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COLLECTING EVIDENCE FROM HUMAN BODIES INTRODUCTION The collection of evidence from the body of a deceased person requires the cooperation of the Coroner's Office (Public Administrator) and all law enforcement agencies. Typically, the Coroner's office has jurisdiction over the body and property of the deceased. It is important that any evidence collected from the deceased be collected with the knowledge and permission of the Coroner's Office. Advise the Coroner's office of what was taken and ensure that any evidence collected be made available to the pathologist. This bulletin will describe the types of evidence that might be recovered from human remains. It is important to note that some evidence will be much better preserved if it is collected at the crime scene rather than at the morgue. Evidence that can be lost or altered during transport includes: bloodstain patterns, saliva residues from bite marks, gunshot powder residues, and loosely adhering trace evidence. When necessary, remove clothing at the scene. In addition, biological evidence (e.g. semen evidence taken by swabs from body cavities) may be better preserved if collected as soon as possible, dried and stored frozen. Although it may be desirable to collect such evidence at the crime scene, it may not always be possible due to conditions at the scene or the policies of a particular Coroner's Office. In these cases, photographs must be used to capture important pattern, position and location information before the body is moved. Ensure that intermediate (from different angles) and close-up photographs are obtained to adequately document evidence. General considerations for the collection and handling of evidence Safeguards while handling biological samples include: Treat all biological samples as infective material. Follow your agency's Bloodborne Pathogen Plan. Wear gloves. Keep any contaminated surface (e.g. gloved hand) away from face to prevent contact with mucosal membranes (e.g. eyes, nose). After dealing with evidence, properly dispose of gloves and wash hands with germicidal soap. Photography - Close-up photography Maintain the film plane parallel to object being photographed Fill the frame with the subject matter and appropriate scale Use appropriate ruler or scale/sometimes it may be important to also take a photograph without a scale. Take photographs as examination/autopsy proceeds. Insure that overall photographs of all body surfaces are taken before and after the body is unclothed and cleaned up. Insure that both the outside and inside surface of both hands and the tops and bottoms of both feet are photographed. Package and handle evidence to minimize potential contamination or cross-transfer PEB 22 (Rev 2001) 1 CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BUREAU OF FORENSIC SERVICES PHYSICAL EVIDENCE BULLETIN
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Change gloves and thoroughly clean implements (e.g. tweezers, razor blades, saws) when collecting samples from different sources
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