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- The term forensic anthropology is derived from the words forensus meaning legal
and anthropology which is the science which deals with identifying an individual using
skeletal remains. It is thus, the branch of forensic sciences which deals with
identifying individuals and recovering human remains.
History-Forensic anthropology first came into existence when George Dorsey a PhD
student of Harvard University used it in one of the homicide trials held in Chicago in
the year 1897, 1898. The application of anthropology, both physical and biological in
the legal scenario was taught in Harvard way before it existed. It was not until World
War II that forensic anthropology found use in the legal proceedings and only after
the war did scientists widely practice forensic anthropology and that too on a regular
basis. However, full-time forensic anthropologists are still a rarity and the only source
of employment for most of them is as a faculty in museums and in colleges. This is
probably also because on an average the work load for a forensic anthropologists is
approximately 12 or lesser cases per year.
Forensic anthropologists are the scientists with whom forensic odontologists
mostly work in collaboration with. Although, the physical anthropologist is trained to
study the human dentitions evolution and the odontologist is trained to understand
the anatomy go skull, as such, forensic anthropologists mainly deal with osseous
material or skeletal evidence and the odontologist mainly deals with the dental
Role-Forensic anthropologist plays a pivotal role in estimation of age of a living or
deceased individual, the time of death of a deceased individual and gender
identification from skeletal remains. The anthropologist may also be helpful when the
remains of the deceased individual cannot be evaluated by a forensic pathologist
during a post-mortem evaluation. The remains presented to an anthropologist may
include both partially decomposed and completely decomposed bodies. The remains
brought to the forensic anthropologist may also be burnt or mutilated either by
accident or by intent. The forensic anthropologist along with the osteologist may help
to determine characteristics of the weapon used in cases where the body is found
intact by assessing the damage caused to the skeletal system. Similar to how the
forensic odontologist may compare the ante and post mortem radiographs, the
anthropologist may also be called upon to compare the ante and post mortem
radiographs and give his/her expert opinion. The forensic odontologist can analyse
the skull and jaws and determine the age of an individual whereas, the forensic
anthropologist can assess age and gender by using the entire skeletal remains of the
deceased or living individual. The anthropologist may be presented with remains of a
partially decomposed body. In these cases, removal of the remaining soft tissues is
essential before the assessment procedure begins. This is however, not possible in
mass disasters where time is a very crucial element. In these instances, the
methodology requires modification or the techniques are limited to those which can
be used in bodies with remaining soft tissue. Generally, when soft-tissue cannot be
removed, more radiography is required for assessment. Also, removal of sift-tissue
can be done after an initial process of taking radiograph. This is made possible by
boiling the remains so as to remove the soft-tissue ensheathing the skeletal remains.
This process also helps in reducing the bio-hazard exposure for anthropologists and
their staff in the laboratory as well as for those who would possibly handle the
remains after the anthropologist such as prosecutors, forensic odontologists and
other attorneys.

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Equipment-An anthropology laboratory would have odour hoods over the stainless
steel sinks, an X-ray machine for radiography of partially decomposed bodies, dry
processing equipment duplicating equipment, video superimposition equipment,
osteometric instruments and photography equipment. Also, there must be adequate
space for storage of the skeletal remains. At present the anthropologist needs to deal
with more cases with soft-tissue remains and other malodorous material than in the
previous years and with the requirement of many more equipments, the need for a
proper laboratory with adequate storage area is justified.
Techniques-There are many techniques that have been described by many authors.
But there are many of these techniques which are of particular interest to the forensic
odontologist and some of them may result in conflicting evidence with that presented
by a forensic dentist. At this point, it worth remembering that, there is no single best
method for determining age, sex or race of the individual. Hence it is always
advisable that a range be considered for the features and techniques used before the
forensic scientist reaches a conclusion. The important note is that there should be
multiple indicators to an evidence before a conclusion is reached. There are some
techniques which are good to use in most of the cases, some of them which are good
and can be used in some cases and some of them are not good in most of the cases.
It thus, becomes the duty of the forensic anthropologist to decide on the right
technique for assessment. Dental age estimation techniques are based on crown,
root formation and eruption status of the teeth. This method is very commonly used
by the trained forensic odontologist. The information obtained from dental evidence is
often very satisfactory but occasionally there may be conflicting evidence from the
forensic anthropologist when skeletal age estimation is also done. By now,
anthropologists have understood the fact that multiple age estimation techniques
may result in differing age ranges for the same evidence. Thus, nowadays, it a
common practice to estimate age using as many techniques and then derive at a
best estimate. This is the case with dental age estimation too.
Brief description of the estimation using anthropologyAge estimation: Bones may be used to determine age, gender and race of the
skeletal remains. In the immature remains, based on the time of appearance, stage
of ossification, the age of the individual can be estimated up to the age of 21-25
years. After 20 years of age, based on changes in texture and shape and
configuration of bones, the age can be estimated. By the age of 40-45 years, the
surface texture of the skull bones becomes granular and rough. Muscular markings
due to attachment of the muscles start appearing on the skull bones by the age of 25
years. Pacchinian depressions are characteristic depressions seen on both sides of
the sagittal suture and these become more pronounced with age. Also, the diploe
become less vascular as age progresses and are replaced with bone. Vascular
marking such as those produced by the middle meningeal artery become more
pronounced with age.
Gender determination:There are many variations noted in the skull specimens of a
male and a female. The differences arise to a certain extent due to the muscle
attachments which are much more pronounced in a male skull. The other differences
noted are a blunt mastoid process, superior orbital margins, more pronounced
zygomatic arches, larger jaws, more sloping foreheads and more superciliary
development. Males have neutral or everted gonial angles and females on the other
hand have neutral or inverted genial angles. Also, the anterior mandible is squared or
is rounded in males whereas it is pointed or rounded in females. These skull features
may help in determining the sex of the individual from the skeletal remains in adults

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and post-pubertal age persons. There are many factors or indicators in the skeleton
which can be helpful identifying the gender other than the ones mentioned above.
For example, the joints of males tend to be larger than the joints of females. So each
of the long bones may help in adding information and further making the possibility of
the association strong. For e.g. size of femur head is 46 mm in males and 43 mm in
These methods fail to determine the gender in skeletal remains of individuals who
have not reached puberty. Generally, the gender variation in dental tissue
development is less when compared to gender variation in skeletal development.
Hence a protocol proposed is to first, estimate the age in immature remains. The
gender is then determined using techniques such as the Greulich and Pyle (1950)
method if the hand and wrist of the deceased are intact. If the hand and wrist are not
intact, the age is estimated for knee using Pyle and Hoerr method (1955). Females
would show better agreement with the data charts for females and there will be
considerable difference with the male standards. Hence, the anthropologist can
determine the gender of the individual. Same is the case with males. The male
skeletal remains will show agreement with the male standards and not with he female
standards. Hence, the gender of the immature remains can be established. Also,
another point to be noted is that, generally females mature earlier than males when it
comes to skeletal maturation. This is a very logical and useful technique which
makes use of the positives of each of the techniques and can thus be used for
determination of gender when immature remains are presented to the anthropologist.
Race discrimination: Race is basically a group of individuals or a population with
slight difference in the frequency of genes thus giving them different in phenotypical
characteristics if not entirely or solely phenotypical differences. In general practice,
the race of an individual is considered more of a sociological label. But, this doesn't
hold true for the forensic anthropologist, odontologist or the forensic pathologist as,
there are differences both skeletal and dental characteristics which can be presented
by these experts with a reasonable certainty. But, due to greater immigration from
different parts of the world, there has been a racial admixture which has resulted in
very difficult assessment of race based on skeletal and dental characteristics. Thus, it
is best to classify the skeletal characteristics into simply those of black, white,
mongoloid or mixture of the other major classes. Further on, identification of
nationality based on skeletal characteristics is not possible. While the skeleton does
show racial variations, the skull presents with the maximum number of racial
differences in skeletal characteristic. Though there is considerable amount of
information that can be gleaned from the dental tissues for racial information, the
dental racial characteristics cannot be ruled out for the other population groups
strictly. For example, shovel-shaped incisors were found to be a trait in 100% of
Aleuts studied in a research carried out by Cadien et al. in the year 1972. However,
this trait may be found in individuals belonging to other racial groups around the
world and hence presence of s shovel shaped incisor cannot rule out the possibility
of the individual belonging to any other racial group. The other dental anthropological
traits that can be used to a limited extent to identify the race are the mesio-distal
width of the incisor which is often large in individuals from African or Oceanian
ancestry. The shape of the maxillary dental arch is usually narrow and V-shaped in
whites, U-shaped in blacks and in mongoloids it is found to be horse-shoe shaped.
Other cranial features are shape of occipital bone, cephalometric measurements
such as length and height of the skull, shape of nasal aperture, width of nasal

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aperture, orbital shape, supra-orbital shape development of the nasal

spines.Prognathic jaw is also a good racial indicator.
Estimation of Height and Stature: Height is estimated once the age, gender and
race of the deceased individual are estimated. There have been many methods that
have been proposed for estimating stature, starting from Manovrier in the year 1892
followed by Trotter and Gleser in the year 1952 and 1958. This was followed by
another method proposed by Fully in the year 1956 and the latest method proposed
was by Bass in the year 1987. Amongst all these methods proposed to estimate the
stature of the deceased individual, the Trotter and Gleser method proposed in the
year 1958 have been the most accurate and are still relied upon. However, this
method is applicable only for individuals belonging to the age group of 18-30years.
The corrected stature is obtained by subtracting the product of a constant factor with
a value 0.6 and (age in years-30) with the expected maximum stature. The value
thus obtained is the corrected stature in centimetres. For individuals belonging to an
age group of greater than 30years, the other formulae could be used proposed by
Trotter. Their study data is found most reliable for the Caucasian population. Mainly
the six long bones of the human body are assessed which are humerus, radius, ulna,
femur, tibia and fibula. The measurement to be taken is the length of the bone
(maximum length). When both left and right side bones are present, the average of
the two values is obtained. The method with the least standard of error is the best
method to estimate the stature. The legs better correlate with the stature than the
arms. Also, we must never average results obtained from different formulae.
Conclusion- Once, age, gender, race and stature have been determined, the
investigators propose the possible identifications for the proposed case. This stage is
indeed very critical and is associated with umpteen difficulties. Identification based on
physical evidence is not very reliable and is not adequate usually to make civilian
identifications. Thus, identification of the individual based only on skeletal evidence
must be proven biologically. The various methods that come to use are dental
records, ante-mortem and post-mortem radiographic comparisons, fingerprints, et
cetera. Identification should not be accepted without evidence of a firm biological
supporting or basis as the evidence may not be available thereafter to the forensic
scientists for example, after cremation.
Hence, to conclude, it is essential that the forensic anthropologist works in a very
judicious manner, works his/her way out and help the investigators in identifying the
deceased individual.
Bite mark is the term used to describe a type of patterned injury or mark made either
on skin or inanimate object. These have been sometime referred to as suck marks or
tool marks. The former term is however not preferred. Bite mark is the mark
produced by teeth alone or in combination with the other mouth parts. It is a physical
alteration caused in a medium or on a medium due to contact of the object with teeth.
The rationale behind using bite mark as an evidence is the fact that no two
individuals have the same type of teeth and teeth arrangement. The skilled forensic
odontologist can accurately match the evidence with that of the suspect or victim in
which the bite mark has been inflicted or on the inanimate object in which the bite
mark is noted. It is an elliptical or a circular injury and there are obvious differences in
the size and shape of the all individuals arch and teeth size, shape and position. But,

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it must be noted that the bite mark left behind may not be an accurate representation
of the complete set of teeth.
History-History of bite mark being used as an evidence cites back to 1692 when
Rev. George Burroughs was prosecuted when he was suspected to practice
witchcraft. The only evidence against him was the bite marks on some of the women
he was indicted of recruiting. The bite marks left on the bodies of the women were
compared to his teeth. He was wrongfully convicted. In the earlier years, William who
was a conqueror, always validated royal documents only by biting onto wax seal with
his dentition. Also the debtors from Britain, had to bite onto the seal on agreement
pacts and they were called as indentured servants. One of the earliest investigations
which used bite mark as an evidence was Mr Sorup who was famously called the
bite-mark analyst. He used transparent paper and pressed it against the suspects
dentition. He then compared these representations with the bite mark photograph.
Almost three centuries later, Walter Edgar Marx in the year 1974, was
convicted of manslaughter due to evidence of a partial bite mark on the nose of the
victim. A few years later (1979), Ted Bundys case became the first case in the history
of Floridas legal system to use bite mark as a substantial evidence against the
suspect. It gained a lot of popularity. Once bite mark analysis became accepted as a
substantial evidence in the court of law, it became understood that there was much
work to do before the bite mark technique became accepted as a scientific technique
that was well accepted by the other forensic scientists, the legal advisors and the law
enforcement in general. Following an upsurge in the interest and acceptance shown
by the court of law towards bite mark as an evidence, the American Board of
Forensic Odontology (ABFO) was formed in the year 1976. It consisted of diplomates
who recognised that the method was more empirical and had no scientific basis.
Thus, there was intense work on making it a scientifically sound technique. The
research effort resulted in a publication with a title named The Guidelines for Bite
Mark Analysis by the American Board of Forensic Odontology. In their research, they
noted that capillary fragility differed in different individuals and hence not in all cases
do we note petechial haemorrhages. Also, in women, there was greater tendency to
bruise during certain times of the menstrual cycle. During other times, bruising was
minimal or absent. They also observed that there was more bruising in the centre of
the bite mark area. Another attempt by the ABFO was the publishing of a scoring
guide which would help systematise bite marks. This was also partly to help other
odontologists compare with their score. There was a lot of variance in the scoring
method and hence since then there has been a partial retraction of this publication on
bit marks.
Due to the requirement of a more scientific approach, a formal bite mark
committee was formed to evaluate work related to bite marks. It was also proposed
that, an impartial committee be set to analyse bite marks and advise the court on the
admissibility of the evidence. This has not yet happened though. It is after the
constant effort of Dr Tom Krauss and My Hyzer that the ABFO scale has been
introduced. ABFO has been trying to conduct workshops and following the workshop
in 1994, the Bite Mark Terminology Guidelines was published.
Nomenclature-One of the first things discussed in the workshop conducted by the
ABFO was the term to be used; whether it was bite mark or bitemark. It was then
decided that both the terms were acceptable. It was emphasised that the term
incision be avoided as incision would be caused only by any sharp instrument and
therefore the anterior teeth are not capable of producing incised wounds. The term

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latent injury was also discussed referring to the injury which cannot be seen with
naked eye but, can be highlighted using special techniques such as infrared
photography or ultraviolet photography. Characteristics was another term described
by Dr. Lowell J. Levine. This term was originally used in assessing tool marks but has
been introduced for describing bite marks also. There are basically two types of
characteristics One is called class characteristics whereas the other is called
individual characteristics. Class characteristics are the gross features which help in
distinguishing an object. They help in estimating the approximate dimensions, pattern
and contour of the bite mark. Individual characteristics constitute the finer details
such as a rotated tooth, a fractured tooth or a missing tooth which would help in
distinguishing between two different dentitions. Another term that was discussed in
length was the term unique. This term is reserved for those bite marks presenting
with features that could be very individualistic and may be readily identifiable by the
legal authorities.
Classification-Bite marks may be classified into animal or human bite marks. Based
on the pattern they may be described as either oval or circular patterned injury which
consists of two U shaped arches separated by the bases of each arch.They can also
be classified based on the inanimate materials on which they are exhibited. Type1-It
is found on materials which show no distortion and probably record the most
prominent edges of the incisors which are 1-2mm in depth. Type2-found in materials
such as fruits where in a good grip can be obtained. In this type, the labial outline
marks and anterior teeth are more prominent. Type3-is on material which exhibit
extensive scrape markings. It can give an idea on the relative position of the arches
in centric occlusion. This type of bite mark is obtained on materials such as cheese.
As skin has good elastic properties, it is a poor material to reproduce bite
marks. Bite marks on human skin can be classified as teeth marks where in
individual teeth impression is obtained, arch mark where the pattern of the maxillary
or mandibular arches can be assessed also, the inter-canine width may be assessed
and bite marks when the bite has been aggressive.
Rationale for using Bite Mark as Evidence-No two mouths have identical bite mark
impressions. There can be finer differences such as tooth characteristics, tooth
positions and tooth number. These are different in different individuals and hence
makes it unique for each individual. Also, it should be remembered that, human skin
is very elastic and registration of a bite mark is dependant on mechanical properties
of the subcutaneous tissue and the overlying skin. To make a successful bite mark
registration, the time period between the registration and infliction of wound should
be as short as possible.
Variation in Appearance-It may be noted due to central haemorrhage secondary to
pressure from teeth, distortion and leakage from small capillaries. Linear abrasions,
striations and contusions may also be noted in the skin. There may be imprint of the
lingual surfaces of the teeth which are called lingual markings. All these have also
been describes as drag marks.
Description of Some Bite Marks-Sexually oriented bite marks are inflicted slowly
and there is suction using the tongue and lips. This results in well-defined marks of
the anterior teeth and suck marks in the periphery of the bite mark. Presence or
absence of distortion in the pattern may indicate if the person was active or passive

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during the biting. In Child-abuse cases, there may be sexually-oriented bite marks or
aggressive (due to anger) bite marks. Self-inflicted bite marks may be found in the
forearms of children or on arms of children to make them stop crying. It may also be
self-inflicted due to intense pain. These kind of bite-marks may also be seen in adults
who are mentally challenged or psychologically disturbed. The patients suffering from
Lesch-Nyhan syndrome show insensitivity to intense pain and may inflict wounds on
Procedure to deal with Bite Marks- It is the forensic odontologist who will be called
upon for expert opinion when there is evidence of a bite mark. The forensic dentist
must deal the case in a step by step approach so as to obtain as much information
as possible from the evidence. The first step would be to DESCRIBE THE BITE-MARK.
The demographics of the victim such as name, age, gender, race, case number,
examination date and name of the examiners should be mentioned. Note the location
and describe the anatomic location, describe the contour of surface as irregular,
curved or flat. Assess if skin is mobile or fixed. Mention the shape of the bite mark as
round, oval, crescent shed or irregular in shape. Mention any change in the colour of
the bite mark. Size of the mark has to be noted both, the length and width of the bite
mark. The type of injury is also noted; petechial haemorrhage, laceration, abrasion,
contusion, avulsion or an artefact. Surface of the skin is noted for any indentations, if
not it is described as smooth. The second step is DATA COLLECTION FROM VICTIM.This
is to determine of the bite mark has been washed and cleaned, contaminated or to
note if its embalmed or decomposed. This can be done only after taking prior
authorisation from the concerned authorities. The steps in doing an examination are,
photographs which should be taken immediately, swabbing for saliva deposits within
the bite mark. For the second step a cigarette paper (filter paper) is wet with water
following which it is used to swab the bite mark. This is air-dried after placing the
paper on a microscopic slide. The sample is confirmed as saliva following
assessment of amylase activity. Then, the blood group antigens can be determined
using saliva. In cases of sexual assault, oral swabs may also be taken to assess for
semen. For this, a mouthwash with water is used to attain sample of spermatozoa.
Once the saliva sample is taken, an impression of the bite mark is taken. With the
much more improvised ways used by the forensic scientist, the inculcation of
accurate methods has become a reality today. Nowadays, rubber based vinyl
polysiloxanes are used as they have the very important advantage of dimensional
stability. There are two methods that can be used for taking an impression of the bite
mark. In the first method lost 5 mm thick light body polysiloxane material is injected
onto the surface of the bite mark. It is allowed to set following which a wire gauze is
placed over the set material. Additional material is then injected over this. The
direction of removal is indicated in the back of the impression with a marker. For a
non-perforating bite mark, a lifting tape can be used after applying finger-print lifting
powder over the surface of the bite mark. In case the victim is dead, the bite mark
can be excised after placing an acrylic stent around the mark to avoid shrinkage of
the tissue. This can then be sent for evaluation. The third step is to EXAMINE THE
SUSPECT. After a consent has been obtained, the history of any dental treatments
before and after the bite marks can be obtained. The first step would be to take
photographs which would include frontal, occlusal and lateral views of the dental
arches. Once the photographs have been taken, TMJ status, extra oral examination,
tongue movements should be noted. Again saliva swabbing must be done. Dental
casts must be made of the maxillary and mandibular teeth and arches. Sample of the

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occlusal bite of the individually also be taken in either a wax sheet or on heated
impression compound. Now that all the data collection is completed, EVALUATION OF
THE EVIDENCE has to be done. The ABFO has given a scoring system that can be
used. The first step in evaluation of the evidence would be identifying if the bite mark
is human or non-human. There are two factors which may help in differentiating a
human from a non-human bite. First would be by assessing the teeth size, shape and
arrangement of the teeth in the anterior portion of the arch. The human teeth shape
is such that the incisors produce rectangular marks whereas the canine produces
triangular shaped marks. But in case of an animal bite, the teeth are smaller in size
and may produce small and circular wounds. Puncture of the skin occurs more often
in animal bite. The second factor to be considered is the size of the dental arch. The
adult dental arch width rages from 2.5-4 cm whereas children have a slightly smaller
dental arch. The dental arch width of animals is smaller than even children. Finally,
the forensic dentist/odontologist must evaluate photographs of the bite mark to
evaluate the dental arches, observe for any suction mark in the centre which was
previously considered to be found only in human bite marks, and note for any
individual characteristics such as a rotated tooth, sharp cusp tip, tooth placement/
position and evidence of missing teeth.
Methods of Bite Mark Analysis- Odontometric triangle method is a method in
which a triangle is made on the tracing of bite mark of the dental model which
consists of two points on the outer convex point of the two canines and one point in
the centre between the upper central incisors.The angles thus obtained of the
triangle are measured. Using this value, Manohar et al. had stated that the
bizygomatic width and also the bigonial width can be determined. The other method
is called the Comparison Technique. This is further classified into direct and indirect
method. Both use life-size 1:1 photographs and models of teeth. In the direct method,
models of the suspect are directly placed over the photographs and concordant
points are noted. To study the dynamics, video recording can be used to demonstrate
slipping of teeth which may have resulted in the distortion of bite marks. In the
indirect method, cellulose acetate paper is placed over the model and the teeth are
traced or the model may be xeroxed with the transparent paper, or negative
photography may be used. This is then compared tot he photographs. Other special
methods that may be used are, Vectron which measures distance between fixed
points and angles. Other methods include Stereometric Graphic Analysis to produce
a surface contour map of the suspects dentition based on the bite mark and
Experimental Marks wherein experimental bite marks are produced on material such
as rubber or bakers dough or pig skin for the purpose of analysis. It is essential to
note that the result must be stated affirmatively.
Reporting the findings- The forensic odontologist must report in a specific pattern
so as to avoid missing out details present in an evidence. The forensic odontologist
must first indicate the degree of confidence that the injury produced is a bite mark or
not. This can be described or expressed by the usage of three terms. The first being
possible bite mark which means the pattern produced may be or may not be
produced by teeth. Also, biting cannot really be ruled out. The second term is
probable bite mark wherein the pattern strongly suggests that it is made by teeth but
could conceivably be made by other things as well for example pattern shows some
classic characteristics of teeth arranged along the arch. The third term is definitive
bite mark is used when there is no doubt that the injury made is a bite mark as it

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typically presents with the classic characteristics as well as proper teeth arrangement
and other typical characteristics if human teeth and arches. The forensic scientist
may mention the shape and size of the bite mark, variations in the appearance of the
bite mark. They may use the terms unique or distinctive. The term unique may be
used in cases here the bite mark is one of a kind and is so individualistic and
distinctive to the point of persuasion of an individual. Distinctive is the term used
when the bite mark is not unique but, is enough individualised that it can differentiate
from most of the others. A group of forensic odontologists believe that distinctive has
a lesser degree of specificity when compared to unique. Once the bite mark is
analysed, the concordant point, the area of comparison must be noted and finally the
investigating dentist may comment by mentioning terms such as Consistent with
which means a definite similarity exists but the specificity is not stated. Another term
that can be used is Possible biter wherein the suspect could have done it but there
is likelihood that the bite mark may not be the suspects. In this case, there are no
inconsistencies that would help in exclusion but the characteristics could be found in
other similar dentitions too. Probable biter is a term used when the suspect has
most probably made the bite mark as there are no inconsistencies or discrepancies
to exclude and also because there are considerable number of concordant points
between the bite mark left and the teeth characteristics of the suspect. Finally the
term Reasonable Medical Certainty may be used in cases where the investigator is
confident that the bite mark has been made by the suspect itself. There are sufficient
concordant points with not only similarity in class characteristics but also in individual
CHAIN OF CUSTODY is the term used to refer to the movement and the location of a
piece evidence from the time it was obtained till the time it is presented in the court of
law. It basically refers to documentation of the movement of the piece of evidence
from the place where it was found i.e. the crime scene, till it reaches the court. The
document will thus be a written proof showing all the individuals who possessed the
evidence, who had the custody of the evidence, transfer details, who helped in
analysis of the evidence and also in the disposition of the evidence. It is a basic norm
to question the evidence obtained from the crime scene. The chain of custody will
then be handed over in the court of law to make sure that the evidence is not
tampered and is in the same state as it was found in the crime scene. This is to make
sure that the evidence is not contaminated and is thus a relevant proof or source of
information. In order to ensure that the evidence is valid, the chain of custody has to
be followed and practiced. The evidence is first received by the principal investigator
who sees to it that the evidence is packaged properly and even dates the evidence.
Th receiving officer then signs the evidence package.Similarly, any person handling
the evidence has to do the same. Finally the police receives it for storage until it is
presented in the court of law. It will be secured in a secure storage area so as to
minimise the possibility of loss of evidence or interference. It refers to the
documentation in chronological order showing all the personnel who possessed the
evidence handled the evidence, for how long did the personnel possess the
evidence, the security conditions in the place where it was handed over for
assessment, and the storage of evidence. It is extremely essential that the chain of
custody be maintained properly so as to withstand the challenges presented in the

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court of law on the validity of the evidence. At each step, each time the signature of
the authorities handling must be taken.
Rationale behind Chain of Custody-This the method by which the integrity of the
evidence is maintained. The court of law requires the chain of custody when any one
of the parties tries to present an evidence or when after analysis, there has been
information obtained that is relevant to the case. This ensures that the evidence
speaks nothing but the truth and thus helps in solving the case so as to help in
making a rightful decision.
Requirements-A well documented chain of custody requires three types of proof.
First is a proof stating that the evidence is what it claims to be (i.e., blood sample of
the victim). Second is written documentation of continuous possession of the
evidence from the time it has been seized to the time it is being presented in court.
The third is the testimony by each of the possessors stating that the evidence has
remained the same untampered, from the moment it was handed over to them till the
evidence was returned back to the principal investigating officer. This includes
storage of the evidence in a secure place where no one other than the investigator
has had access. Chain of custody need not be presented for each and every small
evidence such as those things which can be readily identified by any witness mayn't
require a chain of custody.
Evidence Custodian-The evidence custodian is a person responsible for the piece
of evidence. He/she should be readily identifiable. They must always have the
custody of the piece of evidence. The person appointed as the evidence custodian is
a commissioned officer, a warrant officer or any enlisted person who has been
appointed on order. The person who gets appointed as an evidence custodian should
be available to release evidence and receive it at all possible times. They are also
expected to attend to other matters as and when required. An alternate custodian
may also be appointed to look into matters when the principal officer or custodian is
not available. Both of them should not be absent at the same time.
Conclusion-All the evidence must be preserved well and identified and labelled.
Plastic and paper bags may help in carrying the evidence. It is very essential to
handle the evidence carefully as it must not be contaminated. It is advised that
rubber gloves and tweezers be used to handle evidence and transfer them into
containers. Teeth and other dental evidences must not be removed from the remains.
It is essential that there are no breaks or missing links in the chain of custody as, the
evidence may be inadmissible and the validity of the evidence can be questioned.
Hence, maintaining the chain of custody is of utmost importance to help in solving the
crime as the evidence may become unacceptable if there is a missing link in the
chain of custody thus, the source of information that the evidence may provide will be
of no value if chain of custody has not be maintained.
EXPERT OPINION is the opinion or inference given by an expert who is considered as
person of science educated in an art or people possessing peculiar knowledge or
special skills which are partly acquired with experience.
Expert witness-Unlike the ordinary witnesses, the expert witness can draw
conclusions and give inference on facts that he/she has noted and observed. The

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expert witness always is called upon to give an expert opinion on a fact or finding
related to an evidence or to the case per se. It is however, understood that the final
decision lies with the judge or jury to decide if the facts presented are true or not. The
ordinary witness has nothing to do with the incident or dispute. He is rather call upon
to prove or refute a fact that has been observed and based on his/her professional
knowledge and also experience may give insightful points into the case. They may be
however, called upon to see the crime scene or body or the instrument or any
evidence found related to the case. An expert is such a person who is qualified and
experienced to express opinions on the field or subjects in which they have been
trained. They may be working for a state or in local or any private laboratory. These
individuals have a particular written standard operating procedures (SOP) which
helps in outlining all the steps that are essential for analysis. In cases where a
deviation from this standard procedure is required, a very thorough explanation for
the same is required and if possible, this deviation should be brought into notice of
the legal authorities.
Role of the Expert Witness-The role of the expert witness begins just as they
receive information or evidence related to the case. This is followed by evaluation or
thorough examination of the case. An opposing expert witness report is also
sometimes asked for. Once the ground work has been done, the expert witness then
prepares for cross-examination. The main role of the forensic expert is to help in
understanding the scientific and technical complexities of a fact or issue. The
explanation given by the expert witness is thus rightly called expert opinion. Upon
assignment of a case, the forensic scientist begins investigation related to the
evidence. He/she then follows the standard operating procedures and the standard
protocols generally considered acceptable. Once the assessment is completed, a
preliminary report is made based on the findings of the thorough evaluation. Formal
discovery is the process where in the forensic expert requests for other documents or
answers to written questions or depositions. A final report is then made with a brief
description of the case, the identification of evidence and the dates. Conclusion and
opinion on the case with the reasons for giving the conclusions have to be stated.
The expert witness then has to then prepare for the trial wherein he/she may be
asked about the technical details and facts related to the case, the investigative and
technical materials that were used questioned regarding the techniques used and
whether the work was relevant to the subject. The expert witness then organises all
the data and the material for presentation before the court of law. A crossexamination is done to assess if the expert opinion can be validated or not. It is done
to assess if the expert witness has correctly established and understood the facts, if
he/she is able to recollect the facts correctly. There can also be questions on the
reputation of the expert, the expert may also be scrutinised if he/she gives an
inconsistent statement. This is the way the expert is also scrutinised so that once he/
she is accepted as an expert in their field, the court can safely validate their opinion.
It also becomes important for the forensic expert to maintain the Chain of Custody
as, any break in the same can lead to in admission of the proof or opinion put forth by
the forensic expert.

easy task when it comes to asking

the family and friends of the individual by asking the name. The case is not the same

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when it comes to a medico-legal point of view. The people are somehow unable to
give the right identity either purposely or because the body is damaged or
decomposed beyond recognition. This is common in high velocity crashes, in cases
of explosion, drowning, fire mishaps. Though a difficult task, it is an important task
which needs to be completed. There are conditions where in the identity of a living
individual may have to be proved. These may be cases of theft, criminals trying to
avoid custody, comatose victims, individuals who have sustained disfigurement due
to various reasons. Deceased individuals who may require identification are mainly
immigrants without proper documentation, burned bodies, decomposed or
skeletonised bodies, homeless individuals, those individuals who have substantial
facial disfigurement such that visual identification becomes impossible.
Once the individual has been identified the kin may be contacted and also the
medical and legal matters can be addressed. In cases of deceased individuals,
identification may help in many matters. The family may begin with the grieving
process, the documentation of death must be done and also the financial and legal
issues may be looked into. If the identity of the deceased individual is known, it
greatly enhances the investigation. Questions pertaining to the last time the individual
was seen in which place may be asked. However, most of the times it is a gigantic
task for the forensic expert to identify a deceased individual.
Human or Non-human Remains: The task of identification first begins with
identifying if the remains found are human or not. In some cases it may be obvious.
But there may be more complex presentations such as a single bone in a dog park.
The most common remains that require differentiation are decomposed and
skeletonise remains which are particularly dismembered or fragmented.
Most of the cases, the forensic anthropologist and pathologist may be able to
distinguish if the remains are human or not based on the presence of the larger
bones. However, this is much more difficult when it comes to the smaller bones. Body
parts which are dismembered or decomposed may also be difficult to identify as
being human or non-human in origin. Often, radiographs may be helpful in
differentiating human from non-human remains. For example, the radiograph of a
hand may reveal a single sesamoid bone in the human hand and multiple sesamoid
bones in the paw of the animal. Another difficulty that arises is that small animals
may often resemble a human foetus. In this case it may be come extremely difficult to
differentiate if the remains are human or not especially during hunting season.
Examination of the rest of the remains may then come to the rescue of identification
of the remains as there may be more than one stomachs or there may be difference
in the anatomy of the organs. If radiologic and anthropologic examinations fail to
differentiate between species, then DNA analysis may be helpful. Forensic scientists
can look for the human telomerase gene in chromosome 5. This is seen only in
humans and helps in distinguishing from non-human remains.
ESTABLISHING IDENTITY: The most common methods of identification are Visual
identification, Fingerprint analysis, DNA-analysis and dental tissue comparison. The
latter three are proper scientific methods.
Visual Identification: Amongst all these methods, visual identification is perhaps the
most commonly used method. Though it is the most commonly used method it is the
least reliable. Comparison of the dead individual using the photographic identity
proofs may also be helpful. In many cases however, the body id mutilted or

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decomposed or dismembered or disfigured beyond recognition. In these cases, the

visual identification method fails to establish identity.
Circumstantial: The circumstances in which the death of the individual occurred
may also guide in identifying a person. For example, if the deceased individual was
found in a car, the owner of the car can be tracked and this can help to a certain
extent in finding out the identity of the deceased. The other items found along with
the deceased may also help in identifying the individual such as jewellery, phone
numbers, keys, contact lenses, cellular phone, business cards, et cetera.
External Characteristics: Many people have external characteristics which are
individualistic enough for example, tattoo, scars burns, keloid, et cetera. Other points
to be noted are the body habitus, stature, hair type, eye colour, weight, sex,
circumcision, skin pigmentation. Occupational stigmata may also be revealed through
examination for external characteristics such as subungal haematoma seen in
athletes, dancers or onycholysis in individuals who have been carrying heavy
objects. Coal miners often have blue colour scars due to the presence of carbon dust
in the region they work which gains entry in these skin lesions.
Internal Characteristics: An autopsy is routinely performed in unidentified bodies
and is required by the law to be performed. An autopsy can be helpful in identifying
presence or absence of diseases which were previously not known or recorded. For
example, ischaemic heart disease or cancer may be present. Absence of any organ
can be established following a medical autopsy. Lung diseases can be assessed for.
A thorough toxicologic examination may help in understanding even the lifestyle of
the deceased even though it is not related to the cause of death.
Radiographs: Radiographs are a common means of establishing identity by
comparing the post mortem radiographs with the ante-mortem records if available.
They may also be helpful in obtaining some individualistic characteristics such as a
bullet or shrapnel or any surgical plates or rods which can be traced with the help of
the serial number and thought the manufacturer, the recipient may be identified. Also,
the evidence of non-fused epiphyseal plates may indicate a young individual.
Presence of osteophytes may indicate an older individual. The anthropologist may be
able to give a better estimate of the age though.
Anthropology: Forensic anthropology is helpful in identifying the age, gender, race
and stature of an individual. These finings may further help to narrow down the
search to a particular age group of a particular gender with a specific stature and
belonging to a particular race.When the cranium is present, facial reconstruction may
also be done. Forensic anthropology and facial reconstruction are not commonly
used alone in identifying the deceased. These can be combined with other methods
to establish identity.
Finger-print Analysis: Finger-print analysis is one of the oldest forensic techniques
known to mankind. They are very reliable and may be helpful in identification of an
individual in a short span. Through the use of some techniques, the examiners can
recover the ridge details even in decomposed bodies. These can then be searched in
the ante mortem records. This may help in establishing identity.

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DNA-Analysis: It is one of the most reliable methods to identify an individual and is

also considered by many as the gold standard. The DNA samples can be obtained
from saliva on a bite mark, can be obtained from teeth, or even from a hair follicle.
Once the DNA sample is obtained, it is sent for analysis and may be compared with
the ante mortem records of DNA to establish identity.
Dental Records Comparison: Ante-mortem and post-mortem dental records are
compared and dental features are noted which may be useful for identification. it is
then categorised as positive identification, possible identification, insufficient
identification and exclusion.
SOURCES OF COMPARISON: Mostly the investigators have an idea of who the
deceased could be based on the findings in the crime scene and in order to establish
a positive identification, family may be contacted. Even if no data is available for such
a presumption, still there exists a database for comparison of deceased and missing
METHOD OF ESTABLISHING IDENTITY: Examination of an unidentified deceased
individual should be carried out meticulously and methodically. Photographs must be
taken of the individual including the characteristics such as tattoos, scars, of personal
belongings. A full medical autopsy must be done and thoroughly assessed for any
medical conditions the individual was having. Full body radiographs must also be
taken and thoroughly reviewed. Fingerprints, DNA sample and dental charting are
also very important and samples must be taken where possible.
CONCLUSION: It is important to realise that identification of human remains is a tough
and difficult task. Though there might be pressure for a quick answer, the forensic
scientist must always remember to thoroughly and meticulously examine the remains
and never compromise on the quality of the examination.

The idea that the dentition of every individual is unique is widely accepted. Thus, the
pattern produced by the teeth of every individual will also be unique. This is the basic
rationale behind the use of bite mark as an evidence in the court of law. It is a
patterned injury produced on the skin or any inanimate object due to the biting
surfaces of teeth, be it human or animal. It is a circular or oval shaped injury which
are separated by open spaces at the corners or at their bases.
Case of Steven FortinThe Two Bites: At New Jersey in the year 1994 on August
11th, a body of a 25 year old woman named Melissa Padilla was found inside a
concrete pipe along Route 1 near Woodbridge. The body was identified by her
Below the waist she was not clothed and appeared as if she was beaten and also
been assaulted sexually. There was bite mark on the chin as well as on the left
breast. There was a partially eaten sandwich, bags of food, store receipt, earring,
one dollar bill which was bloodied and debris including cigarette butts were found
scattered near the body. Her clothes were found on a shrub close to the body.

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It was found that she had been abducted after purchasing her food at a food joint
late in the night nearing 23.00hrs prior to the body being discovered which was also
along the Route 1 in Woodbridges Avenel section. The assaulter had brutally beaten
Padilla as her face was swollen and bruised. Padillas nose was broken. It was
revealed that she had been killed by manual strangulation. Bite marks on the left
breast, nipple and chin along with rectal tearing came out in the autopsy.
The respective authority of Maines police division got in touch with the investigators
of Padilla case with a lead in the year 1995 in the month of April. A female police
officer Vicki Gardner who was a victim of a sexual assault similarly being bitten by
the assaulter on the left breast and on the chin.
This incident occurred on April 3rd 1995, when the police officer observed that a
vehicle was stranded and offered to help the driver. However, the driver told that he
was having some mechanical issue with the car. During the conversation Vicki
noticed a smell of alcohol for which sobriety tests were done and a colleague was
radioed to reach the spot. That is when Vicki was assaulted. The assaulter was
Steven Fortin who was 31 years of age. Although Steven had denied doing anything
with the murder of Padilla which was being tried in New Jersey however he had
pleaded guilty to an assault in a trial held in Maine. It was to be noted that Steven
was living in Woodbridge at the time of the brutal murder of Padilla. It was in late
November in the year 1995 that he was provided with a sentence of 20 years by the
ruling judge.
In New Jersey again five years later, Steven was tried for the murder of Padilla.
There was a testimony by the profiler of criminals from federal bureau of investigation
named Robert Hazelwood a veteran who personally investigated almost 7000
crimes in more than 35 years in law enforcement who testified that there was a
similarity between the two sexual modus operandis.
This was the only evidence that the prosecution relied upon connecting the two
crimes. In the month of February, year 2004 The supreme court of New Jersey in a
four is to two ruling had then put aside the conviction of Steven. The decision of the
court was taken as they believed that the Federal Bureau of Investigations criminal
profiler Roberts evidence didnt have a strong scientific basis and hence this was not
sufficient enough to prove that Steven could be proven guilty for the murder of
After three years that is, in the year 2007, Steven was tried again by the prosecutors
in New Jersey. This was possible as they had some physical evidence which was not
present during the initial stages when the prosecution was framing charges. The
evidence was put forward by a special DNA analyst who was brought to the court.
The expert supported his claim by producing a butt of cigarette which was from the
brand of Marlboro which was collected from the crime scene of Padilla. The expert
also justified that only one in three thousand five hundred white people could have a
matching with the obtained sample. This was the primary source of evidence for DNA
matching. Also there was DNA collected from the source of tissue and blood which
was found under Padillas finger nails. Hence they put in forward that Steven should
not be excluded from the DNA matching
There was also photographic evidence which included photos of the bite mark
wounds however the photographer could not identify the marks on the body as a bite
mark wound and hence didnt use a scale or ruler to measure the bite marks. A
forensic odontologist who was also one of the pioneers in the bite mark identification

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of crime scenes Dr. Lowell J. Levine hailing from upstate New York was brought in to
do a study on this case from the forensic point of view, Dr. Lowell had compared the
photographs of the Stevens front teeth photographs of the victims bite-mark
wounds. Dr. Lowell identified that the space between Stevens lower front teeth
corresponded to a space in the mark on the victims left breast. Dr. Lowell testified
that he could not say to a certainty scientifically that Steven Fortin had bitten the
victim. However, he could say that Steven Fortin should not be excluded as the
cause of the crime scene bite-marks.
Another expert in forensic dentistry Dr. Adam Freeman who hailed from Westport,
Connecticut, testified that he had done one of the largest study of its kind wherein a
large sample of almost 259 cases of bite marks was taken and correspondingly it
was his finding that only a very minute fraction of the study consisted of the victim
being bitten on the chin and breasts. This minute fraction consisted of only 5 cases
out of the total 259 bite mark cases which constituted of less than 2 percent of his
sample size. Steven Fortin pleaded guilty for the crime of assault committed in Maine
as a result of Dr. Adam Freemans testimony which helped link to Steven Fortin
himself .
After almost thirteen years on December 4, 2007, a twelve member team of the jury
which consisted of nine men and three women, debated on the various findings and
evidences placed before them for more than nine hours, concluded that the
defendant Steven Fortin to be
guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree
aggressive sexual assault. After several retrials further it was reiterated by the judges
that the bite marks on Padillas matched with the dental records of Steve Fortin. Also
the bite marks from the Maine incident and dental impressions from Steve matched
the marks on Padilla. This case was really important from an investigation
perspective as it was the bite mark evidence primarily that proved to be a major
breakthrough in bringing an accused to justice.
Legal Outcome:
The verdict against Steve Fortin was announced who was found guilty and
sentenced to death
This was one of the cases where in the bite mark evidence was the sole evidence
which helped in solving the case of the brutal murder of Padilla. The bite marks on
Padillas body matched with the dental impressions obtained from Steve Fortin.

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