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to any other cause than the one assigned. On more than one occasion has the defendant been acquitted owing to such neglect, giving rise in the minds of the jury to the doubt as to whether disease or the wound was the real cause of death. On the other hand, as in a celebrated case, the defendant would have been convicted of murder, it being in evidence that the deceased, a young girl, had received from him a severe beating, had not the true cause of death, the poison taken, been well established by the medical examination.1
In cases of death from wounds the medical examiner should carefully note their exact situation, direction, and
Human hair. 1. The hair of a child. 2. Hair of an adult. 3. Pointed extremity of the hair of the eyebrow. a. Transverse section of the hair showing the cortical and medullary portion, and air-cells in the centre of the cylinder.
Human hair with the tubular sheath as torn out by force.
extent. If the weapon by which the wounds were known or supposed to have been inflicted has been obtained, it I Wharton and Stillé: op. cit., vol. iii. p. 216.
should be compared by the medical examiner with the wounds themselves, so that, on subsequent examination, he can positively state whether such wounds as were found could have been inflicted by the weapon submitted. The clothes of the deceased should be carefully inspected, and any rents, cuts, or tears found compared with the wounds. in the body and with the weapon by which they were in
flicted. Hairs and fibres found upon the weapon supposed to have inflicted the fatal wound, or upon the person of
the accused, should be examined with the microscope and compared with those of the clothing worn by the deceased.
As a general rule, human hairs (Fig. 9) can readily be distinguished from those of animals, or from fibres of cotton, silk, wool, etc. The hairs of the lower animals, some of which are represented in Figure 10, differ in many respects from those of man, being generally coarser, thicker, shorter, and less transparent. Microscopically, the most striking differences in hairs are presented by the cells and linear markings of their cortical portions. The fibres of cotton (Fig. 11, 1) are flattened bands disposed in a spiral or twisted manner. Those of linen (Fig. 11, 2) are rectilinear, tapering to a point and presenting pointed markings at unequal distances. Silk fibres are cylindrical in shape, almost entirely free from markings, and refract light powerfully. The fibres of wool are rather irregular in form and unequal in thickness.
The importance of making a thorough post-mortem examination in cases of death from violence is well shown in cases of persons crushed to death, as by a heavily-loaded wagon. It is well known that, although the external signs of violence in such cases may be limited to a few abrasions, the internal injuries causing death may be of the most extensive and serious character.
Character of Wounds.-Wounds are usually described as being incised, lacerated, contused, punctured, or penetrating. Incised wounds may generally be recognized by the regularity and evenness of the cut; and it might naturally be supposed that they would be made by cutting weapons, penetrating wounds being supposed to be inflicted by pointed instruments, and contused wounds by blunt ones. It must be admitted, however, that in certain cases, as in Casper op. cit., vol. i. p. 112, case xl.
wounds inflicted by broken glass or china, which resemble exactly incised wounds, it might be very difficult to say how the wounds had been made. Indeed, it is impossible for the medical examiner, though often asked, to state positively whether a wound was inflicted with a particular kind of weapon.
Suicidal Wounds.-It often becomes important to determine whether a wound was inflicted before or after death. In the case of an incised wound this is not very difficult, since, if made before death, the edges of the wound are everted and are more or less filled with coagulated blood, principally of an arterial character, or with granulations, pus, or sloughs, if any length of time has elapsed before death. Contused wounds, if made during life, are characterized by ecchymoses, suggillation, or the black-andblue discoloration due to the rupture of small vessels, and the effusion of blood into the cellular tissue under the skin. The progressive changes of color-purple, black, violet, green, yellow-exhibited by ecchymoses serve not only to indicate whether the bruise was made before or after death, but also as to the length of time elapsing since its production. Thus, for example, within twelve hours after the injury, and in some cases immediately afterward, the color presented by the bruise is that of a purplish-black; by the third day it has become violet; by the fifth or sixth day, green; and by from the eighth to the tenth day, yellow. The latter color gradually disappears by from the twelfth to the fourteenth day, the skin reassuming its natural hue and presenting no trace of the discoloration. The situation, extent, and direction of a wound and the position in which the weapon was found should most carefully be observed and noted by the medical examiner, as it may become
essential under certain circumstances to determine whether the wound was suicidal, homicidal, or accidental.1 In cases of persons taking their own lives, the mouth, forehead, the region over the heart, etc., are usually chosen if fire-arms were used; the throat or heart if the wounds were inflicted with cutting instruments. While ordinarily accessible parts of the body are selected by suicides, it must not be forgotten that insane persons, in committing suicide, have inflicted wounds upon themselves in most inaccessible parts, such as the back of the head and neck. It is well known that insane persons have killed themselves by falling backwards, their heads striking upon some hard substances, or by shooting themselves through the back of the head. The fact of a person being found dead shot through the back of the ear might suggest that the wound was homicidal. It would not, however, prove it; since it is well known that insane persons have taken their lives in that very way. Incised wounds of the throat, especially if the direction of the wound be from left to right, the deceased being right-handed, are usually regarded as presumptive of the death being suicidal.
Homicidal Wounds.-It should be remembered that a very common way of committing murder is by cutting the throat of the victim, the murderer standing behind; a wound inflicted in such a manner would resemble that committed by a suicide. On the other hand, the irregularity of the wound often observed in such cases, and sometimes submitted as a proof that the wound was homicidal, and attributable to the resistance offered by the deceased in his struggle for life, might just as well be accounted for on the supposition that it was suicidal and due
1 Casper Gerichtliche Leichen Effnungen, Erstes Hundert, Berlin, 1853, S. 17.