The Effect of Gravitational Attraction and Air Resistance on a Projectile

The study of exterior ballistics is based primarily on the understanding and application of principles of physics. In their book, Shooting Incident Reconstruction, authors Michael G. Haag and Lucien C. Haag discuss the physics and application of exterior ballistic forensics. In this blog post we will review the two primary parameters associated with a bullet’s flight and review the equation responsible for expressing the slowing of a projectile. Read More...

An Introduction to Exterior Ballistics and the Forensic Application

Ballistics is the science of projectiles and firearms, and the study of the effects of being fired on a bullet, cartridge, or gun. Exterior ballistics also known as external ballistics is the part of ballistics that deals with the behavior of a non-powered projectile while in flight. The flight of projectiles (in this case bullets) must obey certain laws of physics. Scientists and engineers have developed the necessary mathematics to both describe and predict the flight of projectiles through the atmosphere. Read More...

A Further Look at Collecting Evidence Related to Knots and Ligatures

Dealing with knots and ligatures at the scene of an investigation may seem like a straightforward and obvious task, however great care and observation is required to ensure all knots, ligatures and related evidence are observed and accounted for respectively. Just looking for knots and ligatures at the scene of an investigation may not be sufficient investigation coverage. Good private investigators and forensic knot investigators must be aware of a great deal of knot and ligature related information and be able to apply that working body of knowledge to the scene of the investigation. Private investigators and forensic knot investigators must be aware that knots and ligatures can be utilized for any number of household items, hobbies, recreational equipment and work equipment. Read More...

Preserving Knot and Ligature Related Evidence

Evidence at the scene of an investigation must be properly handled and preserved, so that it may serve its intended function throughout the course of an investigation. Like any other type of evidence, knots and ligatures must also be appropriately analyzed, handled and preserved,in order to maintain the integrity of the evidence. Due to the complex nature of knot and ligature related evidence, thorough documentation, expert removal and precise handling are required. Private investigators and forensic knot investigators, with their expert body of knot and ligature related knowledge, should be called to the scene of investigation to help ensure all evidence is thoroughly documented, and precisely removed for further analysis. Read More...

Collecting Evidence Related to Knots and Ligatures

The first step for a private investigator in a criminal defense investigation process is to collect as much information and evidence possible. The collection of relevant evidence is essential for a private investigator, as evidence, properly interpreted, will create a visual retelling of the events. Once evidence is collected, the preservation of the material is also of the utmost importance. Depending on the form and material, evidence can be vulnerable to a number of external factors, including time, weather and other physical elements. Read More...

Steps to Ensure Scientific Documentation of Photography

Private investigators who utilize both digital and film-based photography should apply procedural steps of scientific documentation to ensure that the information is recorded in a methodical and accurate manner and the raw material is appropriately preserved. This blog post will examine some of the foundational steps necessary for the scientific documentation of photography.

Files and negatives are the raw material of photographic documentation and are thus critically important to any investigation and its outcome. If files or negatives are lost or damaged they cannot be replaced, so the appropriate preservation is paramount.

Common Core Analysis Techniques Part 2

Richard J. Heuer Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson identify seven common core techniques every analyst should master and utilize in their book, ‘Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis’. The seven techniques identified by Heuer and Pherson are Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumptions Check, Indicators, Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and ‘What If? Analysis’. Heur and Pherson believe that analysts should not only be aware of these techniques, but they should also be familiar with their appropriate application and benefits. In the previous related blog post we explored Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumption Check and Indicators. In this blog post we will examine Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and ‘What If? Analysis’. Read More...

Common Core Analysis Techniques Part 1

A good analyst must command a strong working knowledge of numerous analysis techniques, including their respective strengths, weaknesses and appropriate application. While some analysis techniques are more commonly utilized than others, it is important for a good analyst to properly understand common core techniques and their applications.

Richard J. Heuer Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson identify seven common core techniques every analyst should master and utilize in their book, ‘Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis’. The seven techniques identified by Heuer and Pherson are Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumptions Check, Indicators, Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and ‘What If Analysis’. In this blog post we will explore Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumption Check and Indicators.

How CSI Sensationalizes Evidence and A General Overview of the Scientific Method

The behavior of jurors in a criminal trial, and whether they acquit or convict is often a source of confusion and entertainment to all parties involved including the general public. Today the behavior of jurors is sometimes attributed to ‘the CSI Effect,’ which is the result of popular television programs that are based on fictionalized situations involving the criminal justice system.
Jurors interviewed after trials, where there was an acquittal, sometimes expressed doubt in the validity of the case if there was no hard forensic evidence presented or observed during the trial. These jurors also deemed eyewitnesses potentially untrustworthy and doubted their ability to recall the events in question while under scrutiny. Unfortunately, the CSI television programs are not an accurate or scientifically valid representation of potential real life scenarios, and their influence should be highly discounted. The effects of CSI television programs have even been deplored by the American Academy of Forensic Science, which addressed the negative influence in a newsletter.

Structured Analysis: Methods and Practice

In the beginning of ‘Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis’, Richards J. Heuer Jr. and Randolph H Pherson identify four broad categories of analytic methods. These identified approaches are distinguished by the name of the analytic methods used, the type of quantification if any, the type of data that are available, and the type of training that is expected or required. Each of the four categories is distinct, however at times, there is considerable overlap amongst particular categories. These four broad categories are Expert Judgment, Structure Analysis, Quantitative Methods Using Expert-Generated Data and Quantitative Methods Using Empirical Data.

Criminal Defense: What is ACH?

Matters of criminal defense are posed with one critical issue. The issue of two very distinctive adversarial views, each of which can be framed as hypotheses. In the courtroom, each of the opposing hypothesis is supported with evidence and arguments by the respective sides. The presented evidence along with skilled arguments supporting each hypothesis is then decided upon by the judiciary. In some cases, one hypothesis gains considerable weight over the opposing hypothesis, and the opposing side succumbs to the demands of the prevailing hypothesis’ proponent. This recurring courtroom behavior is undeniably similar to the historical use of Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH). Read More...

Criminal Defense: Reviewing and Organizing Physical Evidence

Physical evidence is crucial in any investigation and trial. Sometimes the body of physical evidence can be overwhelming, making it difficult to understand, organize and analyze. Carefully sifting through physical evidence and properly studying its validity, can help determine the most relevant and pertinent information. Read More...

Criminal Defense: Discovery Information and Police Reports

Discovery material is the material gathered by the state and the defendant that is relevant to the case at hand. This material is provided by one side to the other side, so both parties can fully review the information. The material found in a discovery usual includes police reports, physical evidence and information about witnesses. The volume of discovery material varies by case, and can range from three pages to three boxes to three rooms of information. Read More...

The Importance of Investigator-Defendant Interviews

When working with an attorney and defendant, one of the obvious and first steps to any investigation, is an investigator-defendant interview. During this initial interview the private investigator and defendant are able to establish a genuine rapport and fully explore the situation and events in question. Only from the “original source” can the private investigator learn the most detailed and descriptive version of the situation and events that transpired. Read More...

Public Defense and The Private Investigator

We would all like to optimistically believe in the intrinsic good of our justice system, the right to a free and fair trial, the right to a speedy trial, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many times defendants’ rights are discounted or even overlooked entirely by the overburdened public defenders and overzealous prosecutors. As public defenders’ caseloads continue to grow, the responsibility of due diligence falls more and more on the private investigator. Those morally sound and upstanding private investigators will go the extra mile to tie up loose ends, ensuring the defendant is aware of the most relevant and factual information to aid in their defense. Read More...

Legal Investigator: A Profession of Fact

While legal investigation is a relatively young profession, it is experiencing great growth as a result of the increasing litigation and demand for technical and specialized assistance. During a legal investigation, legal investigators are called upon, usually by attorneys, to help navigate the seemingly complex and technical nature of the given situation. A legal investigation is the gathering of facts relating to a situation which will likely be the subject of litigation and a legal investigator, or private investigator, is the technically trained astute professional who collects and examines facts relating to the situation. Legal investigators are trained in techniques for fact-finding and forensic procedures both at the scene of the situation and in the following aftermath. Read More...

A Further Look as Signed Witness Statements

While there are several types of witness statements, signed handwritten or typewritten statements are the preferred form. All signed statements should begin with a preamble. This preamble should identify the witness making the statement and include their full name, age, occupation, the identity of their employer and their home address. The preamble should also include any pertinent information relating to their background or qualifications as a witness. This would include their education, dates of graduation, certifications, specialties and their degree of expertise in relationship to the investigation, particularly if they are serving as an expert witness. Read More...

The Interview and Witness Rapport

Success in a legal investigation during an interview requires effectively working with any witnesses. Private investigators should reach out to witnesses with a respectful, but personal contact. Private investigators should prioritize establishing a rapport early on with each witness. This will help create a sense of friendship with the private investigator. The private investigators who are able to contact or interview a witness first, usually have the most effective interactions and are able to obtain the most relevant information. Witnesses may even begin to sense feelings of familiarity with the interviewer based on their interactions versus any preconceived notions of private investigators from television. Unfortunately, some private investigators neglect to personally contact witnesses and establish a rapport. As a result, these interviews are more likely to be deficient, failing to obtain the maximum pertinent content and negatively affecting the process. Read More...

The Purpose and Type of Witness Statements

Once private investigators have established who they are going to interview, they must then determine how they are going to interview them and collect a statement. The purpose of interviewing witnesses, is to determine the facts, reduce what the interviewee knows and to record their recollections by means of a formal statement. Read More...

The Art of Interviewing A Witness

One of the primary methods of private investigators for obtaining information during an investigation is by interviewing witnesses who may possess unique knowledge. A witness (not necessarily an eyewitness) is someone with particular knowledge regarding a given situation or occurrence related to an investigation. An interview is considered successful and completed once an investigator is able to obtain the maximum amount of information from a witness regarding a given situation. The ability to conduct a successful interview however is a difficult task that requires honed skills and techniques, especially since witnesses are not initially legally obligated to divulge any information. As each witness and their particular knowledge is different, it is necessary for each interview to be approached and conducted on a case by case basis. Read More...

Documentation Through Forensic Photography

Accurate and detailed documentation of Forensic Photography is necessary to create an optimal body of work. This requires private investigators working as forensic photographers to adhere to a process of scientific documentation as only accurately captured and documented images and photographs can serve as legitimate sources of evidence to be used within a court of law. Read More...

Forensic Photography: Viewing the Final Product

Forensic photography is used by private investigators to create a complete and accurate picture of a scene or object in an effort to aid during an investigation and serve as admissible evidence in a court of law. The science of forensic photography is complex and detail oriented in nature. Private investigator working as forensic photographers must use various types of equipment to capture and produce images. This includes multi-functional cameras, computers, an array of different-sized lenses and other related visual equipment. They also must take into account several physical factors, such as distance, perspective, lighting, angles and use of scales. Read More...

Press Release: Owner and Founder of Pennington & Associates Joins "Investigating Innocence"

Press Release: Jeremy Pennington of Pennington & Associates, joins Investigating Innocence, an organization that provides investigative support to indigent inmates, lawyers and Innocence Projects throughout the United States seeking to prove post-conviction claims of actual innocence.

Mr. Pennington founded Pennington & Associates in 2012. Located in Ironton Ohio, Pennington & Associates is a private investigation and analysis firm, with the view that their private investigators should be the most highly trained and competent investigators available to the public. Pennington & Associate private investigators are available to provide full support to attorneys involved in criminal defense and civil litigation. Full investigative support is also available to the general public involving criminal and civil matters.

Why You May Need A Child Custody Investigation

Raising a young child can be difficult, and their safety and security is always your primary focus. While you can rest assured when your child is safe at home, you may have reason to be concerned when they are in a foreign environment or interacting with people you do not know. If there is concern regarding your child’s well being or their safety in a given environment, a child custody investigation may be necessary. Pennington & Associates’ private investigators in Huntington West Virginia are available for child custody investigations. Read More...

Skip Tracing The Inside Story

Many people assume that law-enforcement agencies are responsible for locating missing persons responsible for financial and legal obligations. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many law-enforcement agencies are overwhelmed with their workload and are unable to conduct potentially time consuming skip tracing investigations. If you want a debtor or criminal located, you may have to hire a qualified private investigator to help you trace the skip. Read More...

Finding Hidden Assets

Discovering and locating a hidden asset can be a complicated business, especially during the dissolution of a marriage or business partnership. Conducting some basic research and enlisting the aid of a private investigator may help in the process of discovering and locating your assets. A hidden asset is an item of value that may be jointly owned, but hidden by one party from another party. In finance, a hidden asset is an asset that is not shown on a balance sheet. In other cases, a hidden asset is typically property that may be physically hidden. During the dissolution of a marriage or business partnership, one party may attempt to conceal assets from the other party in order to avoid sharing or losing control of the assets. During the dissolution process, parties may simply refuse to reveal the existence and location of assets. In other cases, parties may simply be unaware or oblivious of their assets.

Private investigators, or PIs, are called upon to conduct asset investigations for a variety of reasons, such as determining if a case is worth filing or providing leverage during negotiations. Discovering assets and locating them can be an extremely difficult. Since there are hundreds of ways to hide an asset, PIs must creatively employ legal and legitimate methods for discovering and locating them. Even if you do not suspect the existence of hidden assets in your particular case, it may be wise to consult with a PI to learn more.

Conducting a successful and thorough investigation includes review and analysis of pertinent field and database information. While PIs do not have the legal authority to access any private documents or information (including bank accounts, investment accounts, etc.), they rely on other methods for determining if assets exist and their location. There are several legal and legitimate tools a PI can use to help you discover hidden assets.

One method of investigation used by PIs is a field investigation. A field investigation may include surveillance, dumpster diving and interviewing persons of interest. Surveillance is used to locate individuals, assets, places of employment, etc. It is important for PIs to select legitimate and legal locations and equipment while conducting surveillance. Dumpster diving is another tool used by PIs to help discover and locate hidden assets. The legality of dumpster diving is dependent on the local laws. If it is legal to dumpster dive within the jurisdiction of interest, PIs can retrieve any discarded information. PIs may also interview persons of interest during a field investigation. Interviewing persons of interest may reveal important information related to an asset investigation. Interviewees are not legally obligated to speak to PIs. As a result, PIs may have to contact several persons of interest until someone is willing to disclose information.

Another method of investigation employed by PIs is a database investigation. A database investigation may include assessing public records related to the party of interest. Public records may include birth records, death records, marriage licenses, vital statistics, judgements in court, criminal records, real estate transactions, employment history, name changes, business licenses and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records.

The dissolution of a marriage or business partnership can be a complicated and stressful endeavor. Ideally during the legal dissolution both parties are honest and upfront about their assets, however this is not always the case. If you are unsure of the potential existence and location of assets to which you may be entitled, you may want to contact a PI. A PI with experience locating assets can help you learn about legal courses of action you can take to better your situation.


The Value of Forensic Photography

“This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value." - Dr. Edmond Locard 1942

Forensic photography is the method and practice of gathering and examining information about past events through the use of conventional and digital cameras. When evidence is accurately photographed by trained forensic photographers it may serve as an aid in crime and accident investigations. These images may also be useful in courtrooms as an aid for witnesses, victims and juries. Other types of noteworthy forensic photographic evidence may include images of suspected criminals, convicted criminals, victims, bystanders and other pieces of related evidence (bodies, fingerprints, weapons, blood stains, etc.). Forensic photographs can be used in relation to both criminal and civil law cases. Pennington & Associates’ private investigators provide forensic photography services in the Huntington West Virginia local area.

Forensic photographers are trained specialists, who are able to clearly capture and document the evidence in question in an unbiased manner. Crime or accident scenes must remain in pristine condition and intact until forensic photographers are able to arrive and document the evidence. This will ensure the most accurate and reliable information is captured and recorded. Forensic photographers must also comply with any protocols regarding the types of equipment they use to record and document evidence. Reliable forensic photographs must contain clear images and typically include observation of measurements, scale, perspective (from multiple angles) and close-ups. Forensic photographers must take into consideration the position and placement of evidence in relation to the scene as a whole. Evidence must also be photographed from multiple angles to prevent parallax.

Forensic photographers capture images with both digital and conventional cameras. Conventional cameras are typically able to provide greater image resolution than digital cameras. However, digital cameras are able to produce images at a fraction of the cost found in the use of conventional cameras. Digital cameras also automatically date and time stamp each image that is captured. Automatic date and time stamps can aid in the documentation and authentication of evidence later on in an investigation. As a result of the technological advances, law enforcement agencies have rapidly transitioning to digital technology and software. Forensic photographers are also trained to select the correct lighting and most appropriate lenses. Color images are generally used compared to black and white images, however forensic photographers will exercise discretion and determine the most appropriate format as situations vary.

Forensic photography is a complex and detailed orientated science, but if properly executed and recorded, may aid in the analysis of a criminal or civil investigation. Forensic photography should be practiced by trained professionals who are familiar with the necessary procedures to accurately capture evidence in an unbiased manner. Forensic photography also allows investigators to observe, study and truly understand evidence and may help them determine the sequence of events. Captured and documented accurately, these images will aid investigators, witnesses and bystanders, who may not be able to precisely remember or recall the evidence in question. Although crime and accident scenes must be cleaned up and returned to their original state, forensic photographs serve as accurate permanent records of the evidence.

The Ethics of Private Investigators

We are all familiar with the dramatic stereotypical film of the portrayals of private investigators, however rarely do we consider the less dramatic and more complex reality. In actuality, Private Investigators, or PIs, painstakingly deal with the details of legally complicated and ethically ambiguous cases. A good PI must have a sound working knowledge of the law and the ability to traverse ethically grey situations, in order to provide their clients with reliable service. Before any PI should accept a case they must discuss it thoroughly with their potential client and determine whether it is legal, ethical and possible to solve their case. Only once all three questions are answered with a resounding yes, should a PI accept a case.

PIs are also responsible for the maintenance of their good legal and professional standing. Compliance with the state of operation’s licensing and registration requirements is a must. If a PI is operating within an area of expertise, they should also obtain any necessary specialized training. PIs should also continue their education on a regular basis to ensure awareness of new industry specific information and possible changes in relevant legislation.

A PI must also have a full and working knowledge of the legislation and laws related to their field of work. It is especially important that they understand and employ legal methods for collecting and disclosing information obtained during an investigation. While some types of information are available and public, other types of information are private and protected by either state or federal statutes. As civilians, PIs are also accountable to the law and knowing the difference between public and private information is crucial for them to maintain good legal and professional standing. It is necessary that they are able to make sound and legally defensible decisions (even in unexpected and legally ambiguous situations).

Additionally, it is imperative that PIs recognize and prepare for various types of ethical dilemmas likely to arise while working on a case. They need to have the appropriate education, training, management tools and strategies to deal with these situations. Examples of common ethical dilemmas for PIs include the possible violation of privacy rights (especially as new technologies emerge) or the implications of revealing confidential information to a client or others.

On a daily basis PIs are responsible for navigating the legally complex and ethically grey waters of their profession. A solid professional foundation for any good PI is their attention to detail, knowledge of relevant legislation and management of ethically complicated situations. While in reality, life as a PI may not be as dramatic as the portrayals in film, but their daily work-life is still more exhilarating than most of ours.

Methods Used By A Private Investigator

When we conjure up the historical romanticized idea of a private investigator, Sherlock Holmes quickly comes to mind. While today’s private investigators are not of the fictional and whimsical variety, they still employ the essential trustworthy methods of history’s great detectives which include utilizing human sources, accessing public records and employing surveillance.

Private investigators, or PIs, are typically licensed private citizens with various types of training and experience. They are usually employed by private citizens or businesses to seek, collect, examine and identify facts in civil and criminal cases. Good PIs have a thorough knowledge of interviewing, research, and surveillance techniques.

One of the most essential ways PIs can gather useful information and facts is through the use of human sources. The utilization of human sources involves collecting information by conducting interviews. PIs interview suspects, witnesses and bystanders to gather information. Persons being interviewed are not legally obligated to speak to a PI. As a result, PIs typically devote time to developing a rapport with potential interviewees. An example of utilizing a human source would be interviewing a person who has witnessed a motor vehicle accident.

Another effective method PIs employ for collecting reliable information is accessing and assessing public records. Public records or documents include most significant events in an individual’s life. These events include births, deaths, marriages, vital statistics, judgements in court, criminal records, voter registration, real estate transactions, military service, employment history, name changes, business licenses and Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records. Consultation of public records can provide a reliable outline for an individual’s background history. Public records can also be used to research genealogy and family history. An example of using public records for an investigation would be reviewing the DMV records of a person involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Finally, one of the most tried-and-true methods of a PI is surveillance. Surveillance is used to locate individuals, assets, and places of employment. While the basic idea behind surveillance is very simple, actually conducting surveillance can be quite difficult and time consuming. PIs conduct successful surveillance by selecting the proper legal locations and equipment needed to obtain evidence. Public property is an ideal location for surveillance and helps PIs avoid any legal issues. In many jurisdictions, the surveillance itself is legal, especially if the PI has notified the local authorities of their presence. An example of employing surveillance for an investigation would be monitoring a person who has filed an insurance claim after being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

The utilization of human sources, accessing public records and employing surveillance are three of the most basic yet practiced methods of a PI. Established PIs are able to successfully employ all three of these obvious yet difficult to employ practices for collecting case information. Even the great Sherlock Holmes made use of these effective methods.