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We had been working on this case for over 5 years by the time trial finally became a reality. The 5 years had been spent in painstakingly poring over every witness statement and every possible piece of physical evidence. No expense had been spared in retaining and using experts from a dozen areas of expertise. Technology was brought to bear at a level I have never before seen and used to explore even the most subtle of analyses. The plaintiff’s attorney was up against attorneys from the state, the county and the city in which the accident occurred, setting the stage for an epic battle a la “David versus Goliath”.

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3D Laser Scanning – Determining & Illustrating Driver Eye View Obstructions: In the reconstruction of vehicle accidents, particularly vehicle versus pedestrian cases, one of the issues that often arises is the portion of the scene that the pedestrian was visible to the driver in the moments immediately before impact. A common point of analysis is the so-called “Last Chance to Avoid” point for the driver of the vehicle. How much of the pedestrian, or other vehicle, was visible to the driver at this last chance point and position?

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3D Laser Scanning – Downstream Benefits for Complex Litigation - At PSI, our method in analyzing complex crime and accident cases starts with creating the 3D Working Model. By combining an accurate 3D model of the environment, vehicles and actors with the available physical evidence, PSI uses the precision of the computer to virtually reconstruct the events.

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Caught in the Act!

Mar 05, 2015

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A young woman crosses a busy street in San Francisco in broad daylight to catch her waiting bus on the other side of the street. Her path is interrupted by a MUNI bus that moments earlier was stationary at a red light. Her encounter with the bus results in much more than missing her ride – she suffers a double amputation of her legs. The dozens of witnesses serve up as many differing accounts of what occurred, providing little in the way of useful data for reconstruction. The bus driver insists he never saw the young woman until impact. She herself does not remember the specifics and is not sure how she ended up on the ground under the bus. There is a witness to the event however who sees and remembers everything seen in detail. This witness sees the event from multiple vantage points and can recall the event in exacting detail years later. This witness is the on-board video camera system that sees through six separate sets of eyes and records what it has seen for later use.

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I just returned from the California District Attorneys Winter Conference in Long Beach, CA. PSI spent the week at the conference, exhibiting our crime and accident Documentation, Analysis and Visualization services and attending the sessions that were open to the public. This event is always one of my favorites as it affords me the opportunity to meet directly with each of the elected District Attorneys in California and discuss what issues are currently hot for them.

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A nighttime collision between two tractor-trailers leaves both drivers with debilitating injuries and closes the lanes of a major California highway for hours. Upon investigation, it becomes clear that one of the drivers was entering the highway from a side road and encroached into the lane in which the second tractor-trailer was traveling. Given the straight nature of the road, the question arises: Did the oncoming tractor trailer have enough time to perceive the encroaching vehicle and avoid the collision?

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Traditionally, driver’s-eye nighttime visibility cases have been visualized for the jury via film and video. The benefits of this approach are mostly related to the use of the actual vehicles and scene elements, which allows the complex lighting and visibility conditions to be replicated directly. However, this approach also has a number of drawbacks, particularly if both vehicles are in motion.

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PSI has completed the fieldwork for our long awaited ballistic trajectory analysis and I have begun analyzing the statistical portion of the field test data. Calculating variances within and across the test conditions, looking for patterns and determining what degree of “error” or variance is indicated are all on the list of planned analyses. This data will be useful for seeing how best to handle similar scenarios in our real-world case work.

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PSI has completed the fieldwork portion of the Ballistic Trajectory study I posted on earlier. We performed the study at the Sacramento County Gun Range in Sloughhouse, CA. The total time in the field was approximately 8 hours. Two weapon calibers were tested - heavy and slow in the form of a .45 cal handgun and light and fast in the form of an AR15 firing .223 steel jacketed rounds. Targets were two-ply drywall sections with approximately 4 inches of airspace between drywall layers and sheet metal in the form of doors from a Ford Expedition. Rounds were fired at 90 degrees (perpendicular) and 45 degrees relative to the target. The matrix of 2 calibers, 2 target types and two angles of incidence provided 8 unique test scenarios. The shooting distance was 30 yards to avoid drop in the 45 cal rounds. Each target/caliber/angle setup was fired 12 times, for a total of 96 rounds fired and analyzed.

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Unless you live in a cave, you are aware that the grand jury reached a decision in the shooting of Michael Brown. The jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson has resulted in high emotions and heated debate over the state of racial affairs and justice in the US. Clearly this is a tragic event, regardless of your own views on the underlying racial and justice issues. Yet, as scientists, it is our role to stay clear of the emotional fray and attempt to seek and illustrate the truth when possible.

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