Juries in major cases in Northwest Indiana may receive lifelike views of crime scenes in 3-D, just like they might see on popular law enforcement TV shows.
A Focus3D laser scanner has been acquired by the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department, which plans to share the latest in forensic digital technology with Indiana State Police and other departments throughout the area that request its use.
In roughly 30 minutes, the forensic scanner can digitally capture an entire crime scene. The information can recreate a crime scene through pictures from a camera along with measurements at the location.
The virtual reality images on a screen will allow a jury to practically step into a crime scene and see firsthand evidence like blood splatter, bullet trajectories or footprints.
In a homicide, jurors can go for a panoramic ride down the path the killer took to the victim even indoors and be shown all of the rooms in a house even the hallways from up above as if no roof existed.
"Our goal is to seek the truth and this device gives us the best opportunity to provide such information for our courts and our juries," said Pat Cicero, chief of detectives for the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer and LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi provided the $70,000 necessary to purchase the scanner.
The scanner was acquired from a firm named 3rd Tech out of Durham, N.C.
"We've trained about 80 different agencies over the years on a variety of 3-D laser scanners and software. This is the most advanced system that's available," said Doug Schiff, vice president of marketing and business development for the company.
In addition to video, the small, lightweight scanner in just three minutes will take 11 million measurements and nearly 90 photographs in full panoramic view.
"It's quite a remarkable piece of engineering," Schiff said.
Authorities said the images that can be zoomed in could uncover a piece of evidence key to solving a case and, in particular, give prosecutors an advantage at trial.
Since the images are captured forever, Mollenhauer said future cold cases should have a better chance of being solved once reopened.
"It's an amazing tool that's going to help law enforcement," Mollenhauer said.