When it comes to criminal cases and homicides, the cause of death is an important element. This is something that a Medical Examiner who is often also known as Coroner does. The medical examiner is mainly responsible for examining a dead body and in explaining the probable cause of death along with other things like the time, and whether or not the body suffered trauma etc. At the crime scene, when the Crime Scene Investigation team discovers the body, it is left untouched and unmoved till the medical examiner arrives at the scene. Upon doing so, the medical examiner performs initial analysis looking at the apparent signs and symptoms. Afterwards, the medical examiner takes the body to the lab to perform DNA analysis and other in-depth investigation.
In Crime Scene Investigations, forensic pathologists usually play the part of medical examiners. Upon performing the detailed analysis of the dead body, the medical examiner presents the respective law enforcement department with a report that states all the facts regarding the victim and his or her death. Medical examiners associated with CSI Crime Scene Investigations are responsible for the examination of dead bodies in which the cause of death was criminal violence, suicide, holding in prison or police custody.
Other than determining the cause of death, medical examiners also discover the manner of death of a victim. This is possible by looking at the scar, the tool, which may have caused it, and also the way a tool may have been used to cause death. There may be many causes of death, the tops among which include strangulation, drowning, shooting, or hanging. Medical examiners can differentiate between each of these by analyzing the body for any marks or scars or any changes or damage to the bones. The time of death is another important component of a medical examiner’s analysis of a dead body. They can tell this by analyzing the tissue and any changes that may have occurred or any decomposition in case of deaths that took place considerable time ago. This links with Crime Scene Investigation because it narrows down a timeline for the investigators and they can shortlist suspects accordingly and call them for interrogation.
Medical examiners also work in conjunction with Crime Scene Technicians sometimes by retrieving evidence and looking at it for linking the cause of death to the evidence found from the crime scene. Piecing he details of these two together can bring the medical examiner to knowing the way the killing happened. Sometimes, by comparing evidence from crime scene with results from autopsy report investigators and medical examiners can gain an insight into the timeline of the murder. Medical Examiners also have to work with Crime Scene Photographers during their investigation. This is because photographs of the corpse after the autopsy also have to be taken for probable use in court and for the purpose of the ongoing criminal investigation.
In order to perform their job efficiently and effectively, it is highly important for the medical examiner to be educated in forensics and pathology along with chemistry and biology. It is only possible through having expertise in these subject areas that they can cut dead bodies and perform autopsies. The level of education and experience determine what level a medical examiner works at. Not all law enforcement departments have an examiner. It depends upon the level of homicide cases and the severity of these. In these circumstances, if a department doesn’t have a medical examiner, the services of a private medical examiner are sought or an examiner from another department is brought in for consult. From basic medical examiners to forensic anthropologists, there are different kinds of people who can come in for examining the dead body or the bones or to do skeletal analysis if required. These factors depend upon the condition in which the body was recovered from the crime scene and what the level of severity of the death is.
Every medical examiner has own area of jurisdiction. There are medical examiners that work with a particular law enforcement department and do cases for it. On the other hand, there are also examiners who have their own practice and setup and work with more than a single law enforcement department at a time. In the former case, medical examiners are responsible for analyzing and examining bodies found in their area. Forensic investigators assist the medical examiners in carrying out the autopsy and in forming the report. During this whole time, the medical examiner keeps updating the investigator constantly so that any new information is shared and leads may be generated.
Medical examiners are among the highest paid people among the members of the investigation team. The salary ranges from $31,000-$44,000. In case of highly experienced examiners, the pay can be as much as $200,000 annually. Under certain circumstances, medical examiners may also be called to the court to testify or in case the jury requests the expert opinion of the examiner in a death. The court already has the autopsy report by the medical examiner but they are called upon for clarification of a point or some new angle associated with the case.