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Just Science Podcast: Just Identifying Decedents through Postmortem Prints

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2022

In this second episode of the “Applications of Forensic Science for Human Identification” Season of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Bryan Johnson, the Major Program Manager in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Latent Print Unit, who discusses how postmortem prints can be used to assist in identifying unknown decedents.



An introductory comment notes that one of the cheapest, easiest, and fastest methods of identifying individuals is through friction ridge prints; however, challenges arise in cases that involve trauma or decomposition of a decedent’s hands. Fortunately, there are a variety of techniques available that can facilitate the collection of high-quality postmortem prints if the hands of the decedent still have the necessary layers of skin; however. Bryan Johnson discusses the advantages of postmortem printing, how identification is accomplished by latent print examiners, and how friction-ridge skin is formed; however, if hands have become skeletonized, identification from print is not possible. The most reliable way of obtaining a print of sufficient quality under questionable conditions of the presence of skin is discussed.


Date Published: September 1, 2022