Death Investigation

This discipline investigates unlawful, unnatural and suspicious deaths according to Alabama Code 1975, Section 36-18-2. The Death Investigation Team obtains and correlates scene information, background history and postmortem examination findings to establish the cause and manner of death. These deaths include homicides, suicides, accidents and suspicious natural deaths.

The Department of Forensic Sciences provides these services to the entire state of Alabama with the exception of Jefferson County. The authorization for the postmortem examination (autopsy) may come from a district attorney, the attorney general, a circuit court judge, or the governor.

At the scene the Death Investigation team cooperates with the police in documenting the location, collecting evidence and reconstructing the circumstances that led to the death. The State Medical Examiner usually performs a brief examination of the body and provides the police with preliminary findings to assist them in directing their investigation. An external examination of evidence of the body includes documentation with notes, diagrams and photographs the injuries on the body. An internal examination of the body and major organs includes collecting any evidence such as bullets or parts of knives for further study. Fluids and tissues are retained for chemical and toxicological studies and in many cases tissues are prepared for microscopic examination. They also compiles and reviews medical reports, hospital records, and scene reports for the performance of the former mentioned investigations.

Another function is to recognize and interpret pattern injuries involving subjects.