Shoes can yield a wealth of information with a plethora of chemical substances, dust and particles attached to the tread. Crime scene footprints narrow down the suspect list and give investigators clues to the physical characteristics (e.g.: shoe size, approximate weight height and gender) of those wearing the shoes. Forensic podiatry is based on the footmarks or footwear found at the scene of a crime. Wear patterns of a shoe are individual and relate back to a particular foot type and structure.
The foot is a kinetic machine, which goes through cyclic activities leaving clear, wear marks, which can be interpreted by the expert. By comparing the information with the foot structure of suspects, aids police in a positive identification. The combined knowledge of biomechanics and gait analysis with a sound grounding in shoe technology makes a valuable contribution to detection of crime.
Advanced computer technology developed to interpret information has further enhanced the database and now there are now several expert systems available.
By far the most celebrated civil prosecution involved the Hollywood personality O J Simpson. In January 1994 Nicole Simpson Brown, ex-wife of the celebrity was dining at the glitzy Brentwood eatery near Santa Monica Boulevard. When she left the restaurant that night she was never seen alive again. Both she and waiter Ron Goldman were discovered in a pool of blood, stabbed in an apparent frenzy. Compelling circumstantial evidence implicated her ex-husband and eventually he is arrested and charged. Brilliant defence faltered prosecution and Simpson was acquitted on all charges.
A pivotal component of the successful defence was Simpson’s denial he owned a pair of Bruno Magli shoes responsible for a size 12 shoe print found at the murder scene. Simpson dismissed the shoe as "uglyass shoes" and assured the court he would not wear this style in a million years. Later the Goldman and Brown families sued for wrongful death, a way of claiming damages following a criminal act. At US civil trials the standard of proof is jurors have to be convinced on the "balance of probabilities", not the criminal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt". Only 9 of the 12 jurors have to agree with the plaintiff families.
The plaintiffs produced thirty separate photographs of O.J. wearing Bruno Magli. Size 12 Simpson’s shoe size, matched perfectly with the shoe prints found at the scene of the crime. The verdict was unanimous and OJ Simpson was ordered to pay over $10 million for the wrongful death.
A touch of the macabre, after the trial, sales of Bruno Magli shoes rose expotentially. Further Reading
American Society of Forensic Podiatry
DiMaggio J A (2005) The Role of Feet and Footwear in Medicolegal Investigations Forensic Medicine of the Lower Extremity Ch13. pp 375-400
DiMaggio, J A., Vernon W (2011) Forensic Podiatry: Principles and Methods Humana Press
Hilderbrand D S (2013) Footwear, The Missed Evidence Footwear, The Missed Evidence, 3rd Edition University of Huddersfield Forensic Podiatry MSc