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Don't tell ME I don't know my stiffs! (rant)


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  • Don't tell ME I don't know my stiffs! (rant)

    Okay. You'd think that I'd be better at this, but I guess it's just my personality.

    I go out to see a dead guy and standing there in the crime scene is one of our local detectives. Now, I have alot of respect for this guy. He has a lot of good experience and training. He has a good head on his shoulders and an excellent command of knowledge. Great guy.

    But we're looking at this guy and the perp is I/C telling his story of self defense/mutual combat. Now from the LEO's POV, it's a slam dunk. They get the perp in custody admitting to the deed.

    But from a prosecution perspective, it can get hairy. Witout a really good work up at the crime scene to disprove his story of self-defense, then we got nothing for the jury to hang their hat on.

    So... I'm trying not to steal his thunder or boss anyone around. It's HIS crime scene. But at the same time, being a former crime scene guy, I'm chomping at the bit wanting to start making sure things get done.

    Anyway.. we start looking a the body. It seemed to me that you could already see a little rigor in his fingers and hands.

    But then our detective says that is not correct because the guy had just been dead for about an hour!!

    I said, "Rigor can begin to set within an hour."

    He says, "No. Rigor begins in about six hours and sets in twelve."

    Now. Like I said. I respect this guy and I start to think maybe we aren't communicating well.

    I say, "no. Rigor can set in within an hour sometimes."

    But he stays firm. "Rigor mortis cannot set in in less than an hour."

    Well. I just drop it. standing over a dead guy is no place to argue and I didn't have my Spitz and Fisher's in my back pocket with me.

    Anyway. I respect this guy's opinion, right? And I start to doubt myself. It's bothering me when I get back to the office so I call up the ME to get the real scoop.

    Sure enough. Sparky was right. Rigor is frequently seen in less than an hour.

    I don't know why it's bugging me so much. Part of me knew I was right and was ticked off. Then I also started to doubt myself.

    It just drives me nuts.

    Now I am worried about how well the crime scene is going to end up being worked.


  • #2
    Here's a math question:

    S= All cops are stubborn...

    R= All cops are right...

    T= All the time...

    (S+R+T)= Cop


    Find the value of "X"

    [ 04-02-2002: Message edited by: occiferdave ]


    • #3
      Maybe he was just misinformed. Someone probably told him that and he took that to be an unbreakable rule. If you really respect his opinion that much, I would just chalk it up to that or a bad day. Some guys get info stuck in their heads and refuse to look at a situation any other way.

      It is bothersome when you begin to wonder how a scene is being processed. If you're anything like me, unless you are doing it or standing over it watching, it probably isn't being done "right". It usually turns out fine, but I still like to have my nose in everything anyway. At least it makes me feel better.
      If there is a tourist season, why can't I shoot them???


      • #4

        Actually, I guess that I am the exception that disproves your rule. Since I respect this guy as a peer, and he seemed do firm, I backed off thinking "well maybe I'm thinking of something else". I didn't take the attitude that I was always right, because I am not. And it wasn't the time or place to act stubborn. It was a moot point anyway as neither of us are qualified to testify as to time of death.

        I do see what you are saying, though. cops tend to be type A personalities. Stubborn and bullheaded as any new SGT soon finds out.


        I am sure that he picked it up somewhere. And it is the "general rule". But in death investigations, you gotta watch out for those "general rules". When you are talking about bodies, there are alot of exceptions.

        Generally speaking, 4-6 hours for rigor is the norm. HOWEVER, if there has been physical exertion (such as a fight, drowning, etc.) just prior to death, then there is some chemical change that will often cause rigor to set in very quickly. So while the funeral parlor may not see it much, you can see it rather often in homicide cases. Heat also encourages rigor, as well as other factors. It may not develop at all in obese people, children, or people with certain illnesses.

        The whole frame of reference that I have been taught, and that has been confirmed in my experience, is that rigor is a horrible indicator of time of death because of all of the variables.

        What frustrated me so much was that when he was so sure about it, I respected his opinion even though we differed. He didn't display the same respect for me. He never said, "Hmmm. Well maybe I'm mistaken about something."

        Not a boo-boo on his part really. I am not saying that he should respect me automatically. I've got to earn that.

        Just frustrating is all. No matter how hard you try, some folks just won't give you the love.


        • #5
          Now anyone who knows me ....has to know I had to respond to this post. Yes Mr. Sparky you are right about the rigor setting in. Anyone who has had medical,micro, path,mortuary schooling and now I can add crime scene investigating learns about rigor and livor mortis.

          Another thing I must add is the myth about temps of dead bodies. While the general rule for telling the time of death by basal body temp is the body goes down 1 degree per hr after death(up until a point)sometimes however the body temp elevates at the time of death. It can elevate to the point of 104 to 106 degrees which can throw investigators and medical teams off.

          Just had to put my 2 cents in. Right on Mr. Sparky you were correct.

          Morticia AKA Shannon


          • #6
            Sounds like that old word usually (usually 4-6 hours) was mistaken as always again. Give him a break Sparky, maybe he was having a hard day.

            Remember the old Phillip Morris commercial with the bellman walking through the hotel lobby chanting "call for Phillip Morrriiiieeees"? I've often thought it should have been
            6P1 (retired)


            • #7
              I have a question about the case....

              If the perp was apprehended on scene, and the victim was found right away, what exactly did the time to rigor have to do with proving the case?

              And if the other detective had been right and rigor took 6-12 hours to set in, when exactly was the crime committed, and could there have been another person(s) involved?

              Or did I misunderstand the scenario? Thanks...



              • #8

                To put it simply: "Facts don't lie, but suspects do."

                Just because the suspect says he only hit him once doesn't mean that he did. If the crime scene and autopsy show that he hit him 5 times; well that can be the difference between Capital Murder and Criminally Negligent Manslaughter.

                If the suspect says he whacked the guy and immediately called for help when he saw the guy was hurt bad, but the crime scene and autopsy reveal that the decedent had been dead for several hours; again, we've got a different situation.

                See how it goes?

                Basically you are right anyway. Rigor is a HORRIBLE indicator of time of death. ESPECIALLY in violent crimes. But a diligent and thorough death investigator will make a whole series of observations and then pass it on the the ME or other expert for conclusions. It's better to have information and end up not needing it, than needing it and not having it.


                • #9

                  I'm really not beefing the guy for being wrong. That's not really a problem IMO. I didn't pop out of the squad room a perfect murder cop. I don't think I am one now. What got under my skin is that I respected his opinion because I respected him.

                  He, evidently, does not have the enough respect for me to have any faith in mine. He didn't even have enough respect for me to PRETEND like he did. If you understand my meaning...

                  I know. Maybe he was just having a rough time. But still... it was aggravating.

                  Here I was, very certain in my observation based on my own training and experience. He has a different opinion and I defer to it as I would any other professional with whom I disagreed. But his attitude was just plain, "I'm right. How can you be so wrong?"

                  It was his attitude about it more than anything.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sparky:
                    It was his attitude about it more than anything.
                    I understand that. Having worked many a case with other agencies, it is very easy to spot who is the professional and who is the "prima dona" just by their attitude. Particularly shows up with small agencies and with FEDS.
                    6P1 (retired)


                    • #11
                      Big ditto on that one.

                      While this stuff still aggravtes me sometimes, I look forward to the time way off in the future when there will be some "new guy" getting aggravated about the same stuff I am now....

                      only by that time, I will think it's cute that the "new guy" gets upset about it.

                      If you know what I mean.


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