Former Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn flipped his SUV back in January of 1998 on his way home from the Foxy Lady in Providence. He was arrested on suspicion of OUI. But other circumstances that may have lead to the accident came up during his trial.
"Visibility can be greatly restricted, especially in the Neponset River Valley by dense ground fog, and that was key to that particular case,"says Rob Gilman, a forensic meteorologist. Instead of just forecasting the weather, he looks back at weather from the past. In this case, he was hired by Vaughn's attorney to give expert testimony on whether poor visibility may have played a roll in the accident.
"It's pretty much no vertical or horizontal visibility. Pretty much, if you extended your hand, you might not be able to see your fingers," Gilman says. Vaughn was later acquitted of the OBI charge.
Anyone can go back and get some idea of what weather was like on a certain day, but that's not going to hold up in court. That's where a forensic meteorologist comes in. "You need something that's certified. The big difference between taking a tape of your broadcast or a copy of the Boston Globe or other published information is that it's not certified as a record," Gilman says.
Like any meteorologist, the has access to weather data, but Gilman also keeps records that he can certify if called upon in court. Since he's a meteorologist, his expertise gives him credibility, and can make or break a case in court because weather can often be a valuable clue in solving a crime. "It is interesting the variety of cases; murder cases, rape cases, often times personal injury," Gilman says. Gilman gave testimony in a murder case, "it was a case where they had the evidence of the body and the insects and all you needed to do was show what kind of temperature trend existed to demonstrate that yes, indeed, the death occurred at a specific time."
But it's not just for major crimes, you and I might find a forensic meteorologist useful. If you're in an accident, it could mean points on your insurance and some hefty surcharges that go along with it. But if you think the weather played a role, you may be in luck.
Wet roads, ice, snow, even sun in your eyes. If you think those were the cause of your accident, a forensic meteorologist could help you out. A certified weather statement, which would cost between $25-$100 can help you fight an appeal. "Every time that I've been involved in a case where a motor vehicle operator saw the weather as part of the problem and asked for a weather statement, the surcharge was waived," Gilman says.
So while most of us think of what the weather will be like, forensic meteorologists keep an eye on the past, helping to solve everything from a fender bender, to a felony.