Writing The Final Chapter

report-writingYour investigation is only as good as the report that supports it. The coroner’s report focuses on a medical examination or autopsy of the body at a morgue and on the scene, to determine the cause of death. But investigators with the coroner’s office also frequently gather other information, such as interviewing family members, acquaintances of the deceased and other people, to help determine what caused the person’s death. Summaries of that information are also included in the reports.

Every agency, and each investigator, has their own style and guidelines for writing the final case narrative of a death investigation. However, with the differences also come standards.

Every Report Detailing a Death Should Include:

  • Decedent information
  • Disposition of property / evidence
  • Location of death
  • Antemortem Events
  • Scene description
  • Medical history
  • Body exam notes
  • Information gained from family/witnesses
  • Pathology and toxicology findings
  • Final determination in cause and manner or death

 Basics of Report Writing

  •  Write in the first person.
  •  Use chronological order.
  •  Use past tense.
  •  Use active voice.
  •  Use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  •  Avoid jargon and wordiness.
  •  Write facts rather than opinions.
  •  Choose the correct words to describe the incident.
  •  Organize the report by using openings, paragraphs, and headings.

Good report writing is a skill that is improved over time.  Remember that you are writing the final chapter of someones life and you are responsible to speaking for them.  The quality of your report is a direct reflection of you as an investigator.

 

About the Author
Darren is a 30 year veteran of law enforcement and criminal investigations. He currently serves as an investigator for the Crawford County Missouri coroner’s office. He holds credentials as an instructor for the Missouri Sheriff’s Training Academy, has served as president of the Missouri Medical Examiners and Coroners Association, and is certified and credentialed in numerous fields of investigation. He holds the position of lead instructor and facilitator for the Coroner Talk™ community as he speaks and writes in the area of death investigation and scene management.

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