Forensic Pathology

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Alexis Davis

Professor Scanlan

Intro to Forensic Science

October 1, 2012

Forensic Pathology- Manners of Death

After a death occurs, forensic pathologists provide valuable information about the manner of death after an autopsy is completed. The autopsy reveals more than just the manner of death, but also the cause, where, when, and how aspects of the case. There are four different manners of death, with an exception for the unclassified manner, homicide, suicide, accidental, and natural deaths. The manner of death uses evidence from the cause of death to configure the manner.

Natural deaths are caused exclusively by disease without the intervention of trauma and are the cause of the majority of deaths. This category includes death by heart failure, disease, and death during sleep. In an autopsy, it is discovered if it occurred suddenly, immediately or if the deceased was ill and hadn’t gone for medical care in the two weeks prior to death. Out of 2, 374, 163 deaths in the United States, 1,683, 571 of those deaths are natural. (“Deaths and Mortality”) The leading cause of death is heart disease at 599,413 deaths in 2011. Natural deaths are solely caused by nature, unlike the other manners.

Homicidal deaths are caused by a criminal whose intentions are to deliberately murder someone. The most common examples of homicide are shooting, stabbing, smothering, strangling, blunt force trauma, and burning. Each weapon used in a homicidal death leaves a distinct mark on the deceased, making it obvious what form of murder was used. Another type of homicide is manslaughter which is when death is not the intention. For the year 2011, the national police reported 14,748 deaths by intentional homicide; 9,960 of those deaths were by firearm. (“UNODC”) In the infamous case of Andrea Yates, who after suffering from years of depression drowned all five of her children in her bath tub, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and moved to a high security mental facility. She willingly admitted to murdering her children and having planned it. She also admitted that she knew it was wrong but the jury still found her not guilty because of her insanity.

First degree murder is the unlawful killing that is premeditated and committed. For instance, a woman catches her husband cheating and after several days of waiting and calculated planning she murders him and his mistress. In the state of Louisiana, the condemning for a first degree murder is death or life without parole. (“First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing”) Second degree murder is murder in the “heat of passion” or inadvertent murder by lack of care for human life. An example would be the same woman who caught her husband cheating, killing him and his mistress upon encounter. In Louisiana, the sentencing for second degree murder is life without parole. (“Legal Dictionary”)

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 118,021 deaths in the United States are accidental. Accidental death is ranked 5th in the United States, with 38.4 deaths per 100,000 U.S. citizens. ("Accidents or Unintentional Injuries") Accidental deaths are deaths that occur from unforeseen events. Accidental deaths are common but if the police suspect that the accident was deliberate or could’ve been avoided, an investigation will occur. An example of an accident that could’ve been avoided is a worker in a department store leaves a piece of machinery running and unsupervised and it kills a customer. Had the operative turned the apparatus off and relocated it, the customer wouldn’t have been struck by said object.

An unsettling form of accidental death is autoerotic death. Any fatal accident that transpires during autoerotic activity is considered accidental. The most common form is self-strangulation to achieve sexual stimulation. Sometimes self-strangulation can result in just the loss of...
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