The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The determination of homicide vs. suicide in gunshot wounds


Anthropology, Herbert H. Lehman College - CUNY, NYCEP, New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology

Thursday Morning, Forum Suite Add to calendar

When examining a set of human skeletal remains in a bioarchaeological or forensic context, the assessment of perimortem trauma, as well as the collection of evidence which can be utilized to determine the cause and/or manner of death are just a couple of the critical objectives facing a biological/forensic anthropologist. When evidence of perimortem gunshot wound trauma is evident in a set of human remains the question needs to be ask as to how the decedent obtained that trauma, i.e. accident, suicide or homicide. In most situations involving homicidal gunshot wound trauma, it is difficult to determine whether the decedent was truly a victim (non-participant in a conflict) or a perpetrator of violence shot in the course of a conflict (justifiable homicide). The presence of ligatures, blindfolds, etc. may aid in those distinctions, otherwise each individual dying to a gunshot wound is a "victim" to a varying degree. A similar point of potential confusion and difficulty is found in recognizing suicidal versus homicidal gunshot wounds in certain situations. In many cases, the context of the remains and the scene will aid in the determination of suicide versus homicide. This poster will illustrate these point and provide examples on how to distinguish homicidal versus suicidal gunshot wound trauma through the use of actual forensic cases and human skeletal remains recovered from mass graves in Bosnia-Herzegovina, resulting from the civil war in the former Yugoslavia.

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