The incapacity to act differs individually and is dependent on age, pre-existing illnesses and injury pattern. A differentiation is made between immediate, faster, delayed, restricted and lack of incapacity to act, depending on the injury pattern [1, 2]. Immediate incapacity to act is given if the brain as the central control unit of the entire organism is affected. Rapid inability to act results from damage to vital structures such as the heart, pulmonary trunk or aorta, when severe blood loss causes rapid circulatory depression with subsequent hypoxia of the brain, whilst delayed inability to act is caused by damage to large vessels or organs (liver, lungs, kidneys). In forensic literature, however, exceptions are repeatedly reported when victims were able, for example, to shoot themselves in the head several times [3,4,5], to run long distances [6, 7] or to respond to fire despite gunshot-related heart rupture .
In this case, the new pathology and scientific evidence was critical in reconstructing the sequence of events leading up to the death of A. The initial reconstruction of events as determined by the police investigation team, including the pathologist and scientific experts initially instructed was, as was later agreed, badly flawed. The underlying forensic strategy was based on the assumption that all of A’s wounds, including the fatal stab wound to the neck, had been inflicted within the flat. This error had a significant impact on how the investigation developed. Because the crime scene and forensic personnel did not question this assumption, on which their instructions were based, a detailed examination of the bloodstaining on the roadway, or in the alley, did not take place. That A would have been capable of climbing out of the window, negotiating the narrow window ledge and then jumping onto the steps before running a significant distance before collapsing was accepted without question and consequently it was felt that there was no reason to examine the bloodstains along that route in any detail. The absence of discernible bloodstains along the initial section of road leading from the flat and the relative paucity of blood around the bay window were explained by A being able to staunch the flow of blood from his injuries. The flawed strategy was inappropriately reinforced and inadequately challenged leading to a miscarriage of justice. There was no doubt that the attack on A started inside his flat as demonstrated by bloodstaining on the floor, walls and bed but it was also assumed, and not challenged, that the fatal neck wound was also inflicted here. This assumption allowed the crown to attribute responsibility for the killing to all 3 men who had been present in the flat. The review conducted by the newly instructed pathology and scientific experts challenged the basis on which the initial crime scene examination had progressed. The outcomes of their review were then subject to a joint conference between the pathologists and forensic scientists instructed on behalf of the prosecution and defense with the production of agreed joint statements. In this case, 6 independent medical and scientific experts, from 3 jurisdictions, concluded that A’s fatal injury had been sustained outside the flat and in the avenue or alley, 60 m away. This joint opinion was a crucial piece of evidence at the re-trial and, in no small measure, contributed to the acquittal of both B and C both of whom had already spent 4 years in prison. The development of the forensic strategy in this case started with an assumption that was not challenged or reviewed during the course of the investigation and nurtured an environment for confirmation bias. A more inclusive crime scene examination strategy would have mitigated the damage that those assumptions had on the evolving investigation. The importance of specialist scene examination by forensic experts in those cases where blood pattern analysis is required cannot be over emphasised . It is also essential that forensic scientists and pathologists work together sharing information to assess the significance of wounds and their relevance to scene interpretation. In this case, the focus of the investigation was misplaced and the scientific findings so fragmented that a miscarriage of justice was inevitable.