BIG QUESTION How do forensic scientists use observational skills in their work and what are the limitations of these skills?
Part 1: Making Observations FQ: What is the difference between observation and inference? FQ: How does perception impact our ability to make observations? Word Bank, Content
Part 2: Observations by Witnesses FQ: Can an eyewitness account of an event be considered reliable? Innocence Project Innocence Project FQ: What factors might influence observational skills? Bouncing Ball Bouncing Ball Word Bank, Content
Part 3: Forensic Science FQ: How do analytical skills improve the observation of an event? Murder or Suicide? The Case of Ronald Opus
Murder or Suicide? On March 23, 1994, the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus on the ground outside his apartment and found a gunshot wound. On further inspection, he noticed that he had several broken bones and a crushed skull. He went to his apartment on the 11 th floor and noticed a note that Ronald had left indicating he was depressed and no longer wanted to live.
Murder or Suicide? When residents were questioned, they reported hearing a gunshot and the sound of breaking glass coming from the 9 th floor of the building. Upon inspection of the building, a safety net had been installed just below the 8 th floor to protect the window washers. Discuss your thoughts with a partner
Murder or Suicide Dr. Mills summarized to his investigation team: Ordinarily when a person who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, it is still defined as committing suicide. That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have been successful because of the safety net, leads to a feeling of a murder on our hands. Discuss
Murder or Suicide Upon inspecting the room on the 9 th floor where the shotgun blast emanated, the investigator found an elderly man and his wife. When the man was questioned, he said that they were arguing vigorously and he was threatening her with a shotgun. The man said that he had become so upset that he pulled the trigger but missed his wife and shot through the window. The woman said she heard a man scream from outside immediately after the shot. Discuss with a partner
Murder or Suicide Again Dr. Mills talked with his team to review the evidence When one intends to kill Subject “A” but kills Subject “B” during the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of Subject “B” Discuss
Murder or Suicide When confronted with the murder charge, the old man and his wife were both adamant that they thought the gun was unloaded. The old man said it was long- standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun but he never intended to pull the trigger. The wife stated that he had no intention to murder her. When reviewing evidence with the team, it appeared the killing of Mr. Opus was an accident if the gun had been accidently loaded. But who loaded it and why?
Murder or Suicide When questioning family members, it was reported that the old lady had cut off her son’s financial support and the son, knowing that his father used the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would eventually shoot his mother. The investigator again met with his team and they determined that since the loader of the gun was aware of this (the son), he was guilty of the murder of Ronald Opus, even though he didn’t actually pull the trigger.
Murder How were observational skills used? What observations were important to solving the case? Did you make any inferences or did you use analytical skills to make decisions? Did the investigative team make inferences or use deductive reasoning? One last piece to the story…when the son was apprehended…