Crime Scene Reconstruction: Definition & Uses Video

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  • 0:03 What Is Crime Scene…
  • 1:11 The Process
  • 2:07 Locard's Exchange Principle
  • 2:36 Methods
  • 3:51 Application & the…
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Jankowski

Patricia is an experienced registered nurse who has worked in various acute care areas as well as in legal nurse consulting. She also has a BSChE.

Crime scene reconstruction is an analysis of the physical evidence and circumstances of a crime, theorizing how it occurred, and the scientific testing of that theory. This lesson is about crime scene reconstruction, its uses, and its definition.

What Is Crime Scene Reconstruction?

Albert von Szent-Gyorgi, a Hungarian scientist, once said, ''Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.'' This principle can certainly be applied to the field of crime scene reconstruction with all of its mysteries, twists, and turns.

Crime scene reconstruction is a method of solving a crime that starts with the creation of a theory of how it occurred. Deductive reasoning is then used to clarify and test that theory. Deductive reasoning is also called top-down logic, and it goes from the general to the specific. One famous example is, ''All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.'' The formulated theory is then tested by analyzing the evidence at the scene using thorough documentation and forensic science.

But it doesn't stop there. It's a dynamic, ever-changing process involving interviews with potential witnesses, and with living victims and their families. It involves dealing with new evidence as it comes up, and often navigating through a maze of lies and deception to find the most truthful story of what happened and how it happened.

The Process

A crime scene reconstruction always begins with the victim or victims. If living, the victim must be interviewed, and if dead, those who were involved or were close to him or her are interviewed instead. Their background is thoroughly researched as well as their state of mind and health status. The appearance of the crime scene itself must be photographed and the locations of all objects in the room carefully documented. Crime scenes must not be altered, and investigators must approach the scene with an open mind. There are a few basic questions that investigators must ask at the beginning of a reconstruction, including:

  • What happened?
  • Where did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • Why did it happen?

As the investigator considers these questions along with forensic evidence and possible motives, he or she also considers the fact that the physical evidence always tells a story.

Locard's Exchange Principle

An innovator and famous contributor to the field of forensic science was Dr. Edmond Locard, also known as the ''Sherlock Holmes of France''. Dr. Locard wrote, ''It is impossible for a criminal to act, especially considering the intensity of a crime, without leaving traces of his presence.'' This idea is known as Locard's exchange principal, which means that in any crime, there will be some form of evidence from the interaction of the perpetrator with his environment.


There are many different approaches that can be used to reconstruct a crime scene, and any or all of them can be useful, depending upon the skill and experience of the investigator and the unique circumstances of the crime.

The Henry Lee Model

Dr. Henry Chang-Yu Lee, a famous forensic scientist who has participated in the investigation of many high-profile cases including that of O.J. Simpson, developed the Henry Lee model of reconstruction. He outlined the types of reconstruction, such as from pattern or bloodstain, and focused on a science-based method of approaching the investigation of the crime and of formulating and testing a hypothesis. For instance, a particular pattern or type of bloodstain might tell investigators what type of weapon was used. Finding the murder weapon can help close a case.

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