Dr. Bill Smock has spent the last 21 years as the physician for Louisville Metro Police, but now he’s leading a first-of-its-kind unit in the country called living forensics.
“Domestic violence cases, strangulation, shootings, officer-involved shootings and sometimes work with the traffic department to determine who’s the driver and who’s the passenger in a complex motor vehicle collision,” said Smock.
Smock said they are getting anywhere from eight to 15 cases per month.
Smock and three nurse examiners make up the full-time team. They assist LMPD, Jeffersontown and other local departments and prosecutors in solving violent crimes such as the recent Fern Creek High School shooting in which the victims survive.
“We want to document the state of the wounds, the physical characteristics before they’re altered by medical care,” said Smock.
A bulk of the cases focus on strangulations related to domestic violence cases, but sometimes key evidence is not visible and living forensics can reveal the unseen and explain exactly what happened.
“We can insert this in their mouth or in the back of their throat and look down into the throat to see if there are petechial hemorrhages, which are blood vessels that would rupture when someone is strangled,” said Smock.
Smock says he has a 100 percent conviction rate in strangulation cases in which living forensics was used to gather evidence. Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Christi Foster prosecutes felony domestic violence cases. She says the living forensics program has improved the quality of cases and led to more convictions than ever before.
“The lethality risks associated with strangulation are huge, and what we’re finally seeing is a coordinated community response to treating these cases as seriously as they should be,” said Foster.
Louisville’s living forensics program is not only clearing court cases here in the area, it’s also being used to teach forensic officials across the country, specifically cases from our area in this book that Smock helped to author.
“So we’re training doctors and nurses from all over the world to document the injuries and then render opinions based on good forensic evidence,” said Smock. “The evaluation of living victims is my passion and helping the criminal justice systems so to make sure that there is justice.”
Smock will travel to Hawaii in a couple of weeks to train prosecutors there on how to use living forensics.
Friday at 6, WLKY will examine how living forensics is changing the way police involved shootings are investigated.