Parallel Death Investigations
A ‘parallel’ investigation is a private investigation concurrent to an official investigation – this may be civil or criminal, and may involve motor vehicle collisions, missing persons, serious bodily injury and death – just about any type of investigation.
Q - I am looking for a retired homicide investigator in to run a parallel investigation to a current law enforcement investigation into a death. The client suspects it is a homicide but law enforcement may not be agreeing with that assessment.
A - Parallel doesn't work. With an open case there is too much unknown information and evidence. Also putting the cart before the horse - first see if they determine homicide or other (just because client suspects something doesn't make it so, or that law enforcement won't find what they suspect). Having done hundreds of family questioned deaths – it is best to wait and see what the official findings are, then get their evidence to know what to work with. Also, if it's homicide a parallel investigation could taint a successful prosecution.
Why? In July 2015 Karen wrote an article addressing this and other related client issues – “Investigating Without Playing into Drama”…
As investigators we are surrounded by different types of drama. It might be cheating drama, murder drama, suicide drama, trial drama; insurance fraud drama and the list could go on and on. You, as an investigator understand the picture. What we, as level headed, fact finding, responsible investigators should strive for, is to down play the drama of clients and never create or feed into the drama. There isn’t much to watch on television now except drama filled reality shows, to include judges, investigators, police officers and just about any topic you want to name. Google reality TV and you will be provided with numerous websites for your viewing pleasure.
-- Continued at www.deathcasereview.com/afi-llc-blog/investigating-without-playing-into-drama
There are times a concurrent, or parallel, investigation is warranted – suspected civil rights violations is one common example. However, those times and reasons are rare. Most often the request is because there is a strong belief 1) the decedent would not cause themselves harm; and 2) the decedent’s significant other would. Our process is concerned with two things: 1) determining the Manner of Death by the evidence; and 2) a person is not wrongfully charged or convicted.
Let’s talk about the issues with the parallel investigations, and general family questioned death investigations. First, we are very passionate about helping families find answers to the traumatic deaths of relatives – often parents losing adult children to suicide. No parent should bury a child, at any age. We strive to find these answers, and no matter what the evidence tells, answer the family’s questions and help them pursue any course of action the evidence supports.
Conducting a parallel investigation itself may not be a bad thing, and may be necessary. For example, a motor vehicle collision is very common. If reported by the injured party to an attorney, the attorney will immediately have their investigator begin to gather the facts and document the scene, and obtain all official records, reports, and photographs. If the official investigation is active, or filed by the prosecution, the access to the official investigation will be limited; this does not prevent an independent investigation. At times, working with consent of the prosecution, some information may be disclosed for the purposes of determining liability in the civil litigation. It is likely the official investigation and any adjudication will be completed before the civil litigation has been filed, which will open up the official records, reports, and photographs (and videos). Missing persons, which is not an area our agency specializes, will be concurrent to the official investigations, and often in cooperation. If the official investigation closes without finding the missing person, the private investigation may continue. In both of these types of cases, and many others, there may be limited access to official investigation information. This access will be limited to prevent jeopardizing the official investigation, and also any arrest and prosecution. Serious bodily injury investigations include motor vehicle collisions, and may missing persons, and these may also become death investigations. The parameters are the same – except the death may further limit available information, and any independent investigation.
This article is more specifically about a family questioned death – or equivocal death investigation – involving their loved one, and in which they suspect homicide vs. most commonly a suicide or sometimes an accident.
The loss of a loved one cannot be comprehended by those not part of the loss, and even then, each is different. One cannot know the loss, grief and pain. To understand they are experiencing these range of emotions is possible. These may change over days, weeks, months and years – and they never go away. Answers and closure is important, and may be delayed due to the nature of the death, and particularly if any suspected criminality is involved. We are often contacted immediately, within weeks, of a death by a family looking for answers. There are several reasons – the official investigation is taking too long, which may be true or perceived; there is a lack of communication from the official investigation, which is too often; and this may include insufficient communication. There are no right or wrong answers to these concerns, and we will explain to families what may be involved in the official investigation. In fact, it is why we wrote a short book, “A Survivors' Guide to Understanding Death Investigations” at www.UnderstandingDeathInvestigations.com. This is not about conducting any investigation - it is a short book about the process of the official investigation, and is intended only to answer these questions and provide a better understanding.
Are parallel investigations in questioned deaths recommended? No. We are asked this frequently, by families and other investigators. The purpose is commendable – to have answers and closure. However, there are numerous reasons one is not recommended, and reality, possible. These include: 1) the official investigation may conclude with the answers and closures for the family; 2) the important evidence of records, reports, and photographs will not be available until the case is closed and, if charges, adjudicated; and 3) any independent investigation may inadvertently jeopardize potential charges and adjudication – including wrongful accusations, arrest, and conviction. Let’s look at each of these, and all are equally important.
The Official Investigation May Conclude with the Answers and Closures for the Family
This concern often begins with conversations and communications in which law enforcement responded to an ‘apparent suicide’ or tells the family indications are suicide – and this before any autopsy or detailed investigation is started. We understand this is concerning. Most often these are misused words and phrases in reports. In our work with law enforcement, including coroner / medical examiner offices, we strongly encourage the same responses we were trained with – instead of responding to an ‘apparent suicide’ it is more accurate to respond to an ‘unattended’ or ‘suspicious’ or ‘unknown’ death scene or reported incident. Instead of ‘indications’ of any Manner of Death (Natural, Accident, Suicide, or Homicide) communicate these are unknown – Undetermined – until all investigations are complete. These will include any law enforcement agencies, coroner / medical examiner offices, and ancillary agencies (i.e. arson investigation). Too often we have heard other investigators, private and law enforcement, say the family needs answers and they are just telling them what is obvious or known. This is far from the truth – nothing is known until concluded; and even then, may still leave unanswered and other questions.
The Important Evidence of Records, Reports, and Photographs Will Not Be Available Until the Case is Closed and, If Charges, Adjudicated
We are often asked if we can look at a death certificate or autopsy report, or a photograph or two, to determine what did and did not happen, if a death is as reported and certified. No, we cannot – and no one should. To do so without all the other evidence is a disservice to the family, defendant, or any person associated with the death. Our analogy is reading an autopsy report without the underlying evidence is the same as reading a media story without knowing their source information. How often is a media story first reported and later, maybe, corrected? Not often, or at least not in the same manner as the headlines used to capture the event. We cannot be part of this. Unfortunately, not all records, reports, and photographs are available after the official investigation is concluded. This may be by statute or policy of closed records, these were not utilized as part of the investigation, maybe there was no autopsy, etc. In these cases we do our best to determine the competency of the official investigation, the official findings, and any answers, conflicts, or concerns which were concluded and determined.
Any Independent Investigation May Inadvertently Jeopardize Potential Charges and Adjudication – Including Wrongful Accusations, Arrest, and Conviction
Just as a family does not want the suspicious death of a loved one to go unanswered criminally, the same balance applies to making sure wrongful accusations don’t lead to wrongful convictions. At a time of loss emotions are high and varied from grief to anger. If there are any interrelationship issued of a lost loved one to their significant other, or if there are intrarelationship issues with parents and family members, there will be suspicions and accusations. Most often we see a death ruled a suicide, then a significant other ‘acting suspicious’ or the family is told the death is ‘obviously’ suspicious and not a suicide. There is often not facts or evidence in support, and families will point to circumstances, and even rumors – they ‘heard’ about this or that, or the reactions of others were not appropriate, or they acted suspicious, etc. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to let the facts and evidence provide the answers. We have an obligation to prevent unfounded accusations and wrongful convictions before they happen, in the just the same obligation as we have to provide answers by the same facts and evidence to the families. We have worked with prosecutors and law enforcement on both open and closed cases. These have been at the request of families, and also to take the investigation out of the official capacity for an independent review and analysis. We report only what the facts and evidence answers – nothing else, and no matter what these are. As legal investigators, we most often work with plaintiff civil litigation and criminal defense. In doing so we have these perspectives – and the very same criteria, process, and obligations to our clients. We have accepted active official investigations for families; however, our experience has been varied - from still waiting months for responses to disclosure requests, to flat denial of requests. At no time has being involved representing the family during the official investigation been productive; and it has most often been unproductive.
One of the most damaging and recurring statements to families are those in which a certainty is given, when there is none. Specifically, a family is told “This is definitely a homicide, because…” or “This is definitely not a suicide, because…” and the ‘because’ people do not kill themselves in such manner – therefore, it has to be a homicide and cannot be a suicide. These statements from official investigations, private investigators and attorneys, and caring family - more than anything already questioned from the official investigation - will do more irreversible damage than can be undone. Not only do these leave more questions, they cause more pain and may lead to others being harmed in retaliation or wrongfully charged, and worse, convicted. It is best to learn and experience these investigative processes, or refer them to an expert. These are some of the very reasons we have developed related courses, certificate, and certification courses at www.InvestigativeCourses.com.
The purpose of this process is the same as the medical professionals Hippocratic Oath – to first do no harm. We are tasked with, “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth. - Voltaire.” and from our friend and former Coroner in WY, now passed, Paul Zamora, “Be Their Voice”. These are our purpose and passion. We provide expert medicolegal consultation, review and analysis to provide our findings and opinion. This process is our motto, “Quaero Indicium - To Find The Evidence”. We further this by making appropriate recommendations. This may include further investigation, consideration of unreported or misreported evidence, and perhaps returning to the official investigation with our findings.
The loss of a loved one cannot be known or understood by others. The need for closure and answers, though known, also cannot be understood. The desire to bring comfort, closure and answers is known and understood. It is important to not let the emotions to bring comfort and closure overcome the importance of facts and evidence in bringing answers. Only those answers supported by facts and evidence can begin to bring comfort and closure.
The Defendant DIY Investigations
When Dean was a kid, there was a business near called U Auto Fix It – and it had all the tools and equipment needed for a person to work on their own vehicle. They also had mechanics on hand for customers not interested in DIY. It wasn’t long before Dean’s Dad handed their 1947 Willys Jeep to a mechanic – it was taking more time and money than expected, and ended up costing more for the mechanic to fix the mistakes.
Do It Yourself is too common of a mistake, like the Jeep, with the best of intentions. A person’s future is not a Jeep, fixing a leaky faucet or even arguing a traffic ticket. It is often said there are no guarantees in life. There is this one – mistakes in criminal defense will cost only the defendant, all others walk away unscathed.
Like you, we are contacted frequently by those with the best of intentions, which usually accompanied by insufficient financial resources. What should you tell them and why? We have accepted pro se cases, and offered pro bone assistance – both under careful consideration of the case and circumstances. With the exception of family questioned death reviews, which are not considered for litigation we predominantly work only with attorneys and their investigators. What are some of the issues? Here are some, and we go into more detail in the commentary. The life, liberty and future of a criminal defendant is the heart of the issue – and is not the circumstances to take chances with.
Doing It Yourself: Are you qualified and experienced? Are you prepared to be your own witness?
These are two basic questions. With the best of intentions, a defendant may seek the aid of someone they trust – or someone may volunteer to help. There is going to be bias – it cannot be avoided, it is why they are trusted. Being qualified is not specific to licensing – which, if required, can have all the work and evidence inadmissible. Being qualified is about knowing what criminal defense investigation is about – and there are several factors. First is what are the elements of the criminal charges, and how are they applicable to the investigation? Key words such as ‘intent’ or ‘knowingly’ seem insignificant to the unqualified and inexperienced. What is the legal strategy by the defense attorney? There are a limited number of defenses to strategize. One is an alternate suspect, another is the events did not happen as charged (which is different from did not happen at all). All of the investigative findings in the world which do not address the defense strategy is wasted. This is why experience is so important. A good professional investigator is always learning – from mistakes and simply their work, and learning from others, to attending specific training. Experience is also knowing the applicable law and rules of evidence as needed by the criminal defense investigator.
Is the trusted, and amateur, investigator ready to testify? Do they know what is to be expected? Have they ever testified? These are basic – and for some professional investigators, not answered – except all are ready to testify as needed. As will be pointed out here, there is no confidentiality to an investigator not acting as an agent for the attorney. In fact, there may be significant harm to have this person related or having a biased interest testify, especially under skilled cross examination by the prosecution.
Are they qualified and experienced? Are they prepared to be your witness?
This is something not often considered with DIY investigations. Testifying may happen at a deposition, a pre-trial hearing (bond, probably cause, and motions hearings) – and the prosecution or adverse party will be looking to impeach the information and credibility of the DIY investigator (which will be easy to do for the inexperienced). Testifying is an experience best observed to understand. Even for the experienced it can be uncomfortable and for those close to the defendant – also emotional. It is likely the DIY investigator is not qualified or experienced, and will be questioned to this. This will show when opinions are offered as answers, which will be objected to – only an court recognized expert can provide an opinion; all other witnesses – including any investigator – is a ‘fact witness’ and they can only testify to facts in evidence or having developed foundation through the testimony continuum to be admitted as evidence. This may also include their reports and any evidence they developed (i.e. scene photographs, interview recordings, etc.). This is a rabbit hole the DIY investigator will not be prepared for.
Does the person know the legal issues, elements of the charges, implications of the charges, confidentiality issues – including any disclosures, evidentiary issues?
These are complex areas experienced Criminal Defense Investigators learn through their relationships with attorneys, training, continuing education, from other colleagues, and experience. The most common mistakes made by DIY investigators (and inexperienced independent investigators) are breaching confidentiality, created reports and evidence (photographs and recordings) which are not protected by attorney-client and work-product doctrines and may be subpoenaed by the prosecution, trying to present their ‘evidence’ to the prosecution and/or law enforcement hoping to get charges dropped, and several other factors. It cannot be stressed enough – there are no protections between a DIY investigator and the defendant, or the DIY investigator and the attorney. Everything the DIY investigator does is vulnerable – exposed – to the prosecution and may be used against the defendant.
As an example – the DIY investigator sees on social media of the reporting victim they had planned an event to entrap the defendant, or they knowing made a false report of a crime by the defendant resulting in the charges. The DIY investigator goes to law enforcement and/or the prosecution with this information. Sounds good – case closed. Far from reality. This denies the attorney important information, the information is unprotected, and is now exposed to the prosecution – who is trying to convict the defendant with any information they have which may be used against them. This is very similar to the defendant waiving their Miranda rights with the hope the truth will set them free.
Similar to this are communications with the defendant, which are not confidential, and are exposed to the prosecution. If the defendant is incarcerated and writing or using a phone with the DIY investigator – their communication is being monitored, and may be used against both the DIY investigator and defendant. Too often jailhouse calls reveal conversations later used against the defendant; and, if the DIY investigator is to become a witness – against them.
Evidence is developed from discovery given by the prosecution to the defense, and through investigation. These are two very different tasks. For discovery, there are Constitutional rights of the defendant to receive these and the prosecution will share directly with the attorney, who will share with their Criminal Defense Investigator – neither will (or can) share with the DIY investigator. The DIY investigator will begin making public records requests – which will not include everything in discovery. They will then attempt to dissect the discovery, reach conclusions, and conduct additional investigation. These are where violations of confidentiality begin and the DIY investigator reveals to law enforcement and/or prosecution, and the defendant in monitored communications, everything they should not.
Common mistakes: Not communicating with the defense attorney; unprotected / non-confidential communication with the defendant. Disclosing findings to the prosecutor or law enforcement hoping to drop the charges. Making things worse – such as exposure to incriminating information and additional charges.
Of the issues described in this blog, this section may be the one that could cause the most damage and harm to the defendant’s case. Although all aspects we have presented are concerning, the disclosure of any defendant statements, defense evidence, and defense strategy can have consequences in which the defendant will be subject to.
Most often with no intent or malice – and actually with the best of intentions – a DIY investigator will divulge otherwise confidential information with the hopes of helping the defendant. Because there is no confidentiality between the DIY investigator, the defendant, and the defense attorney, they may also become a witness against the defendant. Most important – before this might happen – the DIY investigator has disclosed information unintentionally through recorded jailhouse calls, social media posts, and intentionally through direct communication with law enforcement and the prosecutor. As an example, the DIY investigator speaks to the defendant through a family jailhouse call – which is recorded – and conversations happen. The defense attorney and Criminal Defense Investigator are required to be given confidential means of communication by phone, mail, and in-person. From these DIY investigator disclosed communications may come amended charges, new charges – often more serious – and even prosecutorial decisions to not offer reduced charges or other plea negotiations. As a further example, in such a conversation the defendant admits to sexually taking advantage of another after the reporting victim is intoxicated (this is sexual assault / rape). The defendant further states they did not put any drugs in any drinks. These statements include an admission to elements of the sexual assault. There is other discussion, including they had a relationship a few years prior for a few months and were rekindling it. The DIY investigator goes to the prosecution with this to show there was no use of drugs or intent to rape, and there was implied consent due to a previous relationship being rekindled. These are not legal defenses or strategies – and are admissions to a level of sexual assault defined by applicable statute.
The next concern are the consequences caused by these actions. From amended and additional charges, to harsher sentencing. Any information presented to law enforcement goes to the prosecutor, and any information from the prosecutor can and will be used in their positions to offer, or not, plea agreements, hearings, trial, and sentencing. The only person who pays these consequences is the defendant. The best a DIY investigator can do is to completely avoid any involvement and communication of the charges, events, evidence, and other circumstances of the defendant – including any other criminal activities and history they may have. We have even seen family and friends find themselves charged as accessories or co-conspirators to crimes while in the process of trying to help the defendant.
Another Common Mistake – Retaining Your Own Professional Investigator
Another related issue is a Criminal Defense Investigator accepting a defendant, or the defendant’s representative (usually a spouse or parents) as a client – and not through the defendant’s attorney. There are several issues with this – this includes Rules of Professional Conduct the attorney must abide by, Rules of Evidence for all, as well as any work-product and attorney-client confidentiality protections. Under a licensing program, there may ethics and also the work-product and confidentiality protections; there may not be – and there isn’t if there is not a licensing or other consumer protection program, laws or regulations in place.
As an example, a defendant and/or representative is not happy with the attorney, specifically strategy. In addition to the conduct errors above, there is also the apparent collapse of communication between attorney and client, and there is no relationship between the attorney and independent investigator – and no confidentiality. This leaves both the attorney and independent investigator in a vacuum of information vs. lack of information, possibly conflicting information, and both procedural and ethical quandaries. There is also the question of any evidence the independent investigator may develop, and how will it be introduced. With this – what if the independent investigator testifying and no confidentiality or communication with the attorney.
As much as an investigator may wish to help a defendant and their representative – it poses significant issues to the defendant, which is the only focus and purpose of the attorney and any Criminal Defense Investigator. We are often contacted in these circumstances, and our best practices is to work only through the attorney – being retained, paid, and directed for tasks and strategy. Any concerns the defendant and/or their representative may have should be through the attorney.
In full disclosure, we have conducted investigations for persons close to us in both civil and criminal. These were done following all practices and standards through their attorney exactly as any other retained case would. Do we recommend doing so? Only if you can assure not being emotionally attached, and keeping only your professionalism. Even here, these should be limited and still only by professional investigators.
Advice – the defendant must follow the advice of their attorney and investigator, and their Constitutional rights. This includes the right to remain silent… to all people, not just law enforcement. A lose tongue is not a good thing.
Remember – mistakes in criminal defense will cost only the defendant, all others walk away unscathed.
PS – Criminal defense is not the only mistake of DIY. Doing your own background, individual locates, assets & liabilities, public records searches, etc. are just a few examples of where laws and regulations dictate what can be searched, reported, and used in decision making processes. Our agency does not do surveillance, deep social media investigations, financial investigations, etc. – we go to other professional investigators.
UNUSUAL DEATHS – OR ARE THEY?
Suspicious deaths – stabbed back of neck suicide; a woodchipper death; handgun found in a kitchen appliance. These have any investigator questioning what happened. Add false statements by people families trust – law enforcement, prosecutors, funeral homes, TV & movies – and you have suspicious families, and also criminal and civil litigation, even denied insurance benefits.
What is the best course of action when a client, family or other representative has any concerns in a death – from civil and criminal litigation, to family? First – do not agree or disagree, or provide any affirmative statements (i.e. this is definitely murder, homicide, suicide, accident, etc.). We too often hear, or read, in our consultations these statements. Then we see the details of why – no one shoots themselves in the heart, you can’t kill yourself in this manner, the funeral home said it can’t be, etc. We have seen law enforcement present evidence resulting in the change of a death certificate and resulting in criminal charges – and the death was suicide. We have seen a medical examiner’s office present evidence to law enforcement and charges dropped or case theories changed. We have seen the opposite of these. We have also seen the arguments the science of fingerprints, hair, blood spatter, etc. are not science because there have been errors – and which have resulted in wrongful convictions (and, not often publicized, no conviction where the evidence otherwise reveals beyond a reasonable doubt). We have seen circumstantial evidence used or ignored to persuade the interpretation of scientific evidence. In short, we have seen the verbal manipulation of facts.
Evidence – direct and circumstantial, scientific and otherwise – is based on theory, experimentation, and interpretation. Any misguided step in the process may result in error. An uninformed opinion, misapplied evidence, or relying on entertainment (CSI Effect) is concerning. We are contacted by other investigators, attorneys, and families. Investigators and attorneys have strategies to develop for their cases, usually litigation, which may be dependent on the findings in a death or serious bodily injury. However, if an investigator or attorney – or any other entity, including a funeral home, retired law enforcement or prosecutor, insurance adjuster, etc. tells the family what they want to hear or don’t want to hear – the statement is permanent in their minds and beliefs. This is why it is best to seek an expert and evidence based opinion. This may then include specific steps to take if the death is founded to be questioned. Every unexpected death may be suspicious – it is to be expected. At one meeting of another investigator we were asked how a city could have more suicides than homicides – the investigator was convinced of shenanigans at the medical examiner’s office and/or law enforcement investigations. No data or other reasons for the suspicion – it “just doesn’t feel right” and they were determined to prove their “theory”. Unfortunately, the investigator was often contacted by family members to investigator their loved one’s death – usually a suicide – and prove it was a homicide. These are disservices to the family, attorneys, etc. It may also result in a factual homicide being misinvestigated. Perhaps a wrongful conviction.
There are many cases of suspicious deaths which present potential conflicts in evidence. Recently, the Journal of Forensic Identification (International Association for Identification) presented a death by hanging, resulting in decapitation. After careful review of the evidence, including studies in possible methods of homicide, it was a suicide. There have been cases of suicide with the handgun later found in a kitchen appliance, or false statements by witnesses and family members to hide embarrassment. One well known case of a law enforcement officer, later found to have been embezzling money from a non-profit, planned the near perfect suicide as a homicide (and many more such staged events can be found). Colleagues have presented cases of one injury and two bullets in the wound tract, with one abutting the other end-to-end; or another of one bullet causing two distinct injuries. The first rule of thumb – there is no surprise in what a person will do to themselves or others. The other – know the science of the evidence presented.
Most deaths, significantly most, are natural – age, medical and health, etc. Next is accident – motor vehicle, workplace, an unintentional act, etc. Then there are homicides and suicides – and these are the most contested of deaths (and some have been found to be accident, and some accident have been found to be homicide or suicide). Those are the coroner or medical examiner determinations – or manners – of death. These are not the same as the legal – or criminal statute – determinations; and serious bodily injury is simply a non-fatal injury or series of events which could have resulted in death. A motor vehicle collision in which a person was carelessly or recklessly driving and resulted in the death of another may be certified as an accident and prosecuted as vehicular homicide. These are important distinctions, and in death investigation follow the same investigative and evidentiary protocols.
A grieving family or a wronged victim, and a criminally charged or civilly accused defendant, all deserve the facts as proper interpretation of the evidence finds. Every case should start with – “We don’t know the answer, but will determine as best we can.” – with no indication of suspicion or promised outcome. Once you tell a family or jury, “This is obviously a murder” there is no turning back, no matter what the evidence presents. It is an injustice and a disservice to clients, families, and victims in life and death to do otherwise.
As Voltaire said, “To the living we owe respect. To the dead we owe the truth.”; or, as our recently passed friend and Carbon County (WY) Coroner Paul Zamora said, “Be Their Voice”. For our agency, these are self-evident. But no death is.
Dean A. Beers, CLI, CFDI-Expert* and Karen S. Beers, BSW, CFDI-SME*
(*CCDIs, CFI-FTERs, CFSIs)
Associates in Forensic Investigations, LLC
A Rocky Mountain West Agency ~ National Consultations
(970) 480-7793 Office / TXT and (970) 480-7794 Fax
www.DeathExperts.com ~ associates@DeathCaseReview.com
Expert Legal Investigators and Medicolegal Consultants
Serious Bodily Injury & Death in Civil, Criminal, Probate and Interpleader Litigation
(agency images documenting blood stains on material in various magnification - suitable for independent expert review)
We are developing a new course for legal investigations - Evidence Inspection and Documentation – with release planned by our next newsletter in September. In a prior newsletter we mentioned DNA evidence collection services. These are not new from our agency, and should not be new to legal investigations. DNA collection has its challenges and preparations, and with the right training and supplies, can be valuable to clients and their cases. This includes knowledge and implementation of proper evidence collection, documentation, and secure storage – and by request, transfer to an accredited laboratory for analysis with known DNA standards. Similarly, opposing party evidence inspection is a valuable service to clients – and is as important as visiting and documenting the scene. Of course, there are limitations – usually budget constraints. This area can be of importance to preventing an ineffective counsel claim; and in post-conviction can address an ineffective counsel claim.
Whether as a fact finder or expert, your ability to properly and comprehensively document the adverse party’s evidence can be crucial to any criminal defense or civil personal injury case. The documentation of evidence and scenes – traffic intersection to building location of a crime, or collected evidence and the decedent – all are common. There are several reasons for doing so – from confirming their evidence, to comparing with reports, and possible event reconstruction. Doing so may answer important questions, and raise other questions.
How can you prepare and complete these assignments? What are the benefits to this process, as well as additional tools recommended? What about review and analysis of this evidence and the process?
Will you be collecting and documenting evidence? Most often not; however, knowing the process is important when reviewing the adverse party’s discovery and disclosures, and their processes. It is also important to know what is involved, so you may better advise your client.
First, be aware you will likely not be doing any collection or processing of evidence in the custody of another party (adverse parties, law enforcement, private party, etc.). Follow the directives of your attorney-client. If evidence is found at a scene – contact the attorney before proceeding. If you are working under a court order to collect evidence, such as DNA, be trained and prepared to do so and follow the directives of the attorney and court order with the cooperation of the agency having custody of the evidence (i.e. vehicles, instruments in a crime, etc.). If you are documenting evidence, such as impounded vehicles or evidence in custody, you are most often limited to photographs and videos with any visual inspection.
You will likely not be doing any collection or any examination which alters the evidence. If you review any discovery and disclosure from criminal and civil cases, you will be reviewing another’s evidence collection and documentation.
DNA Evidence Collection
DNA may be (not always should be) collected for a variety of reasons, and specific to a court order and attorney directives. Some examples of this may be:
• A law enforcement impounded vehicle involved in a criminal event and/or civil litigation.
• A vehicle involved in civil litigation and privately held by the owner.
• A surviving victim of a criminal event – such as assault.
• A decedent due to a criminal event.
• Clothing and personal effects from victims and suspects of a criminal event.
• Instruments used in a criminal event.
• Scenes from a criminal event, motor vehicle collision, etc.
Evidence Inspection and Documentation
As a legal investigator, and for experts, the inspection and documentation of physical evidence is important – it is, however, too uncommon. As a matter of being effective in any civil or criminal litigation, this is important. Too often there is a reliance on the official records, reports and photographs. There may be errors, undocumented evidence, needed perspective for photographs missing, etc. This is as important – perhaps more so – than going to the scene of the event. Why? Because the scene may not be available, or at least in the condition of the event; however, the physical evidence should be. We say ‘should be’ because there will be some changes for collection and examination purposes – another reason for inspection and documentation. As an example, looking at clothing of a victim or suspect will reveal defects from the event – stabbing, shooting, tearing, etc. – and also any emergency treatment, such as clothing being cut by paramedics. There will also be indications of examinations, such as marking where blood stains are and what stains are examined. These are all important to inspect and document, and later review and analyze with the official records, reports and photographs; as well as any findings of independent investigation and experts. One advantage to doing so after review of all the discovery and disclosure, and sorting facts and evidence, is knowing what to look for. This may include possible errors and omissions from the adverse processes, to areas important to litigation strategy.
Evidence may include scenes, vehicles, indoor and outdoor environments, roadways and intersections, clothing, weapons and other instruments, trace evidence – anything collected and stored in custody of the adverse party. By this time you should have reviewed the discovery and disclosure and know what to expect. If you have not, this has to be done first – it cannot be done after. In your review it was determined if there are any errors to look for – missing evidence seen in photographs and not logged, or just missed; areas of trace evidence; patterns and markings, etc.
• How can you prepare and complete these assignments?
• What are the benefits to this process, as well as additional tools recommended?
• What about review and analysis of this evidence and the process?
• This process is not just for adverse evidence…
This same process should be used for evidence for your client’s case. Most often this is for civil cases – such as vehicles, intersections, scenes of wrongful death, etc. Most often in criminal cases evidence is not collected; however, any similar considerations should be made in criminal defense cases.
In civil cases evidence may not be preserved indefinitely (i.e. totaled vehicles, or intersections subject to construction projects). Injuries to a person – including your client – will heal; or decedents buried and cremated – immediately documenting is important. As soon as possible these should be documented. For what there is no need now, there may be in the future – and once gone, its gone. The purpose may be to document damage and injuries, and preserve a scene as it was at the time of the event. Any case may take months to years, including any appeals. We have had civil cases go ten years, and civil cases are often the worst for evidence preservation. This is simply because a tort may not be reported for months to years, law enforcement may not have been involved or preserved items specific to civil litigation, and in civil cases evidence collection and storage is not common.
Look for our new course, covering this topic in greater detail – scheduled for release by the end of this month.
Visit www.InvestigativeCourses.com to sign up, and when released a special discount code will be provided.
Professional Investigators Day:
Debunking The Myths
Since 2014 July 24th has been recognized as Professional Investigators Day in honor of the birthday of Eugene Francois Vidocq, the very first Private Investigator who founded the first known detective agency in 1833 – and our profession is a 24/7 adventure.
This year our theme is “Debunking Myths”, but first – some history…
The first Private Investigators Day was recognized in October 1996 by Bob Mackowiak – the founder, publisher and editor of PI Magazine; the day faded after 2002. Beginning in 2014, in order to make the public more aware of the important roles that Private Investigators play in society, Arthur Athas - owner/director of 'Private Investigators Now' (Melbourne, Australia) approached our agency to help reinvigorate this effort to recognize professional Private Investigators worldwide every year. Since that time, and each year, this day has become more recognized. Thank you Bob Mackowiak for starting this day, Arthur Ashe for making it international, and all our friends, colleagues, and clients for growing it every year!
In recent years we have all seen regulations and legislation continued to be enacted based on myths, or bad actors making truths of those myths and casting a dark shadow on our profession. Professional Investigators play key roles in our justice system. We thank our friend and colleague in Miami, Marc Hurwitz (Crossroads Investigations – https://xinvestigations.com) who recently published an excellent article entitled, “Debunked: Common Myths About Private Investigators” – with his permission we are using it, and adding our own experiences.
Debunked: Common Myths About Private Investigators
(from Marc Hurwitz of Crossroads Investigations - FL)
When you hear the terms “private investigator” or “detective,” we're sure a certain image appears in your head. Whether it's an older man smoking in a dim office, or a beautiful young woman dressed in leather pants at the scene of a crime, private investigator stereotypes in pop culture persist. The reality is that private investigators are from all walks of life and investigate a broad range of matters. It’s not always glamorous or even exciting, either.
Here are a few assumptions private investigators encounter in daily life:
Thanks for sharing this Marc. As professionals we all know these myths. Some new investigators may not, or those coming from professions in which they did have access to sensitive or otherwise restricted information. Even our clients may not know these myths are so. As professionals, it is our responsibility to make the public and every client and potential client aware. Thank you for the reminder.
What can we, as Professional Investigators, do ourselves to end these myths and provide the best services available to our clients?
First, end the myth of competition amongst ourselves. The only competition is ourselves – not each other. Working together to better each other and our profession continues to be our mission and passion, and is for many of our friends and colleagues. Working together to improve networking, continuing education, and teach our clients, the public, and those pushing harmful regulations and legislation – from advocates to legislators – we are essential to our judicial system and righting the wrongs our clients may be subjected to.
The Quint-Essential Qualities of a Professional Investigator
Skills Appropriate for the Assignment
Law firms and medical offices specialize - Professional Investigators also specialize. Their casework and continuing education should also be in your specialized areas.
Experience and Knowledge
Professional Investigators strive to maintain and further these. All professions have requirements of continuing education. The CLI and CCDI programs both require extensive compliance with continuing education.
Responsible and Ethical Conduct
Every component of the investigation has evidentiary considerations. Professional Investigators hold themselves to a higher standard and leaves no question as to the admissibility of their evidence. Information without ethics is not evidence.
Professional Investigators maintain communication with the attorney, client, witnesses, and other key persons in the investigation. Moreover, reports are the product of an organized investigation and should reflect the work product you expect.
Keyword - 'Professional'
Honesty, Integrity & Intelligence. These define Professional Investigators and gives you the confidence that your case is in competent and skilled hands.
Thank You for continuing to be part of our professional family, and welcoming us into yours. For nearly 20 years this day has been celebrated by each of us. What do you do to “Debunk the Myths”?
Dean A. Beers, CLI, CFDI-Expert* and Karen S. Beers, BSW, CFDI-SME*
(*CCDIs, CFI-FTERs, CFSIs)
Associates in Forensic Investigations, LLC
A Rocky Mountain West Agency ~ National Consultations
(970) 480-7793 Office / TXT and (970) 480-7794 Fax
www.DeathCaseReview.com ~ associates@DeathCaseReview.com
Expert Legal Investigators and Medicolegal Consultants
Serious Bodily Injury & Death in Civil, Criminal, Probate and Interpleader Litigation
Be Their Voice - Thank You Paul Zamora
This month’s commentary is dedicated to our friend - friend to all - Paul Zamora. Paul passed away June 2nd after a long battle with cancer. We met Paul in late 2002 when he became a deputy coroner for Carbon County WY (in Rawlins) and Dean was in training as a deputy coroner in Larimer County CO. Together we learned – and taught each other – for the next nearly 20 years as close friends. Paul would become the elected Coroner about 16 years ago, and from 2010 to this year regularly invited us to several of his annual state coroner training conferences to present death investigation continuing education from a non-law enforcement perspective. Paul transitioned the Carbon County Coroner’s Office being run from a funeral home to a forensic facility serving the community and families at their most difficult time – dedicated in his honor on his last day in office – the Paul A. Zamora Coroner Building.
That same last week of April, Dean was there to give more training, delayed a year because of the 2020 restrictions. Until getting there, we did not know it was Paul’s last week – he waited to personally share the news of his retirement. We suspected this would be the last time to see Paul, and was one reason to make sure to honor his request to give training this year. It was a visit to mostly tell stories, share laughs, and be with a close friend for perhaps the last time.
We have always followed Voltaire’s code – “To the living we owe respect. To the dead we owe the truth.”
Today, we look to Paul and his simple challenge – “Be Their Voice”.
Thank You Paul – you are who we all strive be.
What is, “Be Their Voice”?
When a person cannot speak for themselves – because of their age, a debilitating injury, or their death – as Certified Forensic Death Investigators, we must Be Their Voice. When a person is charged with a crime – as Certified Criminal Defense Investigators, we must Be Their Voice. As Legal Investigators, we have no bias for or against any person – including the injured, deceased, and clients – we must Be Their Voice. The facts and evidence are our guide to Be Their Voice. There is no substitute for facts and evidence. Evidence does not lie. What does happen and how can they be heard? Evidence is not collected. Evidence is misinterpreted. Evidence is destroyed. Evidence is compelling. Evidence can be damning or exculpatory. Evidence by itself is just evidence. Evidence together tells a story, becomes a voice – and is as close to the truth without personally living it as forensic investigators will find.
We are approached by attorneys, investigators, families – even prosecutors and law enforcement – to review and analyze the evidence, then present our findings and opinion. Most often, we find the evidence is short of being complete. This may be as simple as not knowing what other evidence is available – such as scene or autopsy photographs; or special investigation reports – such as arson investigations. Other times the evidence was not collected, documented or pursued. We may review discovery and find multiple witnesses mentioned – and none interviewed. We may find multiple witnesses were interviewed – and no statements provided. We do not look for flaws and errors – we look for answers to questions. These may be very basic, such as Who, What, When, Why, Where and How; or more complex, such as specific to evidence collected or not collected, examined or not examined, etc. There is rarely a ‘smoking gun’ or ‘silver bullet’ – there is most often several factors which have developed into telling the story of what did or did not – more accurately what could and could not – happen.
This is how we can Be Their Voice – the evidence we see are the scrambled sentences and paragraphs of a story. Our review and analysis unscrambles those sentences and paragraphs, finds those which were excluded or forgotten, and places them together to Be Their Voice. Their voice, not ours. Their story, not ours. It is in the evidence, without bias or tunnel investigation. Paul taught this to his last day giving training to several coroners and deputy coroners in April - the importance of forensics in all investigations. We are forever thankful for all Paul taught and reminded us. From a friendly smile to forensics.
Thanks Paul. Our condolences to your family, all of your staff, and your community. Your love and laugh will always be with those you touched. Rest In Peace, we – all you have befriended and taught – will take it from here, and we will always Be Their Voice.
Paul was a US Army veteran medic, civilian paramedic, and volunteer wild-land and Rawlins firefighter. To learn more about Paul, and you should, visit https://bigfoot99.com/bigfoot99-news/former-coroner-paul-zamora-passes-away
Not only did we share a passion for the importance of death investigations, Dean and Paul also shared their birthdates just days apart, and a love for American and military histories.
to Presentation Images
(Original, Scanned, b/w, Embedded, PDF and Converted)
From Final Jeopardy, October 31st 2018 – “Chocolate syrup, casaba melon & Playboy model Marli Renfro were enlisted to create an iconic scene in this film” – correct answer, What is the movie “Psycho”. What does this question have to do with photography and videography? By the end of this commentary, this question will be answered.
Every case a Professional Investigator is assigned will have some manner of photographs, videos, and audio recordings. Whether from interviews to surveillance, or crime scenes to security footage – these are important documentations of the event. They are not the only – or necessarily most important – manners of documentation. These may not be available in all cases – and should be. With two decades of digital recording technology, and over a decade in the palm of your hand – everything can and should be documented. These should be accompanied by records and reports which are relevant to and also narrate the event and recordings. By themselves, they are informative – but can be misleading or misinterpreted; just as records and reports without these recordings can also be misleading or misinterpreted.
So, what does the original Jeopardy answer and question have to do with this commentary? What the eyes see is not necessarily accurate. We know this just from Hollywood and special effects – and the CSI Effect. In “Psycho”, and in the then shocking shower scene in which Janet Leigh - actually Marli Renfro as her body double - is stabbed repeatedly in the shower by Anthony Perkins, and blood is running down the drain – Hollywood tricks. For those too young to have jumped ahead to this early Hollywood trickery – the move was in 1960 and black and white. Special effects were easy for black and white – such as using chocolate syrup as blood going down the drain. Although it’s a movie, black and white, and Hollywood – it reminds us how important it is to view all photographs and videos, and audio, in the full context of the event. This is also why original – or exact copies of originals – should be reviewed and analyzed – and not converted files which may lose their detail, and forensic attributes to verify authenticity. Of first importance is how the files are shared to retain all of the qualities and properties of the original.
Sharing digital media files is still best by physical media – flashdrive most often, due to the size of files, or by CD / DVD. Common, particularly since early 2020 events, are by clous – such as DropBox, OneDrive, and case management software, etc. On the note of case management software – it is important to confirm no changes are made to the files by the provider – such as compressing for space. Do not delete any files, images, or portions – the file must be an exact duplicate of the original. For this reason, images should not be sent via email or added to a PDF file (Adobe) or PowerPoint (PPT) for review and analysis – or testimony. Why? These all compress the original file, which removes resolution and detail. The more times these files are opened and closed, the more minute details and resolution are lost. To age ourselves – if you can remember when every time you photocopied a copy, then a copy of a copy, each progression was distorted – this is what happens with digital images. JPEGs are compressed images – they are the most common, and as long as the high-resolution original is copied exactly, the file should be okay (TIFF is one of the best, uncompressed). If a JPEG is placed in a PDF, PPT or other – details are lost. Email sending and receiving will compress files. These manners of sending are okay for cursory reviews, where detail is not important and the overall image context is. It is best to have the habit of using full digital copy and transfer.
Some time ago Dean testified and was presented an image projected to a large screen in a PPT – something now very common in courtroom testimony. The projection – not direct to a TV or monitor – lost detail (enlarging in any format often does). The projection was so close to the witness stand the image was pixelated to the human eye. The image was a series of stab wounds – sharp points, flat edges, and directions. When asked about the image, Dean first noted the image was difficult to note for the details the question required. The prosecutor inquired for specifics, and the defense attorney was allowed to offer suggestions – the first being to refer to the Dean’s report specifying the image. This was not only important to accurate testimony, it was more important for the jury to accurately see the details of interest in the testimony. Projecting to a screen is less common, and direct to a TV or monitor is – and is the same as doing so as part of the review and analysis process. This issue was the same 20 and 30 years ago with print images, then enlarged – and distorted. With today’s digital technology – ever advancing – these issues are going away.
What about being presented images in PDF or PPT to review and analyze? The same issues exist. Which requesting discovery and disclosure – an exact copy must be provided. In a post-conviction relief case, our agency was presented with the trial attorneys’ files – defense and prosecution (as used in trial). The images were PDF embedded into PPT – the worst scenario because PDFs are compressed and converted JPEGs, and PPTs further compress the image. If these images are extracted from a PDF or PPT to examine – more detail is lost. Thousands of pixels of resolution (about 70% per conversion) were lost. The images were of a physical assault. In the original trial there was testimony of a handprint visible on the skin surface – but all the exhibits at trial did not have this detail. The three witnesses who testified – one who took photographs, one who did a medical examination, and a responding officer, all testified they saw the handprint. They also testified there were other marks on other parts of the body showing other serious injuries. It took several weeks for the legal team to be provide exact copies of the original image files and examine them. In the originals the handprint was clearly seen. However, had there be expert testimony by the defense to those presented at trial – the detail was not there and did not reflect the other testimony. Also in the originals, the additional injury areas were examined and found to not be from an instrument, but were instead from the victim’s clothing leaving marks commonly seen. These details and findings were important, and did (in part) result in post-conviction relief being affirmed.
Some videos and images do not need the detail – if surveillance video is to only show activity, enlarging or zoom details may not be necessary. If images are to show general areas and information, details are not necessary. Our agency, and any involved in criminal or civil litigation of injuries, property damage, etc. do need details. It is the same as sending over blurry or out of focus images when focused details are needed. Higher resolution is important to enlarging – for analysis or print. The reason for copies of originals, in their original name and format, is not only for the details of the image, also for the details of the metadata – the EXIF data. This information tells if there were any alterations, any deleted images, etc. Renamed images are fine – if accompanied by the original images with original file names.
We hope this information helps you in your investigations and litigation support. Request all recordings – not just what a client or adverse party determines are important. Request them in their original format – file names and file types – not renamed, not converted, not embedded. Do not accept printed – or worse – photocopies of prints; and even worse – black and white photocopies of color images. Yes, we’ve had these. Finally, request all related records and reports for the recordings; and for all recordings request the related records and reports. Every details is based on context.
PS - what of the casaba melon in the movie? It was for the sound of stabbing. Facts and Forensics Factoids!
The Tri-Fecta of Training with Certifications for Criminal Defense Investigators
The role and dedication of Criminal Defense Investigators to the defense and our judicial system cannot be overstated – it is vital in the protection of individual Constitutional rights and our judicial system. We are glad to see 2020 gone, and still looking forward to the real 2021 making itself known in our lives. What 2020 did do was give Criminal Defense Investigators opportunities for training and certification not available before.
The Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council (CDITC – Brandon Perron, CCDI – National Director) has been around for over two decades providing training and certification to Criminal Defense Investigators in the private sector, state and federal public defenders, and military investigators. During this time the founders of the 2021 CFDI and BCFI programs have known and worked with Brandon and CDITC to provide Certified Criminal Defense Investigator training and advanced certificate course training. It was no accident, and yet purely coincidence, the CFDI and BCFI programs were developed from this experience and to enhance them. Through our own experience and dedication to professional investigations, advanced training and experience, and elevating the standards through specialized certifications, we have found the Tri-Fecta of Criminal Defense Investigation training and certifications to be the CCDI / CFSI from CDITC, the BCFI from FCTC, and our CFDI Program. Each component brings its own advanced requirements, experience, training, examination, certification, and continuing education. Together, and most important – they elevate the professional Criminal Defense Investigator and the importance of criminal defense investigation to the protection of Constitutional rights to the highest standards. These are all now within your ability to learn, train, and earn these credentials through specialized distance learning platforms and professional courses and curriculums.
There are two types of certifications and two types of training available to all professional investigators – those you attend and those you complete – they are not the same. There are also two types of certifications – those which test your existing knowledge, and those which provide the training and certification. For all certifications, to our knowledge, documented experience and Continuing Education (CE) is required to be accepted and maintain the credential. Until 2020, nearly all also required in-person education and certification examination (some remote exams were available). Let us look into these nuances – pros and cons.
First – we are not familiar with all certification programs. Some we know by others certified, and others we know from published information. The following are our opinion and based on our experience.
Certification is not the same as standards or ethics – a certification program may have standards and ethics, but standards and ethics do not make a certification. Ethics and Standards apply to all professional investigators, regardless of their experience and areas of investigation. Come certifications are state based (i.e. Texas Association of Licensed Investigators and Florida Association of Licensed Investigators have their programs specific to each state and association). Certification is a personal choice and professional standard. You should be a member of your state association and strive to be certified if available. There are few national association certifications. Some are based only on experience, and others based on an examination process requiring experience. The value of any certification, in any profession, comes from earning the credential and maintaining it as an individual professional standard in advanced investigative specialties.
Two Types of Training Opportunities: Attend and Complete
There are essentially two types of training opportunities, no matter how they are provided (in-person or remote) – they are attending and completing, and there is a difference. You will find the developers of this Tri-Fecta all agree and implemented requirements to attend and complete their programs before advancing to examination. What is the difference? Most training is by seminar blocks – 60 or 90 minutes here or there, no attendance or examination requirement. These are suitable for most continuing education, and advancing one’s knowledge and skills – we have attended hundreds of hours, and also developed and presented our own. These do serve the purposes of getting valuable condensed subject training and continuing education to professional investigators. They may individually be part of a training and certification program; however, on their own they are not a substitute. To be fully immersed in a training component and like any higher education, regardless of time from one hour to one day or even one week – there must be an attendance and completion requirement, and an examination process if applicable to test both the learned knowledge of the student and the presentation of knowledge in the program. Parameters in the in-person and distance learning platforms can be set to meet these parameters of attendance, completion, and examination.
Two Types of Certifications: Test and Certify Advanced Experience and Train, Test and Certify Advanced Experience
There are also two types of certification processes – those which test your experience, background, and training; and those which do the same – and have their own specific training program, as specialized certifications. There are benefits to both. For example, a certification which is by an examination process and without training tests the existing knowledge of the professional investigator. The process of studying can be very extensive and presents their own challenges, such as the Certified Legal Investigator (CLI) Program. The benefit to the programs with their own training component are advanced, usually specialized, certifications – these should also present a challenge to the professional investigator to learn, study, and pass the examination. When the professional investigator combines multiple specialized certification and training programs specific to their specialty – such as civil plaintiff, or as presented here – criminal defense – the benefits to themselves and their clients is elevated and unequaled. The cost is an investment and should be recouped in one case to which the new advanced training and certification applies. The client investment in the certified investigator, who will charge more for their advanced subject matter expertise, is the best for their legal strategy and defendant’s Constitutional right to an competent and effective defense of themselves and their rights.
About Third-Party Mass Education and Certification Platforms
There is actually a third training and certification process – these are third-party mass education platforms. These are provided by companies who offer online training to any individual and for hundreds of professions and specialties. There is no support, no continuing education, and no true recognition of the otherwise unknown certification. These can also be very expensive – we seen them cost $2,000 to $5,000. We strongly recommend your time and financial investment be in certification programs developed by recognized and experienced experts in their fields, and also through professional associations, and which have pre-requisites and continuing education requirements developed specifically for your advancement by their own recognized and experienced member experts.
Certified Legal Investigator (CLI) Program
The Certified Legal Investigator (CLI) by the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI) is the oldest (1967) and considered the highest standard for civil plaintiff and criminal defense investigators. Dean has been a CLI since June 2009 (one of the ‘Nashville Five’) and has been on the CLI Committee since 2010. Colorado had no professional licensing, and long-time friend and CLI Ellis Armistead encouraged Dean to pursue this goal after returning to the private sector from the medical examiner offices in late 2008. It was, and remains, a rigorous process which truly tests the experience and knowledge of the candidate. The CLI Program is also one of the few which offers no training – it was developed to challenge and test, and also enhance, the professional investigator's background, training, and experience. The study materials are extensive and takes months of dedication, which is finalized in a comprehensive series of a peer-reviewed white paper, comprehensive written examination, practical scenario examination, and peer ethics review.
Why is it not in this Tri-Fecta - and is the first listed? Only because it is not a training with certification program – the extensive certification process tests existing experience and knowledge – the CLI is the leader of the professional investigator certification programs – and is why it is presented first.
Visit www.nali.com/certified-legal-investigators-program for details and to set your goals.
Certified Criminal Defense Investigator (CCDI) and Certified Forensic Science Investigator (CFSI)
It is no mistake you will find the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council (CDITC) at the top of the list. It is the standard by which all Criminal Defense Investigators should set themselves and reach. It is also no mistake you will see CDITC National Director Brandon Perron – and the designation CCDI (Certified Criminal Defense Investigator) at the top of the list and found on this Tri-Fecta of Training and Certification for Criminal Defense Investigators Advisory Boards. With his brother, Brad Perron (Director – Certified Forensic Science Investigator Program – CFSI), they have set the standards for criminal defense investigations and certifications.
The CCDI Program is the credential standard for Criminal Defense Investigators – it is nationally recognized as such. It is earned by experience, training and examination with annual CE required. Experience and the attending and completion of the 16-hour CCDI Program is required, with a comprehensive final exam, following by annual CE requirements. “The CCDI program adheres to the philosophical and methodical dynamics of the Component Method of Criminal Defense Investigation.”
The CFSI Program is recommended for CCDIs to have a working knowledge of specific forensic sciences through its 8-hour program. The CFSI will be able to interpret and recognize the need for expert independent analysis, assist with the efforts of experts, and utilize their own advanced findings for the defense. “The expertise of the CFSI will enhance the capabilities of the defense team and increase the effectiveness of representation consistent with the demands of due process.”
-- For details of each program visit – www.cditctraining.com/trainingcertifications.html
Next the Board Certified Force Investigator (BCFI) and Certified Forensic Death Investigator (CFDI). These fully compliment and advance the CCDI program. It is interesting to note these programs were developed separate from each other, during the same 2020 time span, and without the knowledge of the other developers. It is no mistake, due to experience, dedication, and expertise, you will find some commonalities mixed in with the vast uniqueness of each program.
Board Certified Force Investigator (BCFI)
FCTC was founded by Dennis Root, CCDI, BCFI to give the professional investigator educational programs and resources designed to enhance their skills, abilities, and level of performance. It is a specialized certification program – on the use of force. As almost every criminal charge includes an act of force or violence, this is for every criminal defense investigator, and also the legal investigator in civil litigation. Developed from his years of experience, providing expert training and seminars, and providing advanced investigations and expert consultations, last year Dennis released his new book – Force Concepts – The Definitive Guide for Separating Self-Defense From Criminal Action – and this year integrated these components into the release BCFI Program. Force investigations training is not easily found for criminal defense investigators, unless they have transitioned from a career in law enforcement. This is also the first certification process in force investigations for private sector professional investigators. With the BCFI, the FCTC is dedicated to serving their credentialed members, and providing the tools and information to achieve personal and professional goals. This is before, during, and after completing the BCFI program. “From the law to humans performance, the force investigator must know what evidence is left behind by these life-changing events. They must recognize the impact fear has on human performance and how to investigate that fear. Force investigations demand the investigator understand time & distance considerations, real-world observational capabilities, video analysis and interpretation, and more.”
-- For details of this program visit – www.ForceConceptsTraining.com
Certified Forensic Death Investigator (CFDI)
This concept developed with our Equivocal Death Investigator course for PI Education (a great source for various professional investigator continuing education) in 2010. In 2012 we enhanced the program for our Investigative Courses website (www.InvestigativeCourses.com), and in 2020 made an additional information and presentation improvements in preparation as a pre-requisite for a training and certification program. We approached Brandon Perron and Brad Perron at CDITC to partner for accreditation through CDITC. Why did we do this? Two reasons – 1) the CDITC is the recognized criminal defense investigation training program and association – and they are recognized leaders; and 2) we are passionate about both criminal defense as a Constitutional right, and also knowing how important the subject matter of Death and Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) investigations are to criminal defense. Having trained and earned the CCDI and CFSI credentials, and also presented training for the CCDI Academy, we thought this was perfect. Starting in July 2020 we began development of the curriculum specific to the process of Death and Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) investigations in criminal defense. No components of this curriculum are available outside of the CFDI Program and CDITC. It is the first of its kind specifically for Criminal Defense Investigations of Death and Serious Bodily Injury (SBI). The CFDI is first immersed in the concepts of Death and Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) investigations through the pre-requisite Equivocal Death / SBI Investigations for PIs Certificate Course, and then the process of review, analysis and independent investigation specific to criminal defense. It is encouraged for the CFDI to then apply their advanced skills, knowledge and experience to becoming a Subject Matter Expert (SME). “Once you have earned your CFDI, you will enhance any Criminal Defense Investigator skills, and all CDITC and other preeminent certifications and experiences to bring your Criminal Defense Investigations to a new level of advanced knowledge and skills for the most demanding Criminal Defense Investigations areas – involving Death and Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) incidents. You will also have unique access to collegial networking and continuing education.”
-- For details of this program visit – www.CertifiedForensicDeathInvestigator.com
Why This Tri-Fecta?
The area of criminal defense investigations is about a defendant’s Constitutional rights, an effective and vigorous defense, and uncovering the truth through facts and evidence. We are all familiar with a defendant’s Constitutional rights to an attorney, to remain silent, to a jury trial, and to confront their accusers. We also know they are innocent until proven guilty. Many do not realize the defendant also has a Constitutional right to an investigator and forensic experts. Together, we strongly feel the CDITC, FCTC, and CFDI training and certification programs bring these together – not just for the Criminal Defense Investigator, but also for the defense attorney – and most important, the defendant. Every criminal defense case needs a trained investigator who knows the investigation process and Constitutional rights of the defendant, as well as potential legal strategies and various rules of evidence, rules of procedure, and the involved privileges and doctrines of criminal defense. We also know most incidents resulting in serious criminal charges involve force and violence – fatal and non-fatal events. What better way to give back to our profession than developing, and endorsing, what has been proven to us and our clients as effective. We are honored to be part of this group of dedicated professionals and experts who also give back to our profession.
The certification is not actually about the certification. It is about the advanced training and continuing education, and to see fellow professional investigators so credentialed and knowing they have an advanced protocol to assist you when needed. Regardless of the certification program – find the ones right for you, your experience, and areas of specialty. Make sure it is developed by recognized experts in our profession, offered by an association or recognized experts, and requires examination of existing experience and knowledge, or includes required training, attendance, completion, and examination. All certification program should require CE to maintain the credential.
Program information and conversations of Dean and Karen Beers, Brandon and Brad Perron, and Dennis Root came together as the inspiration and information for this commentary. We extend our thanks for their personal and professional friendships, and support - and dedication to our profession.
About the Certified Forensic Death Investigator Program
This program has been in development since the spring of 2020, and is the first to be exclusively for the Criminal Defense Investigator.* Developed by Associates in Forensic Investigations and partnered exclusively with the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council (CDITC) - two powerful teams in their expertise, joining together of offer the CFDI Program for this specialized training in advanced criminal defense investigations.
*The CFDI Program is open to any qualified private investigator.
Death and Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) investigations are Catastrophic Events, and for the Criminal Defense Investigator is a forensic specialty. Associates in Forensic Investigations and CDITC are dedicated to furthering our profession by sharing our experiences and expertise. Our education and training never stops – the CFDI is intended to challenge, educate, and elevate you. There are three basic requirements: 1) Qualifications – all CCDIs and CLIs pre-qualify; 2) Complete and pass the basic Pre-Requisite Courses; and 3) Completing and passing this advanced Program. The CFDI Program and fee includes a webinar series, a reference guide of the presentations, and a book available only to CFDIs. Once completed an online exam, and a sample case study report each require passing.
Once you have earned your CFDI, you will enhance any Criminal Defense Investigator skills, and all CDITC and other preeminent certifications and experiences to bring your Criminal Defense Investigations to a new level of advanced knowledge and skills for the most demanding Criminal Defense Investigations areas – involving Death and Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) incidents. You will also have unique access to collegial networking and continuing education. The CE requirements include forensic death investigation and criminal defense investigation, and are available from several sources, and skills of the CFDI. These include submitting redacted case reports, fact and expert testimony specific to the CFDI, providing CFDI related lectures and seminars, being published with related articles, and attending related seminars, webinars and conferences. We will also be offering CE modules exclusively to CFDIs.
Like Criminal Defense Investigations, this program is a challenge and will take dedication to learn, study, complete and pass – and it will be rewarding! This includes being an active criminal defense investigator with general and criminal defense investigation specific experience. Although helpful, law enforcement experience and higher education do not count – experience for the CFDI program is what counts. Once completed, general and specific annual continuing education and experience is required. As important, this is not just a certification program or attaching CFDI to your signature line and CV – it is a professional enhancement program. We also offer support and networking. We want YOU to succeed! As long as you maintain your CFDI credential, you will have the following:
We are excited to see this year long goal come to you with the CFDI Program! We encourage you to take the challenge and enhance your Criminal Defense Investigation skills, experience, and knowledge. The realized benefits are your – and your clients as we strive to protect their Constitutional rights.
With appreciation, Dean and Karen Beers
Dean A. Beers, CLI* and Karen S. Beers, BSW* (*CCDI, CFI-FTER, CFSI)
Associates in Forensic Investigations, LLC
A Rocky Mountain West Agency / National Consultations
(970) 480-7793 x1
Expert Legal Investigators and Medicolegal Consultants
Personal Injury, Negligence & Death Civil, Criminal, Probate & Interpleader Litigation
News and Events in the legal, investigative and forensic world...
As our services focus on the areas of expert consultations and legal investigations of personal injury, negligence and death in civil, criminal and probate litigation - these are what our blog will be about. Also look for news from our associations - PPIAC, NALI, NCISS, WAD, NAME, etc.
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