EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Addendum to Susan's Post About Crime Scene Photos & Lividity

Yesterday, Susan Simpson did a post about the crime scene photos and lividity. I write to join Susan in hoping that nobody attempts to post the crime scene photos for obvious reasons. As far as I understand things, (1) we have received 8 crime scene photos that were authenticated and admitted at trial; and (2) other people have obtained 22 crime scene photos, which may be (a) 22 entirely separate photos that were not authenticated or admitted into evidence; or (b) 14 unauthenticated photos and the 8 photos that were authenticated and admitted into evidence. 

Those who have viewed the 8 authenticated photos believe that Hae's upper chest and face were less prone. Those who have viewed the 22 photos believe that Hae's upper body and chest were more prone. There are also other points of disagreement, such as the positioning of Hae's arms and whether her hand was visible before excavation had begun. 

There doesn't, however, appear to be any disagreement about Hae's abdomen. In both of the diagrams above, Hae's abdominal area is clearly not parallel to the ground. This is significant because, after seeing the crime scene photos, Dr. Hlavaty was able to detect anterior abdominal lividity: "There is red fluid on the face that came from the nose and mouth and is decomposition fluid, and there is a pink color to the skin on the exposed abdomen that is lividity." This is confirmed by the poster claiming the alternate positioning of the body, with the poster even noting that this pink coloration is at the center of the abdomen: "The center of the abdomen is a light pink color, somewhat darker than the white skin running down the midline of the chest." It also is consistent with the autopsy report, which stated that "[l]ividity was present and fixed on the anterior surface of the body, except in areas exposed to pressure." 

The only way that this front/center abdominal lividity would make sense is if Hae's abdomen were parallel to the ground. Under both renderings, it isn't. One rendering must be closer to reality than the other, but this seems like a distinction without a meaning. In either case, the abdominal lividity is inconsistent with the body's position, and I hope that everyone involved leaves it at that.




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Almost every piece of info about this case could be argued both for guilt or innocence. MD should let a court sort it out with a new trial where Adnan has real advocates. What are they afraid of?

Posted by: BruceinPA | Oct 1, 2015 12:01:20 PM

Was there any evidence of lividity or pressure points on Hae's legs? If she'd been laying face down when lividity fixed, would this mean her abdomen was somehow off the surface (there would be no lividity if there were pressure to the abdomen)?

Posted by: K | Oct 1, 2015 12:06:37 PM

Assuming these "guilters" have seen 22 other photos that show the body in the exact position they claim, which they argue supports Jay's and the State's narrative of the burial time, (which as you succinctly show above, it doesn't), why on earth would the State nevertheless admit the 8 photos that clearly show the body in the position that Susan illustrates? Wouldn't the State want to admit the evidence that was the most helpful for their case?

Posted by: Ann | Oct 1, 2015 12:26:25 PM

They won't leave it alone because if you think her torso could have gained that lividity from the position of he body in the grave then it jibes with Jay's/prosecution's version. If you take Susan's version as I do then it's more evidence to show that the story given at trial couldn't have happened

Posted by: Megan Pawlak | Oct 1, 2015 1:16:17 PM

BruceinPA: There would be a lot exposed at a new trial, including things we haven’t touched upon yet.

K: None of the photos show her legs, so it’s impossible to tell.

Ann: I don’t get it. Obviously, I can’t speak to what the other photos show. That said, the ME who testified at trial was not there for disinterment, and the autopsy indicated that Hae was buried on her right side. If Gutierrez had raised the lividity issue at trial, this would have been a huge error for the prosecution. Luckily for them, she didn’t get into the timing of lividity.

Megan: But do they actually think that? Has anyone actually claimed that the anterior abdominal lividity is consistent with the burial position? I’ve seen people argue for a different burial position, but I haven’t seen anyone try to explain the anterior abdominal lividity,

Posted by: Colin | Oct 1, 2015 1:25:44 PM

The abdomen is a relatively large area. Just as a layperson, there is the upper, middle and lower, all of which can be placed in varying degrees of proneness. Which are you referring to?

Posted by: doxxmenot | Oct 1, 2015 1:58:10 PM

Do you mean the photos don't show the legs after disinterment? I'm assuming they must show them if Susan knows which part of the legs were exposed. Are there any notes mentioning the legs from the autopsy report? Or photos from that?
I do hope someone can identify what could have made the diamond marks. It could be a substantial clue.

Posted by: K | Oct 1, 2015 2:00:21 PM

Leaning preemptively hard on the "authenticated" talking point, are we?

Posted by: John | Oct 1, 2015 2:04:30 PM

How do you explain Hlavaty's discussion about the arm frozen in an odd, unnatural position in the second set of photos you showed her? Neither Susan nor X show that in their diagrams.

Posted by: monstimal | Oct 1, 2015 2:08:44 PM

CG attempted to get the notes and/or crime scene reports that should have been created by Dr. Rodriguez and his team when they processed the crime scene. Kevin Ulrich responded that "Dr. Rodriguez has written no reports in this matter". Is this an absolute declaration by Kevin Ulrich that there were no written notes and reports made by Dr. Rodriguez and his team?

It seems very unlikely that a professional forensic anthropologist who has basically been hired by the Baltimore Police Department to process the crime scene would do this work without taking written notes. Why even have him there at all if when he finishes, he's provided no documentation to the police. What value is there in having him there at all?

>From Susan:

>>In other words, information concerning the burial site had simply never been recorded by anyone. The prosecution’s position was that no one had, at any time, made any diagrams or took any notes of how the body was found at the burial site. Dr. Rodriguez and his team, who had been specially brought in from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., in order to assist the BPD with the recovery of the body, had failed to document any aspects of the crime scene.

My question: Does the statement by Kevin Ulrich about Dr. Rodriguez not creating any reports cover any and all documentation he and his team created on site (for example fieldnotes, diagrams, and drawings.)? Or is it word smithing/game playing?

Posted by: Pdxkat | Oct 1, 2015 2:22:50 PM

It seems like there is some serious doubt with the lividity. Lividity was one of the main discoveries of the Undisclosed podcast, although its significance went mainly to the timeline.

So, the CrimeStoppers tip remains the only credible new evidence found by the podcast which can throw some definite light on the truth of the matter. What do you think the chances of learning of its contents are?

Posted by: S | Oct 1, 2015 2:22:55 PM

“Megan: But do they actually think that? Has anyone actually claimed that the anterior abdominal lividity is consistent with the burial position?”
They do make that claim Colin. They say that the face and torso are positioned parallel and flat to the ground and as such, they claim frontal lividity could have fixed at the gravesite. That was the big “bombshell”. But they also say the hips and legs are perpendicular to the torso and face, positioned on the right side, without any regard for the natural twist at the waist that would require, which would, in turn, would preclude anterior abdominal lividity to fix at the grave site.

Posted by: D | Oct 1, 2015 2:40:52 PM

Well, finding out about the ‘diamond patterns’ is Hae giving a huge clue that investigators not only overlooked but didn’t even think about. Paying attention to the VICTIM is how you find a perp. I’ve seen a case where the detectives saw patterns of livity on a victim & actually did an investigation to where they indentified what the patterns were, where the place was where the patterns occurred, leading them to where the victim was stored then, with solid work, led them to the killer. There are detectives that do good work & care about the victim. Not these 2 who didn’t even get witness statements or evidence about what Jay was doing & where he was. Only one was Jen who didn’t even corroborate most of his statements.

Posted by: Sunny | Oct 1, 2015 3:15:58 PM

Colin: The people who have seen the 22 pics have been clear that the computer rendering you are using DOES NOT show the correct body position.

Posted by: ddfv | Oct 1, 2015 3:21:29 PM

Thanks Colin. Off-topic but I just have to say I do not understand the "guilter" people. They seem to have an unhealthy fixation.

Posted by: CeeJay | Oct 1, 2015 3:48:12 PM

is not turning the photos over to the defense a Brady violation?

Posted by: E | Oct 1, 2015 4:18:23 PM

Doxxmenot: I take it to mean the area above the pelvis.

K: Susan is talking about the (minimal) portions of the legs that could be seen before excavation. There is no clear photograph of the legs.

John: The rules of evidence are in place for a reason. That said, the point of this post is that the alleged differences in the body position don’t really matter in terms of the lividity analysis.

monstimal: I’m not sure what you mean. Susan was actually the one who had me ask Dr. Hlavaty about the “rigor.”

Pdxkat: I’d love to know.

S: I don’t see any doubt about the lividity evidence. That’s kind of the point of the post. As for CrimeStoppers, I’m feeling pretty good about getting the information, but you never know.

D: Can you pint me to a statement to the effect that the positioning is consistent with anterior abdominal lividity? I haven’t been able to find one.

Sunny: I wish we had more documentation. It’s so tough to tell what was and wasn’t noticed by the experts.

ddfv: My understanding is that the claim is that the computer rendering is close to the claimed body position and the same with regard to the position of the abdomen. If there is a statement indicating that the abdomen is more prone, please let me know.

E: Gutierrez was apparently shown the photos, so there was no Brady violation.

Posted by: Colin | Oct 1, 2015 5:11:31 PM

I believe the medical experts and they all agree.. Too bad CG didn't get it. End of picture discussion. Please, please (I don't believe you have the photos) don't release them. Have some empathy for her family.

Posted by: Desire Dunn | Oct 1, 2015 5:14:52 PM

Colin, so many thanks for your hard work, tone, and class. I hope those who acquire the pics show restraint but I am not hopeful.

Posted by: SummerDreams | Oct 1, 2015 5:42:07 PM

Idiots on reddit who won't even post under their real names, claiming to have pictures no one else has seen that just happen to support their otherwise unsupportable position that the murder happened as presented by the state at trial. Right. I think I'll be over here with Colin and Susan and Dr. Hlavaty on the lividity evidence. Even Jay Wilds bailed on the 7:30 burial story.

Posted by: Michael Gould | Oct 1, 2015 6:20:32 PM

Thanks for this thoughtful and honest explanation... I think there are good arguments for innocence and guilt and the more calm, measure, critical, dis-passionately honest we can be, is the best way of find out the truth for the sake of Adnan and Hae. No one should be calling anyone a liar.

Posted by: Paul H | Oct 1, 2015 7:07:15 PM

Colin remember on Serial Sarah described the body as so well hidden that the coroner couldn't locate the burial site without being shown where it was. That is why we were so suspicious about Mr. S. accidentally finding it. Now we find she was only partially covered with some dirt and leaves. That was a big part of the Serial story. How did she get that so far off?

Posted by: Elizabeth MM | Oct 1, 2015 7:25:25 PM

Does the lividity evidence prove that Hae wasn't in the trunk of a car for four hours? Nothing has been mentioned about that lately.

Posted by: Ann | Oct 1, 2015 8:14:05 PM


That is the post that discusses the position of the body and the fact that it is consistent with lividity. Xtrialatty says:
"I now believe that there is no inconsistency between observed livor pattern and the position that the body was in when found."

This is based on his claim that he has the photos of the crime scene. He states that he has 22 photos and the Undisclosed team has stated that they have 8 (Colin: Can you confirm that you have the 8 authenticated photos only and have not seen any "unauthenticated" photos?). I think that the lividity evidence is the most convincing evidence of Adnan's innocence that has been brought up so far, which is why these "guilters" have latched onto it and are trying so hard to discredit it. I was on the fence until this evidence was presented and it put me over to the innocent side. I think the point is, her hips and legs were on their side and no one disputes that fact. This means that no matter how twisted her abdomen was, it would be impossible for it to be completely parallel with the ground. (Lay on the ground and try to get your abdomen to be flat against the ground, it is not possible). I think Dr. Hlavaty was very clear that if her abdomen was not flat against the ground, it would not be consistent with lividity. Xtrialatty is not an ME and until a credible ME states that the burial position is consistent with lividity, I do not buy any of these people’s claims.

Posted by: narizarielka | Oct 1, 2015 8:44:34 PM

Desire: Thanks for the comment.

SummerDreams: Thanks.

Michael: Jay bailing on the earlier burial is definitely an interesting component of it.

Paul: Thanks. I was actually surprised at the similarities between the positions described by both sides.

Elizabeth: I don’t think that she was that far off. Not much of the body was exposed. You can definitely see those parts in the photos, but it’s not something that jumps out at you.

Ann: Yes, it does. That is something that additional crime scene photos couldn’t contradict.

Narizarielka: Yes, I just have the 8 authenticated trial photos. I see that post, but I don’t see anything explaining how there could be the pink coloration – lividity – in the center of the abdomen. I think the poster is explaining how the position described could be seen as consistent with the lividity pattern in the upper chest and face. If no one is claiming that the body’s positioning is consistent with the front/center lividity in the abdomen, there is no debate.

Note: This is the 25th and final comment on this post.

Posted by: Colin | Oct 2, 2015 2:51:17 AM

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