Member spotlight: Larry Barksdale.
Subject: Authors (Works)
Pub Date: 12/22/2011
Publication: Name: The Forensic Examiner Publisher: American College of Forensic Examiners Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Law; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American College of Forensic Examiners ISSN: 1084-5569
Issue: Date: Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 3
Topic: NamedWork: Bloodstains as Evidence: A Field Manual (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Named Person: Barksdale, Larry
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 275636311

Tell us about your inspiration for writing Bloodstains as Evidence: A Field Manual.

I had been teaching bloodstain courses since about 1998 to in-service police officers. In 2000, I started teaching a short 4-hour introduction at the college level. This moved into a 1 credit hour course at the graduate and the undergraduate level. I also started doing some online instruction, and I posted some PowerPoint lectures online.

The existing texts were excellent. However, I felt a need for more case studies and more written exercises that would fit with online instruction and short college credit courses, and would fit with 1-2 day in-service criminal justice training sessions. I had had several attorneys and a medical doctor take my online course. I was teaching the course off of PowerPoint lectures and Internet sources. They suggested a shorter text that had case studies and written exercises. Otherwise, they were very positive about the course. I also wanted more information on uncertainty, use of fluorescein, and infrared digital imaging.

I met Marty Matisoff, who is a scientific writer. His experience and skills were what I needed to get out a book that would fit with what I was looking for on college courses.

How long have you been working in the field of forensics?

I have been a commissioned police officer for 40 years. I have been actively processing crime scenes and doing follow-up investigations since 1977. I have been actively doing bloodstain analysis since about 1996.

How did you become an expert on bloodstain pattern evidence?

My first formal introduction was at the St. Louis University course on Medico-Legal Death Investigation. This was in the 1980s, and Mary Fran Ernst taught a four-hour block on bloodstain analysis. That started me down the road. In 1995, I went to Herbert MacDonnell's 40 training course in Elmira, NY. Since then I have read numerous books, done personnel research, participated and helped with student research projects, authored or co-authored articles published in peer review and non-peer reviewed journals, posted numerous online free access PowerPoint lectures, taught at two universities, lectured at several colleges and at several training sessions for professional organizations, lectured at several IAI Chapter conferences, and consulted on cases throughout Nebraska and several cases in other states. I have lectured at Lagos State University, Lagos, Nigeria, and consulted on a case that involved persons from outside the United States. I also have done numerous formal bloodstain analyses for my agency, The Lincoln Police Department, over the past 15 years. I have testified in jury trials in state courts as well as in Federal court on bloodstains and crime scene investigations. I have underwent a Federal investigative interrogatory concerning a shooting incident reconstruction and bloodstains, and I have testified numerous times in front of a Grand Jury on bloodstains related to in-custody deaths. I have attended numerous short training sessions on bloodstains since 1995, and I have attended IAI and IABPA conferences.

Why is bloodstain pattern analysis important to a criminal investigation?

Bloodstain analysis is a part of any investigation that involves bloodshed. It is an associative application. It is information that can pull all the information together. In other words, it can aid in the "jumping together" of the facts--the concept of consilience. This is important to the development of a plausible explanation of what took place at a given forensic event. Without bloodstain analysis, one runs the risk of missing important information, and of lessening the robustness of the logical process in development of an explanation. I also have found that bloodstain analysis is important in the reasoning process that should take place in any forensic reconstruction and analysis. If one goes through all the information and interprets all of the bloodstain information, and tries to tie it all together, it seems to me that there is an increase in the probability for chance discovery, the acquisition of new information. The process of making oneself organize, analyze, and associate seems to stimulate the mind, and new thoughts pop into one's head that very likely would not have taken place. The very process of analyzing each bloodstain, as an example, causes one to consider all other evidence. In this process itself, I have discovered that what was thought to have been done (blood swabbed analyzed for DNA as an example) was not done. What I am trying to say is that the information from the analysis such as origin of the stains, movement of actors, sources of injury and so forth takes place but there are some spin-off, ancillary benefits, that take place when one engages in bloodstain analysis.

Here are a couple of case examples. I was asked to look over a case and do a bloodstain analysis in which police officers were accused of shooting a person in the back of the head. The allegations were of an execution of a suspect. I went through the photographs of the scene and the autopsy, but what I was seeing did not matchup with an execution. In fact, it did not match up with gunshots to the back of the head. I was aware that this case had been investigated criminally by both a federal agency and by a state agency, and that a private consultant had been called in on the case and concurred with the other investigations that the victim had been shot in the back of the head. I got involved in this on the civil end of litigation. I read the conclusion of the autopsy report that there were entry wounds to the back of the head. I then read the entire autopsy report and matched photographs that were autopsy narrative. The narrative of the autopsy report indicated that all entry wounds were from front to back. None were back to front. This was what I was seeing in the photographs. I contacted the person I was working through, and asked that the pathologist be contacted. I felt there was a typo in the report. It turned out that the pathologist said there was a typo and that the narrative was correct. All wounds were from front to back. This was a gun battle case in which the suspect was shooting at the police and they were shooting back. The case was resolved. The only reason I came upon this possibility of a report error was because I was doing a bloodstain analysis, and trying to fit what I saw in the bloodstains with the autopsy photos and with the reports. I think the other people involved did not do a bloodstain analysis, in fact I know they did not, and they just relied on the last page of the autopsy report.

I did not get paid for this consultation. I made it clear before I started that I would not take money for the bloodstain analysis. I have a personal website, and I advertise that I will do free analyses as time permits. This is my way of giving back a little of what tax money has paid me over the years. Usually these cases involve grieving persons who have lost a loved one to a suicide, and they want some closure. They don't have any money, and they want to be sure they have done all they can for their loved one, and that nothing has been missed. I get about one case a year. I go through it and write a report. Usually the police have done an excellent job, and the manner of death is suicide. I think people sometimes just need an opinion outside of the formal medico-legal system to help them get closure. It so happens that the case above came about because of some personal contacts, and my position to not take pay for consultations that are outside of my formal police duties. So, there is another reason why analyses are important. They can help the healing process by providing good information on the nature of an event.

How will this book help investigators and forensic professionals with bloodstain pattern evidence?

It is a good and quick reference. It has case studies to use as reference and for self-learning. It has exercises that are useful for not only learning, but for establishing that someone actually did some personal research (think in terms of Daubert). I think it helps to establish the importance of the limits of any forensic application, and suggests that one not go beyond the capabilities of the application. This is a very important subject area. I think we provide some up to date information on the use of Hemascein and the use of Infrared digital imaging, and I think we really promote the concept of consilience. This concept is one that is very important to forensic science, and one that is often ignored or overlooked. I also think the book will be a great text for teaching and training purposes, both formally for others and autodactically.

Do you have a favorite chapter in Bloodstains as Evidence: A Field Manual?

I don't really have a favorite chapter. I think our discussion of uncertainty, the presentation of case studies and exercises, and the update information are some parts of which I am quite proud. Marry, Sharon, and I worked very hard on these sections. We also worked very hard to try to synthesize the terminology with a SWGSTAIN taxonomy. We tried to keep the book from being a large page text, and we wanted to keep the cost down. There are excellent texts that give a lot of information, and have a lot of excellent images. We were not trying to compete with those texts, nor were we trying to compete with 40-hour courses in bloodstain analysis. Our audience, I thought, was law enforcement, corrections, probation/parole, human services, and legal services that didn't have the resources to have trained and experienced persons on staff, and who needed a basic reference and self instruction source, as well as instructors and teachers who needed a text for a shorter course. I think we accomplished that with all the chapters.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.