Wound type may vary from bullet, stabbing, blunt force, rape, poisoning (considered to be toxicological domain), burn, or traffic fatality. Regardless of type, each wound tells experts something about the manner of death. A major task of a forensic pathologist is to investigate what the wound discloses about how it was inflicted and what inflicted it. Expert pathologists from The Forensic Panel are able to perform wound analysis to reconstruct an event, utilize evidence which may suggest self-defense, and analyze whether the wound was received peri or postmortem.
Firearms account for almost two-thirds of the homicides committed in the United States; therefore, pathologists well versed in gunshot wounds are essential. The Forensic Panel employs highly skilled pathologists who are able to distinguish the subtle differences between contact gunshot wounds (when the muzzle of the gun is pressed against the skin of the victim), near contact gunshot wounds, medium range gunshot wounds, and distant gunshot wounds. This process involves both technology and experience to determine various relevant details such as direction, range, or sequence of fire pattern; the path traveled between entry and exit wounds; the likelihood of survival after sustaining a gunshot; make and model of the gun; and especially the specific manner of death.
Knife wounds generally fall into the categories of slash wounds, incision wounds, and puncture wounds. Pathologists investigate relative details regarding the knife used in the death and the infliction of the wound. For example, the pathologist may identify the track marks the knife leaves when it is thrust into the body. In certain circumstances highly experienced pathologists may perhaps be able to match a knife to a stab-wound if a small fragment of the knife breaks-off during stabbing. Even if an exact match cannot be made, it is always possible to determine whether a particular knife is compatible with a distinct stab-wound. Wound analysis allows a pathologist to determine the location, size, borders and pattern of the injury; the orientation on the skin’s surface; the thrust of the perpetrator; and whether the wounds are consistent with defensive actions.
While blunt force wounds may not leave the same evidence of penetration as the gunshot or knife wound, an expert pathologist is still able to make conclusive determinations about the trauma. The pathologist can determine whether the injury was caused by a contusion (bruises or “black and blue” marks), an abrasion (skin essentially shaved off), laceration (tear of the skin), fracture (broken bone), or hematoma (presence of blood in tissues or body cavities). Not only do these experts assess the wound itself, but they also examine the force and magnitude with which it was inflicted, leading to an assessment of the cause of injury or death.
The Forensic Panel pathologists possess expertise that allows them to conclusively determine, through the use of extensive would investigation, the weapon used to inflict an injury. The Forensic Panel’s peer-review oversight lends valuable added expertise to the resolution of such complex process of wound analysis.