Magazine article Security Management

Sex, Lies, and Computer Animation

Magazine article Security Management

Sex, Lies, and Computer Animation

Article excerpt

Alexander Jason, CPP, a forensic animation specialist and ballistics consultant with ANITE Group of Pinole, CA, made courtroom history last February when he testified at the murder trial of Jim Mitchell. It was the first time three-dimensional computer animation was used as evidence in a criminal trial.

Mitchell, a San Francisco-based pornographic film and sex fantasy theater businessman, was charged with the murder of his brother and business partner, Artie.

The prosecution called Jason in to analyze the physical evidence and form a ballistic reconstruction of the event. While working on the case, Jason realized that some form of visual presentation would help clarify the incident.

"The complexities of this incident in which eight shots were fired over more than a minute of time and the fact that the victim was hit three times while he was moving through the house made the written description of what actually occurred difficult to understand, to visualize," Jason explained.

"It was also very difficult to try and explain all the facts verbally. If I started telling you the details of each shot--the angle and direction of the trajectories, the location and position of the victim during each shot, and where the bullets ended up--you'd quickly become confused and probably be falling asleep by the fourth or fifth shot."

The computer animation was a visual representation--a realistic cartoon--of the shooting. It recreated the one-minute period in which eight shots were fired and clearly showed the location of the shooter and the movements of the victim.

The animation effectively portrayed the incident. The victim was shown getting up, opening a door, and walking down a hallway while bullets were being shot from the other end of the house.

Jason made two animation segments of the fatal shot to the head--one from an eye-level view and the other from a bird's-eye view. Five of the eight shots are identified with an actual time sequence that shows the timing and intervals between shots. The timing was determined from an audiotape of the phone call made by the victim's girlfriend who was hiding in the closet during the shooting.

"It was an unusual case," Jason said, "we had a 911 tape on which you could hear five of the eight shots. …

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