On the surface, this may seem simple, but the Coroner’s Office must rely on more than just paperwork (which may be stolen or forged) to establish the decedent’s identity. Most legal identification comes from medicine. Identification methods may include:
- body description
- medical records
- medical implants and appliances
- surgical / radiology comparison
- healed trauma
- fingerprint comparison
- dental records (odontology)
The Douglas County Coroner’s Office does not use law enforcement resources for fingerprint comparisons; the MDI’s are trained and certified in fingerprint comparison.
Legal identification includes physical anthropology. When exposed bones are discovered, it is the responsibility of the Coroner’s Office to identify human verses non-human remains, and if humans, who they are and why the bones were left in that environment. The “Why” is a task fully embraced in joint decision-making with law enforcement.