More work goes into a homicide investigation than what the media alludes to. Television shows like Law and Order, and CSI show an over glorified series of basic investigations as well as highly dramatic interrogation in which each homicide case is solved within a one-hour episode. In reality, a homicide investigation is 20 times more complex than what is aired on prime time television. Cases can take years to solve, and a large number remain open indefinitely. From start to finish, a homicide investigation begins when the first responder arrives on the scene, and ends when the perpetrator is placed behind bars.
The goals of an investigation are to see if the death of a person was caused by a criminal act of another individual, as well as determining the person responsible for causing the death. The earlier an investigator arrives on the scene of the crime, the more likely the case is to be solved.
“Medically, death is determined by the cessation of three vital functions: heartbeat, respiration and brain activity.” (Hess and Orthmann ) Normally, the first sign of death is when the person has stopped breathing. If a person dies shortly before, or in the presence of an officer, the officer should always try to revive the victim. The person’s pulse should be checked for after breathing has ceased since certain drug over doses cause extremely shallow breathing, and can give the allusion that a person is deceased.
The two most important pieces of physical evidence in a homicide investigation are the murder weapon and the victim’s body. Videotaping, photographing, and sketching the crime scene, as well as taking notes are crucial actions in an investigation as well. The evidence that is found must be properly handled and packaged. Physical evidence can be found in an abundance of different places, such as: on the victim, on the suspect, or at the scene of the crime. If the victim is still living, and brought to the hospital, the...