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Lecture Four Police: Forensics
What is forensic science?
•Forensics is a branch of science utilized for legal purposes
•Forensic practitioners include:
oCoroners, medical examiner/pathologists, crime scene investigators, criminalists,
document examiners (hand writing), forensic pathologists and psychiatrists,
odontologists (teeth), forensic anthropologists, forensic artists, etc
oA criminalist works in a lab conducting an experiment (hair analysis, ballistics,
Death investigation medical legal side
•A coroner is a medical-legal death investigator appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in
council upon the recommendation of the attorney general. The position is judicially
•Common prerequisite historically was that the individual be an intelligent, upstanding,
concerned and honest member of the community did not need to be a licensed physician,
as in many provinces they did not conduct the autopsy or other medical procedures
•In Ontario, coroners are licensed physicians
•In BC “community coroners” need only have previous education and experience in legal,
medical or investigatory fields
•In the US many states have converted to the medical examiner system in which medico-
legal investigators must be trained forensic pathologists
What is the coroner’s role?
•Responsible for ascertaining the facts surrounding a death and must determine:
oThe identity of the deceased
oHow, when, where and by what means the deceased died
oThe death is then classified as natural, accidental, suicide, homicide, or
oCoroners may make recommendations, which may prevent similar loss of life in
oThey do not assign fault or blame but rather conduct a fact-finding investigation
•All of this information is released on a form called a judgment of inquiry and summary of
events (in certain cases)
How does the coroner establish cause of death?
•Corner has the authority to collect information, conduct interviews, inspect and seize
documents, secure the scene of death and take possession of the human remains
•Coroner is responsible for authorizing the removal of remains from the morgue
•Careful examination of the circumstances leading up to death is examined
What is a coroner’s inquest?
•A formal court proceeding that allows for the public presentation of all evidence relating
•Inquests may be held to focus community attention on a death and/or to satisfy the
community that the death of one of its members is not overlooked, concealed or ignored
•An inquest is mandatory when a death occurs in police custody
•In all other deaths, the decision lies with the investigating coroner