Crime scene analysis

In the first Menendez brothers trial the defense called Dr. Ann Burgess to testify about her analysis of the Menendez crime scene. The testimony can be found in the first hour of trial video 72.

Burgess has a Bachelor of Science degree from Boston University, and a Master of Science degree from the University of Maryland. She also has a Doctor of Nursing Science degree from Boston University. At the time of her testimony in 1993, Burgess was a clinical specialist in psychiatric mental health nursing. Her profession was professor of psychiatric mental health nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. She also had a clinical practice. She also engaged in clinical research in the field of victim trauma, child sexual abuse, child pornography, and crime scene analysis.

Burgess worked with the FBI to formulate a methodology for crime scene analysis.

Burgess testified there are three classifications of homicide by crime scene: disorganized, mixed, organized.

According to the most recent (as of 1993) classification of homicide, FBI guidelines identifies 32 categories within the homicide section. One category is what’s known as domestic homicide.
“Domestic homicide means where there is some type of relationship between the victim and the offender. Generally must be either a significant partner or a family member.”

Burgess was asked to apply the guidelines from the FBI crime classification methodology to the crime scene in the Menendez case. In order make her analysis, Burgess reviewed all of the crime scene photographs, autopsy photographs, the forensic reports, the medical examiner’s reports, the police reports, anything that pertained to information relating to the crime scene. Burgess also read medical examiner Dr. Irwin Golden’s testimony, and read Detective Leslie Zoeller’s testimony.

Based on her review of that material, Burgess was able to make some classifications of the Menendez crime scene.
The crime scene analysis indicated this was “a domestic killing,” because “There is no forced entry. There was no movement — the bodies were not touched, they were left as they — what is called the death scene was the same as the crime scene, they were not moved. There was no evidence of material being taken from the house, no theft. Even the doors to the house there’s no break in there, and there appeared to be no break in through gates.”

The purpose of classifying a crime scene as either organized or disorganized: “It speaks to the amount of planning that can be determined from just looking at the crime scene.”

The investigating purpose of analyzing a crime scene to see if there has been planning or no planning: “It’s generally going to alert or tell the investigating officer where to focus their investigation. What type of person, what relationship et cetera to begin to look for.”

In a disorganized crime scene there is generally a “low amount” of planning to avoid detection.

An organized crime scene “shows very few clues, very elaborate planning, certainly to the point where there is no apprehension of the suspect.”

The Menendez crime scene has “indicators of both organized and disorganized, but generally in this crime scene I saw more evidence of disorganization.”

The factors indicating the crime scene was disorganized: Location. Choice of weapon. Injuries to victims. Emotionality. Where the actual injuries were. Lack of staging.

There were two factors indicating that it was an organized crime scene: That there were no shells found at the crime scene, and the lack of weapons at the crime scene.

Burgess described in detail her opinion that it was a disorganized crime scene:

Location: “Location is where actually the crime occurred…. Location here is interior of a home that’s in a fairly residential area.”

Choice of weapon: “The type of weapon was a shotgun.”

Burgess testified that the combination of shotguns being used in an interior room in a residential area bespeaks there was no significant evidence of planning to avoid detection: “One of the factors is that this is a very loud type of weapon to be used, and the number of shells that were fired. There was a large number of shells fired, and so that the noise certainly was a key factor.”

Injuries to victims: “Injuries to victim is that you look at where on the body in a gun shooting case where the injuries are. And not only where they are on the body, but the number.”
“The more organized type of person who shoots is going to use the minimum amount of shots to accomplish the task,” because “they thought about it, they planned it out, they want to do it as fast as they can and avoid detection so to get out of the area fast.”

Emotionality: The term “Overkill” is sometimes used. “More shots are fired than is necessary to accomplish the task. And this was the situation in this crime scene.” “That generally points to what’s called a high degree of emotion.”

Where the injuries were: “My analysis is that the injuries were random, if you will. They were to all parts of the body. There was not one area singled out.” The fact that the injuries appeared to be random “would speak to a more pervasive emotion than just one emotion such as anger or rage…. It would speak to a wider aspect such as fear.”

Lack of staging: “Staging means that the offender has done something to the crime scene to make it look like another crime occurred, or in some way to cover up, or to lead investigators into another direction.” “Things can be actually added and brought in, or things can be removed such as in removing items, burglarizing to make it look like that that was the primary intent.”
The removal of the shotgun shells “wouldn’t necessarily be called staging because it’s — it is removing — it’s related to the weapon and removing the weapon, but not in the sense that it’s trying to make it look like another type of crime.”
Burgess saw no evidence of staging in the Menendez crime scene.

Burgess went on to testify that there are three planning stages: pre-crime, during the crime, post-crime.
Burgess opined that the fact that the shotgun shells had been picked up and the fact that no weapons were found at the scene “speak to post-crime planning.”

Burgess testified that in her opinion the reloaded shot fired to the left side of Kitty Menendez’s face was more evidence of overkill. That shot was “not necessary” to affect the death of Kitty Menendez.

Burgess characterized the Menendez crime scene as having “a high risk of detection.”
“One of the indicators of detection would be getting evidence on one’s person. And given the location, the type of weapon, there is a high probability that some of the blood from the close-range firing of multiple shots would have in some way gotten onto the person or persons. The second is of course the location, the small area in which this crime occurred. And the noise from the multiple guns. And that it was in August at a time when doors would be open in terms of the noise being heard outside of that immediate area.”

The fact that there were two people shooting in a small space with shotguns added the additional element of risk of shooting each other.