Reconstruction of a Fatal Accidental Shooting

Jun 06, 2016

A 20-year-old man was ordered to stand trial for murder in connection with the December 8, 2014 shooting death of his mother at their home near Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California.
Joseph Brooks Conkright, known as Brooks, told authorities that he accidentally shot Danae Dee Conkright, 54, while cleaning his rifle in the family’s living room. If found guilty Brooks could be sent to prison for life.

The Challenge for this case is how to use the physical evidence captured at the scene of a fatal shooting to determine the shooter’s position relative to the victim and the victim’s positioning at key moments during the event and at the point of rest. Further, to reconstruct the event with sufficient fidelity to the forensic evidence to successfully have the resulting 3D animation admitted at trial. PSI was asked by the young man’s defense team to review and analyze the available data to determine whether the defendant’s statements regarding the event are supported by the physical evidence.

The solution was to develop a 3D Working Model based upon laser scan data of the environment, 3D gunshot wound model based upon the medical examiner’s report and compare them to the statements given by Brooks describing the event as an accidental discharge of his firearm. Then, if the statements are supported by the evidence, create a compelling 3D animation to illustrate the findings for the jury at Brooks’ murder trial.

In order to complete the analysis, PSI reviewed specific documents and performed specific tasks. The documents most critical of these were the following:

  • Recorded Police Detective interview of Brooks.
  • Drawings created by Police Detective during interview with Brooks.
  • California Department of Justice Physical Evidence Examination Report.
  • Serological Research Institute Analytical Report.
  • First 911 call initiated by Brooks.
  • Second 911 call initiated by Brook’s Father.
  • Incident Scene Photography.
  • Napa County Sheriff Coroner’s Report.
  • Autopsy Report.
  • Napa County Sheriff Supplemental Reports.
  • Napa County Sheriff scene measurements and diagram.

After a single day of deliberation, the jury acquitted the defendant Joseph Brooks Conkright of murder, referencing the PSI analysis and visualization as critical in coming to their verdict.

Click Here To Read Entire Case Study

Click Below to View a Composite Animation Used in Trial


Craig Fries


Craig Fries is the Founder and President of Precision Simulations, Inc., the foremost forensic analysis and animation firm in the US. In this role he has created or directed over 1,000 3D forensic animations for use in criminal and civil litigation and has maintained a 100% record of non-exclusion at trial. As a pioneer in the field of forensic laser scanning, Craig created the first 3D animation based upon laser scan data ever admitted at trial in the US, and has been at the forefront of the use of the technology in homicide and accident investigation since.

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