Learn what makes this husband and wife team machine operate smoothly and their devotion to their clients, victims and families of traumatic and fatal events.
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Dean and Karen join friend and renowned private investigator Vito Colucci on his syndicated talk show - Crime Time with Vito Colucci!
Learn what makes this husband and wife team machine operate smoothly and their devotion to their clients, victims and families of traumatic and fatal events.
Listen and download this show...
In the news, non-stop, is the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old black male that was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch member that was armed. The purpose of this blog is not to analyze this case, but to point out some key issues.
We have been hearing from several trusted investigators looking into the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Without being there and having access to information, it is not possible to reach any investigative conclusion, and of course the investigation is (or should be) still ongoing. But what has been coming out lately is disturbing -- another rush to condemn using what is showing to be very different information from that being reported. There are also concerns being raised about the official investigation. As legal investigators, there is a responsibility to review and analyze all of the information, facts and evidence - including a critical analysis of the official investigation.We have seen the available police reports and listened to the full 911 call from the shooter. There are unconfirmed reports that the victim made a 911 call. We do not have a complete background of the events, shooter or victim. There are also online postings by racist groups spouting hate and using altered photographs of both the shooter and the victim.
There are special interests and activists exploiting a family that has not had time to even grieve for their son … yes, Trayvon Martin is someone’s son and George Zimmerman also has a family. These are all innocent people now forced to deal with traumatic events that most cannot comprehend. But that lack of comprehension has not prevented a rush to judgment.
Recently an elderly couple has been forced from their home because a celebrity re-tweeted their home address and called for action at that address to bring the shooter to justice. Words cannot express enough the irresponsibility of this reckless endangerment. When a person knows their words will reach far and wide, and be followed, they should not only choose them carefully but also have the foresight to see the minimal unintended consequences. There is no place for vigilante or self-justice. We are a people of thought and reason, not an uncivilized mob mentality.
The information initially reported included the shooter using racial epithets, asking why was he armed, questioning the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in Florida, and many more. There has been use of misleading photographs by the media – from using an older and more innocent looking photograph of the victim in a football jersey, to using an older booking photograph of the shooter with no injuries. Was the shooting justified or not? We do not know. Was the victim the aggressor or not? We do not know.
Does this story sound somewhat familiar? It should.
On this day (March 28th) in 2006, Duke University officials suspend the men’s lacrosse team for two games following allegations that team members sexually assaulted a stripper hired to perform at a party. Three players were later charged with rape. The case became a national scandal, impacted by issues of race, politics and class.
The case raised issues of class and race because the accuser was a poor, black, single mother from the Durham area and the three lacrosse players were out-of-staters from affluent backgrounds. In April of 2007, the attorney general announced the three players had been wrongly accused and dismissed all charges against them. The disgraced district attorney was heavily criticized for his rush to judgment and his heavy reliance on the faulty testimony of the accuser.
We have worked many cases very similar to the Duke Lacrosse scenario. It is costly, just from an investigative perspective. We have all seen cases exploited by the media, special interest groups and those of stature for personal gain. Someday the whole issue of race would disappear. Imagine, for just a minute, how you would view this fatal shooting incident if you did not know anything more than one person shot another; then let the information, evidence and facts be sorted out. As professional investigators, we challenge the public and the media to begin reporting stories that way. Think of yourselves as jurors, not spectators. One of the greatest fears of a victim and person accused of a crime, or even suspected, is that of being not believed and to be victimized by injustice. Each person – from the media to law enforcement, from spectators to family, have a responsibility to let the information, evidence and facts be sorted out. It is appropriate to question the information, evidence and facts. It is not appropriate to act based only on the information and misinformation of others, regardless of any accuracy or inaccuracy. In fact, the public should hold themselves to a higher standard than those attempting to influence them. It is necessary that an investigation be conducted and completed, not just conducted and reported. To families of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin we owe respect and to each of them we owe the truth.
Our agency is currently working, pro bono, on a former death penalty case. The defendant was able to win his exoneration but not prove his innocence -- that is now our task. Similar to these two events, and many many others, the media exploited everyone and reported false and misinformation, one witness -- who later hanged himself -- provided false testimony, law enforcement did not complete an investigation having been satisfied with proving only probable cause, and the prosecution manipulated the minimal false evidence.
Information for this blog about Duke University was obtained from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/duke-lacrosse-team-suspended-following-sexual-assault-allegations.
Dean A. Beers, CLI, CCDI and Karen S. Beers, BSW, CCDI are both Certified Criminal Defense Investigators, and certfied in Medicolegal Death Investigations to include as a forensic autopsy assistants; together they co-developed 'Death Investigation for Private Investigators' online continuing education for 14 states, for PI Education.com and can be found at www.MedicolegalDeathInvestigations.com. Dean formed the agency in 1987 and focused on general investigations, as well as individual locates, backgrounds and assets & liabilities. Karen began in 1996, gaining knowledge and experience in the same areas.
Dean is a Certified Legal Investigator and expert in criminal defense homicide and civil equivocal death investigations. He has lectured extensively and authored multiple articles, peer-reviewed white papers, and provided expert testimony on Protocols of Private Investigation, and Forensic Investigation of Injury Pattern Analysis. He authored Professional Locate Investigations and recently completed Practical Methods for Legal Investigations: Concepts and Protocols in Civil and Criminal Cases, released by CRC Press in February 2011. Their subject matter expertise is Death Investigation and Injury Causation.
In addition, he is actively involved in several associations for our profession. This includes the Board Chairman of the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, Region 6 CLI Representative of the National Association of Legal Investigators with a column ‘Forensic Focus’ in NALI's trade magazine ‘The Legal Investigator’, Region 5A Director of the National Council of Investigation and Security Services, Member and Forensic Investigations Advisor of the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council, Membership Ambassador (North America - West) for the World Association of Detectives, National Defender Investigators Association, Affiliate Consultant member of the National Association of Medical Examiners, International Association for Identification, and Mensa USA.
Karen earned her Bachelor's in Social Work from Colorado State University (Magna Cum Laude). Her background, education and experience with victim advocacy and counseling are valuable assets in working with families and victims of traumatic events. Possessing strong interpersonal skills and ability to reach out to people, she brings a unique perspective to cases, particularly lifestyle matters and mitigation. Her death investigation training and experience, together with her social work and general investigative skills and experience, are an asset to the medicolegal and criminal defense investigative processes. She is also a member of the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council and National Defender Investigators Association.
She is also a member of the Criminal Defense Investigations Training Council, National Defender Investigators Association and National Association of Professional Women. She has been professionally published with 'The Basics of an Autopsy Report' (PI Magazine, Dec 2011), 'Understanding Suicide and its Prevention – Equivocal Death Investigations' (PursuitMag.com, Dec 2011), and 'False Confessions and Accusations' (PursuitMag.com, Feb 2012).
Their national consultation and investigation agency is based in Colorado and is primarily focused on Expert Consultations and Legal Investigations of Personal Injury, Negligence & Death in Civil, Criminal and Probate matters; including Critical Case Analysis. They are proud parents of Jeberly and Winter, and have three grandchildren - Jacee, and identical twin grandsons Gage and Cash.
From Karen, which speaks of our agency..."Equivocal Death Investigations/Analysis. Sometimes the death of a loved one leaves behind many unanswered questions. Helping clients understand the investigative process, answer questions to help ease their minds are the main goals of a death analysis. Helping clients with lingering issues surrounding a loved ones death is difficult yet necessary to assist in resolving issues that can sometimes take years. Hearing the words, "Thank you, you have helped me to understand" whatever questions they may have had tucked inside their minds is very rewarding."
Our friends and colleagues - Mark Murnan, CLI, CFE and Wendy Murnan - at Complete Legal Services, Inc. (West Palm Beach, FL) remind us that the use of databases are a tool that need to be combined with solid investigative skills and experience. The work of an investigator will not only save money, it can -- as pointed out -- prevent you from losing money and increase the value of your cases.
Here's the Case Study from Complete Legal Services, Inc.:
The attorney represented a client who was seriously injured in a vehicle accident as the result of the defendant’s negligence. The coverage was limited. However, knowing that the driver’s home address was in a northeast resort town, the attorney suspected the adverse had additional assets. Her paralegal utilized a proprietary database to identify potential attachable assets and found nothing but the home address and the defendant’s vehicle, neither of which had a high value.
The attorney contacted CLI and provided us with a copy of her database report. On review, we determined that the report provided to the attorney contained much less information than was available to licensed investigators (see companion article, “Don't Always Trust a Database Report”). We obtained our own database report and researched public records to identify another property not disclosed in the attorney’s report. This property appeared to be a second home in Florida, which was not homesteaded.
Please continue to the full story at www.completelegalinv.com/article3-12-1.html
Colorado has had its recent share of media stories of child deaths that some feel may have been prevented. This story comes out of Snohomish County, WA. We are not familiar with the medical examiner's office, protocol or policies of that office and make no opinion of them. Information has been shared among forensic professionals and media stories. Before reading this blog further, please read the stories for some background. In order, they are:
This is a disturbing story, and we agree in the basic premise of the latter editorial opinion regarding the necessity of autopsies; but we disagree that an outside agency should dictate when autopsies are or are not done -- that should be in protocol and policy with specific assessment training. Colorado has empaneled a child fatality review team at the state level, but many at the county level have not historically participated; some chastised their medicolegal death investigators for being 'too involved' in their cases (that criticism coming from the chief and husband). That being said, our county -- from which we received education, training and experience that exceeded any expectations and content available -- was very instrumental in setting guidelines for child death investigations and the investigative process that CDC has recommended and we use in our private expert consultations. The policy was that one investigator would go to the scene and one to the decedent (usually at the hospital), also where the family was -- there are many investigative reasons for this. Only if there were an underlying significant terminal medical history (and verified by consultation with the treating physician and independent review of the medical records) and no suspicious circumstances (and a higher standard than adult deaths) would the case not be autopsied. This component alone could have the responding medicolegal death investigators, and law enforcement active for 12-24 uninterrupted hours. There were two concerns: 1) a proper initial investigation to determine the necessity of an autopsy; and 2) to not further traumatize the family while trying to follow Voltaire's famous quote, "To the living we owe respect, to the dead we owe the truth." This was not the end of the investigation, it was only the component that would answer the question: autopsy or not. The investigative process often took several days to weeks and only concluded after toxicology and all other medical, physical and circumstantial information, facts and evidence were reviewed. I know of one story of a devoted medicolegal death investigator as the primary investigator on a suspicious infant death. Although he believes one death went unanswered, his attentiveness to a second death in the same jurisdiction was instrumental in preventing a third. A sad story to be sure, that thankfully did not continue ... and he was one later chastised for being 'too involved' by his superior and her co-worker spouse, who did not participate in child fatality reviews of their own child death cases.
What I would like to know from this story is who makes the decision to autopsy or not. As investigators we had the first decision, but if there were some gray area we called the on-call doc. Our training was extensive enough that having a doc on scene or calling to run cases by was minimal. I enjoyed the work and experience, but not the office politics, and would like to expand the child death investigations model for other jurisdictions.
At some point the responsible jurisdictions have to treat and compensate medicolegal death investigators, the offices of the medical examiner and/or coroner offices, and their forensic pathology staff for the often uncommended work as stewards of both public health and public safety. ME/Coroner investigators, and forensic pathologists, are often the first to experience budget restrictions and first to be criticized.
Any time we teach a death investigation course, child deaths are a large part of it.
With kindest regards, Dean
Dean A. Beers, CLI, CCDI and Karen S. Beers, BSW, CCDI
Board Certified Legal Investigator / Expert
Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigators
Certified Death Investigators / former Deputy Coroners
Associates in Forensic Investigations, LLC
www.Forensic-Investigators.com ~ beersda@Forensic-Investigators.com
(970) 480-7793 Office (Dean x1 / Karen x2) and (970) 480-7794 Fax
'Quaero Indicium' - To Find The Evidence
Karen presented a great article on the importance of scene investigations. In medicolegal investigations - death and injury causation - this is the beginning of the 'autopsy' (from the Greek - 'To see with one's own eyes').
There are several key points to scene investigations:
-- Likely multiple scenes
-- Likely different witness perspectives
-- Likely different investigative perspectives
-- Completing vs. Conducting investigations
What should the attorney, private client or insurance company be prepared for in having an skilled and experienced investigative process?
First, what is a scene? Well, it is not necessarily a 'crime scene' - it is where an event or incident took place. It has not been determined if a crime occurred until after the official investigation is complete -- and even then, that could be conclusively inaccurate. Suicides are not crimes, accidents may be - such as some motor vehicle collisions. Second, as Karen pointed out, there will almost ALWAYS be multiple scenes. In fact, I would say ALWAYS! If the incident involves a person, and a place and a thing -- those are at least three scenes. Driver, intersection and vehicle. Not just the driver, not just the intersection and not just the vehicle. They are all integral pieces of the puzzle - of the investigation. Unfortunately, more often than not, all that is requested is to 'go to the scene' (intersection). If the official investigation were limited to the intersection, the attorney-client would be all over the inadequate and, frankly, incompetent investigation. In your report, document specifically what the assignment and instructions were. Not every time will you get to see each of the integral components - or scenes - but recommend that all efforts be tried. In addition, don't limit yourself (i.e. your investigation and your client's case) to the immediate and instant scenes. Canvas the neighborhood, find other drivers from statements and reports that were at the intersection. I once found a bicyclist who happened upon a scene from no more than a responding paramedic remembering that his friend, the bicyclist, was already on scene giving aid but left before giving a statement.
We have all learned that there are as many variables to an incident as there are witnesses, distractions, attentiveness, and perspective. Every person has various functioning capacities of the five senses. Interviews and investigations should be conducted that inquire into each of these senses. Perhaps a nearby vehicle driver was on the phone and only saw the vehicles impact, but the passenger heard the sounds of skidding and saw the impact. As Karen described in her article, perspective is different, environments change. A four-way intersection has at least four different perspectives. That does not take into account every vehicle, occupant, position, lighting, attention and other important considerations. The investigative and interview process needs to cover each of these.
As private sector investigators, we primarily re-investigate official investigations. There are examples of primary cases conducted by our profession, such as workplace investigations. We will dissect and analyze everything (you do, right?) and are very critical of the official investigation. So critical, that if we find nothing askew, we tell our client (you do, right?). However, in all investigative processes we learn that there are different perspectives from the law enforcement perspective. Their job is ... law enforcement. If they have reason to believe a crime has been committed, that may lead to investigatory measures to determine reasonable suspicion. That is a perspective that many investigators in the private sector do not have. That continues through probable cause and filing of charges. Each person along that path has a perspective -- from the first responding law enforcement officer to the investigator, then to the prosecuting attorney and presiding judge. Ultimately the perspective of the jury may be the final outcome. Our initial concern are that of the investigative process. Without seeing the perspective, accurately or otherwise, of those involved in the official investigation, you simply assist the client with the prosecutor's office or judicial process. Think outside the box, enhance all of your senses, and use all of your education, training and skills. Do not limit your investigation to a preconceived conclusion or goal. If you feel you have found the facts to prove the preponderance of your client's case, that is not enough. It is not enough for law enforcement to reach probable cause, that is making an arrest and charge - hoping for a conviction.
In the private sector we have the advantage of being able to sit back and see the investigative process and evidence from a unique perspective. We are not first responders, under pressure or working a caseload that causes us to lose focus. However, all investigators - public, private, business, etc., all have a responsibility to conduct AND complete the investigative process. All investigators are fact finders and seekers of the truth. We do not decide the truth, that is up to another, but we do intend for our facts to be seen in the same truth by others as we see for ourselves.
Our agency offers FREE consultations to any private sector investigator on how to begin a proper scene investigation. Associates@Forensic-Investigators.com or (970) 480-7793
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