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   Table of Contents - Current issue
Coverpage
October-December 2018
Volume 4 | Issue 4
Page Nos. 179-237

Online since Thursday, December 27, 2018

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ORIGINAL ARTICLES  

Deaths due to electrocution: An evaluation of death scene investigations and autopsy findings p. 179
Brittani K Massey, Mohammed A Sait, William L. A. Johnson, Mary Ripple, David R Fowler, Ling Li
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_57_18  
The purpose of the study was to delineate the epidemiological characteristics of electrocution deaths in Maryland, identify any potential risks, and address preventive measures. A retrospective review of all the deaths due to electrocution was conducted at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in the State of Maryland from 2005 to 2015. During the 11-year period, a total of 55 electrocution deaths were identified from the autopsy cases at the statewide medical examiner system. More males died of electrocution than females with its ratio of (M: F) = 9:1. Of the 55 cases, 67.3% were White, 18.2% were African-American, 12.7% were Hispanic, and 1.8% were other races. The age of the victims ranged from 4 to 83 years with mean age of 40 years. >96% deaths due to accidents and 3.4% were suicide. The majority of deaths (70.9%) were caused by high-voltage circuits. Approximately 64% of fatalities were work-related accidents. The study indicated that electrocution deaths frequently affected young male workers who were in contact with a high-voltage currents while on the job. The detailed death scene investigation and autopsy findings are presented. The potential hazards of electricity must continue to be addressed in public safety campaigns to prevent such deaths. Strategies should ensure safe work environments for any contact with electric currents.
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Determination of methadone and eight new psychoactive substances in hair samples by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry p. 184
Luca Anzillotti, Luca Calò, Marianna Giacalone, Antonio Banchini, Rossana Cecchi
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_22_18  
Many new psychoactive substances (NPSs) with different chemical structures have emerged in the illicit drug market in the last decade. The present work was aimed at the development of a simple method in gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (MS) for the determination of NPS of different classes, the use of cannabinoids, and, at the same time, the evaluation of methadone therapy in hair matrix, within our routine analysis control for methadone treatment or from autopsy cases. The determination of synthetic cannabinoids and methadone therapy used an extraction method based on incubation in concentrated sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solution, providing a dissolution of the keratin matrix. The described method was applied on 15 authentic specimens from our cases: five showed the presence of methadone and 2-ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine (EDDP). The described method can be useful not only in the forensic investigation of NPS-related addiction histories but also in epidemiological and retrospective studies on the spread of NPS among specific safety-sensitive social workers. The GC instrument was an Agilent 7820A (Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA), and the detection system was an Agilent 5977B single quadrupole MS operating in selective ion monitoring mode. Validation parameters such as limit of detections (LODs), limit of quantifications (LOQs), repeatability, accuracy, and linearity were satisfactory for its application on real specimens. LODs, LOQs, R%CV, standard deviation, and the mean concentration for the analyzed compounds are reported in Table 1b. Accuracy and repeatability were acceptable for all the analytes at their respective LOQs. Recovery experiments varied from 58.3% to 103.0%, thus allowing the application on authentic specimens. The described method can be useful not only in the forensic investigation of NPS-related addiction histories but also in epidemiological and retrospective studies on the spread of NPS among specific safety-sensitive social workers, such as drivers.
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Fast fourier transform: A Niche, but critical strategy in optimizing impression evidence p. 192
Brian Dalrymple
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_35_18  
The evolution from film to digital as the recording medium for forensic imaging has extended the reach of forensic photographers, both in original capture and postphotography processing. Images of fingermarks and footwear impressions are routinely obstructed by substrates displaying intrusive color and pattern. Such backgrounds are frequently sufficiently intrusive as to prevent the analysis and comparison of the images to known exemplars. Digital techniques such as Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) in postphotography processing can optimize the signal-to-noise ratio to a greater degree than was ever possible when film was the recording standard. Occasionally, unwanted backgrounds can be removed or diminished in Photoshop with techniques such as background subtraction and channel blending. These strategies, however, are dependent on either physical removal of the evidence impression to obtain a second image of the obstructive pattern or on differences in color between the impression and the offending substrate. FFT is unique in its ability to optimize the image signal to noise ratio by suppressing the obstructive background, in that it is not reliant on color, and is not applied in the spatial domain.
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Is magnetic flux a valuable tool for the analysis of electrophotographic-printed documents? p. 197
Williams David Mazzella, Bing Li
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_31_18  
The goal of this preliminary study was to evaluate the potential application of magnetic flux for document screening. In this investigation, we examined the homogeneity of magnetic flux over the entire page of sample documents and provided recommendations on the measurements procedure.
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Research on subjective bias cognition effect in handwriting identification p. 203
Bing Li, Tiantian Ma
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_34_18  
This article starts from the point of view that handwriting examination is dependent on empiricism and by analyzing the core steps of handwriting identification explains that it might be influenced by subjective bias. In practice, examiners cannot avoid biases in decision-making; instead, we must accept the existence of subjective bias in handwriting identification and then discuss its impact; for instance, feature selection in the process of comprehensive evaluation, which involves a comparison of the number and quality of similarities and differences between a questioned sample and the references. While we conclude that comprehensive evaluation is the most important step in the identification process, industries in China do not stipulate explicit and transparent criteria for it, making it hard to numerically quantify the characteristics of handwriting identification. In this article, forensic examiners' opinions on handwriting identification were obtained through a survey. One finding was that most handwriting examiners believe that handwriting identification is subject to subjective bias. In addition, they believe that the subjective cognition of handwriting identification can somehow help actively produce the correct opinion; before the examination, most handwriting examiners think that they should understand the context and so on. Finally, through the questionnaire, which contained variations such as the same case with different background information, different cases with the same background information, and the same case with or without context, it was concluded that handwriting identification does have certain subjectivity. However, which kind of factors influence this subjectivity is not presently clear. Furthermore, it is difficult to control uncertainties when forming an opinion on identification. An alternative way is to perform scrutiny after the formulation of handwriting opinions; for example, internal and external reviews such as appearing in court.
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REVIEW ARTICLES Top

Modernization of medicine in the ottoman empire and its effects on forensic sciences p. 213
Ferat Buran, Erdem Özkara
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_29_18  
Modernization in medicine began in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Until that time, medical education had been provided through the traditional master–apprentice practices and its methods had relied on custom or religion. The most important of these reforms was in 1827, when the first medical schools in surgical and clinical branches were opened in İstanbul. The lack of contemporary understanding in medical education until that time had caused an underdevelopment in forensic sciences as it had in various other fields. Following the reform movements, the contents of the forensic medicine curriculum, mainly influenced by the French medical schooling, touched upon all areas of forensic sciences such as pathology, toxicology, organic chemistry, neuropsychiatry, gynecology, handwriting analysis and criminalistics. It was noteworthy to see such rapid development in scientific modernization considering the fact that, before the reform movements, the religion had a repressive effect and it was forbidden to even perform laboratory tests or examinations on corpses. In the modern Turkish Republic, founded in 1923 after World War I, scientific reforms gained momentum and began competing with the modern world. Such that, after a letter sent to the Turkish Government by Albert Einstein in 1933, the contemporary Turkish universities embraced the scientists who escaped from the Nazi regime.
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On trends of the role transition from expert assistant to expert witness p. 221
Baosheng Zhang, Shuai Dong, Ping Yang
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_43_18  
In the context of Chinese evidence law, the role of the expert assistant is to “offer opinion on the forensic expertise or specialized issues.” This role is multiple-facet, somewhat similar to a lawyer's role, and to some extent similar to that of a forensic expert or a witness. For this simple reason, the views on the legal status of opinions of the expert assistant also vary from “cross-examination method,” “forensic expertise” to “witness testimony.” This confusion regarding the role of the expert assistant often results in difficulties in deciding whether to admit the expert assistant opinion as evidence at trial. The regulation that the expert assistant opinion “can be taken as evidence for determining facts of a case after cross-examination” stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 15 of the Supreme People's Court Interpretation of the Law in the Conduct of Environmental Civil Public Interest Litigations promulgated in 2015 could be seen as trends of a transition in the role of the expert assistant towards that of the expert witness. This article attempts to analyze reasons, significance, and prospects of such a transition, and give suggestions to improve the application of examination rules for the expert witness and admissibility rules for scientific evidence.
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CASE REPORT Top

Septicemic melioidosis: A forensic autopsy case report p. 229
Atif Shamsudin, Heo Chong Chin, Ahmad Hafizam Hasmi, Hapizah Mohd Nawawi
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_92_17  
We report a 27-year-old male from Kuwait who died due to melioidosis, and the diagnosis was achieved after the deceased underwent postmortem examination at the Forensic Department, Kuala Lumpur Hospital. While the disease is endemic in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, human melioidosis infection has yet been reported in Kuwait. He was initially diagnosed as acute gastroenteritis at a private clinic before being found dead at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The autopsy revealed positive findings of Burkholderia pseudomallei in the deceased's brain, lung, liver, and spleen as well as in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid culture. The deceased's death highlights the importance of early accurate diagnosis, the common manifestations, and the need of effective antibiotic treatment of septicemic melioidosis in high prevalent areas.
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BRIEF COMMUNICATION Top

Forensic investigation of atypical asphysia p. 233
Zhe Cao, Zhiyuan An, Xiaoning Hou, Dong Zhao
DOI:10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_32_18  
Smothering, choking, confined spaces, traumatic asphyxia, positional asphyxia, and other kinds of atypical mechanical asphyxia are not rare in forensic practice. However, these are not commonly well demonstrated in forensic monographs worldwide. The authors researched related works and literatures and summarized these with a view to contribute to the existing teaching resources and provide help to forensic practitioners who are involved in scene investigation and identification of such deaths.
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