Understanding Death And Our System That Addresses It
August 14, 2019
In this new episode the listener will learn about how our death investigation system functions. There are two very strong entities involved with this. One is the police and their pursuit to investigation violations of the law; and in this case violent acts against people, many becoming homicides. While the other entity are the Coroners and Medical Examiners who are basically the Medico-legal death investigators, but with a different process and set of rules or guidelines to follow.
Generally speaking Coroners are elected and Medical Examiners are appointed. There are approximately 2,200 Coroner offices in the USA while we only have about 450 Medical Examiner offices. Medical Examiners are usually Forensic Pathologists, while a Coroner can be an MD, most are not and the education level could be as low as just a high school diploma, depending on the state you live in.
Medical Examiners and Coroners make cause and manner of death determinations. The cause of death is the medical reason for the death such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or stab wound to the chest. But when it comes to determining the manner of death (a legal term) the Coroner/Medical Examiner is tasked to label the death as either a Homicide, Suicide, Accident, Natural or in some cases, Undetermined. These determinations are based on the international standard for the coding of deaths and should be pretty much the same worldwide.
The most critical aspect of this death investigation system is that both the police and the Coroner or Medical Examiner, while separate entities, must work together and communicate their findings to each other so that a proper and accurate determination is made and if needed, justice is served.
The image/map shown of the USA illustrates the different systems in our country. If you are more interested in seeing the details visit the CDC interactive map.
What is a cold case and how did we get here?
August 7, 2019
In this episode, definitions for “Cold Cases” will be provided along with how the problem of cold cases has become a crisis. To accomplish this a piece of research and a historical perspective of homicides during the past decades will be provided.
In research conducted by Dr. Jim, he learned from the police agencies who responded to his survey that, 73% of the agencies would declare a case a cold case when there were no more investigative leads; that 20% of them felt that it should be determined bases on the passage of time; while 7% stated that once the original detective had been reassigned or retired, the case would officially then be classified as a cold case. In actuality it all depends on where you live as each jurisdiction tends to follow different reasoning.
As depicted in the below table, one can see that while the number of homicides decreased from 1993 to 2007, the solving of those cases basically remained the same in the 60 percentile range. So we had about a 40% decrease in the number of homicides with little change in the number solved. This always begs the question, why?
Introduction – Information about the hosts and discussion of future episode topics.
August 7, 2019
In this episode the listener will learn about the structure and content of this podcast.
A full introduction of the hosts will be provided so as to establish credibility and reliability of the content they provide. Besides learning about the homicide/cold case problem in America, specific data concerning the Mid-South will also be addressed.
In one part of this introduction to the problem there is a discussion about homicide rates and clearances (or solving) of these cases. Specific mention of this is referenced by an Op-ed written by Dr. Adcock, called “Fixing America’s Cold Case Crisis”, which was published in the Crime Report, November 28, 2018. A review of the Op-ed can be found in Publications or the Crime Reports web site .
To ease your way through the data with the listing of the cities mentioned in the podcast please review to the table on the right for a better understanding.
July 22, 2019
Since 1980 the USA has accumulated over 250,000 unsolved homicides while the city of Memphis, TN has over 1,800. Various studies and the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Best Practices guide for Cold Cases has determined that we are in a “Cold Case Crisis”.
According to the FBI crime data for 2017, the homicide clearance or solve rate was about 61%, leaving four out of every ten homicides unsolved. And in 2016 the solve rate figure dropped to its lowest of 59.4%. On average this adds 6 – 7,000 unsolved cases to the cold case mix each year.
The national consensus of cold case experts, who were part of the NIJ Cold Case Working Group who contributed to the best practices guide, have confirmed that the forming of dedicated cold case units will reduce the not only the number of cold cases, but will help increase the solving of new homicides as they are reported.
Additionally, if the proposed process with a solid commitment and sustainment of cold case investigations are integrated into the system, we will reduce violent crime, regain public confidence in our criminal justice system, solve more cases and provide information to the forgotten victims, the surviving families. It’s not how much it will cost us to have these units in place, but rather what it will cost us if we don’t!
This podcast, “Surviving Cold Cases with Dr. Jim”, will address the cold case issue, how we got here and what we can do about it. Through weekly episodes it will discuss the problem and the nuances of conducting cold case investigations. The listener will hear about some of the many steps involved in a homicide/cold case investigation, revealing the reality of the situation and what we can do about it to make our communities a safer place to live and work.