Anthro Notes Sept. 6/12
- Individuation means to make an individual or to give individuality to a person. In forensics, it means
to use biological evidence to reconstruct the identity of a specific individual.
- Common reasons why the identification of found human remains is important: Criminal Typically
an investigation into a criminal death cannot begin until the victim has been identified. Marriage
Individuals from many religious backgrounds cannot remarry unless their partners are confirmed
deceased. Monetary The payment of pensions, life insurance, and other benefits requires positive
confirmation of death. Burial Many religions require that a positive identification be made prior to
burial in a specific location. Social To preserve human rights and dignity beyond life begins with an
identity. Closure The identification of individuals missing for prolonged periods can bring
sorrowful relief to family members.
- What is forensic science?: It is the application of science to those criminal and civil laws that are
enforced by police agencies in criminal justice system.
- What is the role of the forensic scientist?: Forensic scientists help interpret the physical evidence left
at a crime scene. Physical evidence is any (microscopic or macroscopic) object that can establish that
a crime has been committed or can provide a link between a crime and its victim and/or perpetrator.
- Physical evidence and methods of individuation: Direct physical evidence is human remains and
body fluids, and includes bones, teeth, fingerprints, semen, blood, DNA, hairs. Indirect physical
evidence is aspects that can point indirectly to a person, and includes handwriting, psychological
profiling, tools, tire marks, geographical profiling. Before DNA, cigarette butts were considered
indirect physical evidence. Context is everything in the interpretation of physical evidence. When
physical evidence is moved, it loses its context and can no longer be interpreted.
- Types of traits class, subclass, individual. Class traits are generic, like a shoe print or tire track
(someone else could wear your shoe). Individual traits include DNA.
- Locards Principle (1928): When any two objects come into contact there is always a transference of
material from each object onto the other. Locard developed the first crime lab in the world in 1910
and was a founder of the international academy of criminalistics.
- Biological evidence transfer: The victim and suspect both transfer evidence to the crime scene and
they both transfer evidence to each other. The forensic scientist often compares a crime scene
sample (evidentiary) to the suspect (comparison sample).
- Assumption of discernible uniqueness: Traditional forensic scientists seek to link crime scene
evidence to a single person or object to the exclusion of all others in the world by leaning on the
concept of discernible uniqueness (DU). According to DU, markings produced by different people or
objects are observably different and when they are not observably different, criminalists conclude
that the marks were made by the same person or object. DU lacks both theoretical and empirical
foundations, but allows the criminalist to draw bold conclusions that can profoundly influence cases.
- Science and the law have different mindsets. Law is adversarial, it is innocence first, it creates doubt
as a defense, and it uses verbal arguments. Science uses scientific method, it questions techniques to
improve science, it seeks the truth in a different way, and new science is regularly heard in a pretrial
admissibility hearing (voir dire). Admissible means acceptable or valid. Once the science has been
accepted (by a voir dire), emphasis in court often shifts to the issue of evidence gathering and
continuity. All forensic sciences depend on proper crime scene investigation protocols. The OJ trial is
an example of errors in CSIs that led to an acquittal.- Legal structure, rules, and responsibilities must be known by expert witnesses. In North America, an
adversarial system is in place crown (state/queen) vs. accused. The forensic scientist should work
for both the defense and the crown. The concept of continuity of evidence must be well known (every
aspect of the physical evidence must be documented from the crime scene to the lab). In Canada, the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) and its impact on forensic science (section 487 of the
criminal code) must be known by expert witnesses.
- An expert witness is an individual with specific technical or scientific qualifications who offers
testimony focusing on a defined area of expertise. They may also be asked to render an opinion in
addition to the factual record. Lawyers often attack the credentials of a scientist. A scientist who
wants to testify must be aware of the procedures used to judge if a person qualifies as an expert
witness. Scientific testimony can be very stressful, but honest, open disclosure reduces potential
acrimony. The admissibility rules have changed (US Frye to Daubert, Canada Mohan).
- Forensic science is a multidisciplinary field and there are many specialties, such as forensic
pathology (autopsies, cause and manner of death), forensic biology (deal with human tissue samples,
hair, DNA), forensic odontology/dentistry (teeth), and forensic anthropology/archaeology (bone and
- Forensic anthropology: The forensic anthropologist assists in the sorting, analysis, and identification
of bodies/remains. They provide information concerning the biological characteristics of the
deceased (age, sex, race, stature). They assist in determining the circumstances surrounding a death.
They have skills in human anatomy with a focus on skeletal biology and human variation. There is an
overlap with forensic dentistry in terms of skills. Field training is a must (forensic archaeological
background). Forensic anthropology has changed a lot in the last 20 years.
- Physical evidence in forensic anthropology: Forensic anthropologists and odontologists overlap