologist 361

Forensic Toxicologist 361

Fingerprint Examiner 362

Forensic Document Examiner 362

Forensic DNA Analyst 363

Index 365

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