Science: Murder and Blood Splatter

The Story:

The use of science in the context of civil or criminal trials is endlessly fascinating. That, after all, is why there have been several television series’ about it. The serial killer Dexter Morgan, for example, had a day job as an expert in bloodstain splatter analysis on television show Dexter (2006 – 2013). A real-life blood splatter analysis, by a team of distinguished physicists, has come to light of late, and it shares the fascination of its fictional counterparts.


In 2009, music producer Phil Spector was tried and convicted of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, who was killed with a single gunshot to her mouth inside Spector’s home.

During the trial, Spector’s attorney argued that Spector couldn’t have fired that shot, because blood would have splattered all over his white dinner jacket. And very little blood was found there.

Years later, a physics professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, became intrigued with the case, and wondered about the dearth of blood on that jacket. Professor Alexander Yarin and two colleagues studied the physics of short-range shooting and they have come to believe that … justice was served. Or, at any rate, that the (relatively) clean dinner jacket does not constitute evidence for any contrary conclusion.

Strange New Worlds:

Gases released by a gun’s muzzle breaks can generate a series of turbulent vortex rings, which can deflect droplets, the team concluded. They were working on the basis of both computer simulations and physical experiments. Particulars are provided in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed journal PHYSICS OF FLUIDS.

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