Volume 49, Issue 3 (May 2004)
The Impact of Daubert: Implications for Testimony and Research in Forensic Anthropology (and the Use of Frontal Sinuses in Personal Identification)
This paper emphasizes the need for objectivity and standardized methodologies in the forensic sciences, particularly physical anthropology. To this end, a review of important events in scientific evidence admissibility law, particularly the standards set in the case of Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 1993, is presented. The method of confirming a putative identification by visual comparison of antemortem and postmortem frontal sinus radiographs is examined in light of current admissibility standards. The technique is revealed to have a number of shortcomings, including a lack of empirical testing, no estimates of potential error rates, no standards controlling the technique's operation, and no objective determination standards. These shortcomings may, in some instances, prevent resulting conclusions from being admissible evidence. It is suggested that some methods (including frontal sinus comparison) may require more rigorous testing in order to meet these new and stricter standards.