Crime and research: Forensic series sheds light on unsolved cases

The typical crime show follows a group of detectives seeking to solve unrealistic and improbable crimes. Forensic Files is unlike these impractical shows as it tells, in documentary-style, the true stories of violent murders, mysterious accidents, and outbreaks of fatal illnesses. Each episode features a different case, all revealing how forensic science is used to solve murder mysteries in a realistic way as opposed to the equipment of science fiction other shows use.

It’s impossible to talk about Forensic Files without mentioning the familiar voice that narrates each episode. This unique voice belongs to Peter Thomas. Peter, who passed away on April 30, 2016, was a world class orator who spent more than 50 years of his life being the voice of Oscar-winning documentaries, television series, and commercials. To the creator and executive producer of Forensic Files, Paul Dowling, Peter was to be the one and only narrator, so after his death, only reruns were aired. However, with over 400 episodes, I still find new ones constantly and even ones I’ve watched before never get old.

A typical episode begins with discovering a dead body. Once the body is obtained, medical examiners must identify the body. Fingerprints are the most universally used forensic evidence and are frequently used in Forensic Files. However, if the victim has been burned or if the killer has removed their fingers in order to conceal the identity, then other methods must be used to determine who the body belongs to. Forensic dentists use teeth for identification by pulling and comparing dental records of recent missing persons if the body is much older or unrecognizable. Several bones can be used to identify things such as sex, race, and age. Leg or arm bones can even determine stature and weight of a certain victim. Medical examiners perform an autopsy, which tells the story of what the victim went through in the last seconds of their lives. This story can lead back to the murder weapon which is the ultimate evidence.

Next, detectives check the crime scene for any trace of evidence. Forensic investigators use luminol to detect trace amounts of blood at crime scenes as it reacts with the iron in the haemoglobin in red blood cells. Cigarettes are a common source of evidence because they supply DNA, so any cigarettes found on the scene are collected in hopes to be a link to the killer. Any fingerprints found at the scene are collected through photography. These prints are photographed in high resolution with a forensic measurement scale in the image for reference. Investigators can improve the quality of the images by using low-angle or alternate light sources and/or certain chemicals or dyes during photography, but this is not always necessary.

Once all of the evidence is collected, detectives search for suspects. These suspects must come in to the police station to be interrogated by police officers, take lie detector tests, have a solid alibi, and give DNA samples. If they pass all of these, they are let off, but if their DNA matches that of the DNA which was collected at the crime scene, then they are sent to court where the judge and jury decides their fate.

Forensic Files is intriguing as it always has you on your toes wondering who committed the crime. With each piece of evidence that is collected and matched, the viewer can feel the satisfaction that the victim’s family feels. In each murder case on Forensic Files, the killer is convicted and justice is served for the victim. Without forensic science, the killer would get away with murder, and the victim would not get the justice that they deserve.