Just Identifying Decedents through Postmortem Prints

Just Identifying Decedents through Postmortem Prints

Original Release Date: September 16, 2022

In episode two of our Applications of Forensic Science for Human Identification season, Just Science sat down with Bryan Johnson, the Major Incident Program Manager in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Latent Print Unit, to discuss how postmortem prints can be used to help identify unknown decedents. 

One of the cheapest, easiest, and fastest methods of identifying individuals is through friction ridge prints; however, challenges can arise in cases where trauma or decomposition affect the quality 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 still possess the necessary layers of skin. Listen along as Bryan discusses the advantages of postmortem printing, why identification is accomplished by latent print examiners, and how friction ridge skin is formed. 

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (Award #: 15PNIJ-21-GK-02192-MUMU).

Some content in this podcast may be considered sensitive and may evoke emotional responses, or may not be appropriate for younger audiences. 

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Guest Biography

Bryan T. Johnson is the Major Incident Program Manager for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory’s Latent Print Unit in Quantico, VA. He has been with the FBI for over 13 years as an FBI Qualified Latent Print Examiner and has focused on mass fatality and unknown deceased issues for the last 7 years. He has a B.S. and an M.S. in Forensic Science from Chaminade University of Honolulu, where he started his career with the City and County of Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office. He oversees the FBI’s Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Response Team, which conducts all fingerprint identifications for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner in Dover, DE, as well as all mass fatality incidents around the globe. In addition to his direct duties with the FBI, he is current a member of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) DVI Subcommittee, Vice Chair of the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) Standards Board (ASB) DVI Working Group, as well as one of two U.S. Representatives and the Chair of Ridgeology for the INTERPOL DVI Working Group.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast episode are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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