Figure 10-3.Tattoo on an arm.
least reliable means of establishing an identity. They
are not a physical part of the body, and, therefore, they
may easily be transferred from one individual to
another. In addition, lost or stolen items, and jewelry
in particular, are very likely to be found in the
possession of an individual other than its owner.
Falsified documents may be found improperly
identifying an individual as someone else. In most
instances, the identity established by the personal
effects will prove to be the actual identity of the
deceased, but this must still be verified by a more
objective, definitive means of ID.
Identification by skeletal remains may be an
excellent means to identify an unknown individual. In
some cases, it can provide positive proof of identity
that is acceptable in a court of law. Identification by
skeletal remains requires matching of postmortem
radiographs with radiographs that were taken before
death. Features that can be used for ID by skeletal
remains would include healed fracture sites,
pathologic lesions, and medical hardware.
The main problem with ID by skeletal remains is
the fact too few individuals in the general population
have such characteristics. This makes it difficult to
rely on as a routine method of ID of an unknown body.
Of all the methods of ID, fingerprints are probably
the best known. Fingerprints are an excellent means
of positive ID. Figure 10-4 demonstrates a finger-
printing technique used by the FBI. Many individuals
will argue that fingerprint ID is the most definitive
means of identifying an unknown set of human
remains, and it is generally accepted that no two
individuals have the same set of fingerprints.
Fingerprint ID, therefore, is always acceptable in a
court of law.
DNA analysis, also known as DNA fingerprinting,
is a fairly new technology that may replace dental
identification and fingerprint identification as the most
definitive means of identifying unknown remains. It
will be fully implemented when an adequate database
of DNA specimens can be established.