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.Continue Reading