Examination of Hands in Suicide by Firearm

Certain features on the hands support the circumstances of suicide, particularly in multishot cases (55,154). The hands need to be covered by paper bags to protect evidence, particularly if there are suspicions surrounding the death (Fig. 31; ref. 16). Plastic bags create condensation when the body is refrigerated (16). Fingerprinting and hand washing, as part of body preparation prior to the pathologist's examination, jeopardize the documentation and collection of evidence (Fig. 32; refs. 16 and 154).

Primer residues, not visible to the naked eye, are deposited on the hands (see Heading 24. and refs. 16 and 155). Blood and/or tissue (e.g., brain matter, if a head

Gunshot Wounds Suicide Fail
Fig. 23. Intraoral gunshot wound. Soot on tongue (arrows). Laceration extending posteriorly.

wound) owing to blowback ("backspatter") may be found on the dorsum of the hand that fired a pistol/revolver (firing hand) and the hand that steadied the muzzle (nonfiring hand; see Heading 23.; Fig. 33; refs. 16, 111, and 154-157). Radial skin tearing around tight contact wounds is not an invariable finding associated with backspatter (156).

If the nonfiring hand is used to steady the end of the muzzle of the handgun, rifle, or shotgun, and the muzzle is not tightly apposed to the skin, then soot can be deposited on the thenar aspect of the palm, i.e., the index finger and thumb ("muzzle gap effect;" Figs. 34-36; and refs. 16 and 55). If the weapon is a revolver, then soot can be seen on the hypothenar aspect, i.e., little and ring fingers ("cylinder gap effect;" see Fig. 34). Associated injuries (e.g., lacerations) can occur if a higher velocity weapon is used

Fig. 24. Multishot suicide (see Fig. 51). (A) Contact gunshot wound on left forehead. Track was subcutaneous and the cranium was intact. Exit (arrow). (B) Blood stains on face and left shoulder support the observation the victim was upright when the nonfatal head wound was inflicted. He was supine after the fatal chest wound (arrow) as indicated by the tracking of blood from the wound to his back.

Fig. 24. Multishot suicide (see Fig. 51). (A) Contact gunshot wound on left forehead. Track was subcutaneous and the cranium was intact. Exit (arrow). (B) Blood stains on face and left shoulder support the observation the victim was upright when the nonfatal head wound was inflicted. He was supine after the fatal chest wound (arrow) as indicated by the tracking of blood from the wound to his back.

(Figs. 34 and 35). Yellow-brown discoloration on the palm of the hand holding the barrel of a weapon is a "rust" stain caused by moisture and perspiration (Fig. 37; ref. 16).

Linear scars on the wrists suggest a previous suicide attempt (73).

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