Journal Published Online: 01 July 1999
Volume 44, Issue 4

Video Superimposition at the C.A. Pound Laboratory 1987 to 1992



William R. Maples practiced many aspects of human identification using simple and relatively inexpensive video superimposition equipment. Identification of skulls by comparison to known photographs was a primary concern. Clear, smiling photographs revealing the spatial relationships of the teeth to one another led to uncomplicated positive identifications. However, without benefit of dentition, how accurate was an identification based on the alignment of soft tissues with the underlying skull? Most importantly, how often would a false positive result when anterior dentition were not available?

A study conducted by this author and Dr. Maples used three human heads and 98 profile and full-face photographs. A 0.6% incidence of false match resulted when both views of the face were used. Lateral view and frontal view superimpositions were identified incorrectly in 9.6% and 8.5% of the sample respectively. As a result, multiple photographs from varying angles were requested for superimposition identity cases.

Additional applications in laboratory case work were developed for the equipment. Light boxes under the television cameras allowed radiographic comparisons. Video taped comparisons of antemortem and postmortem radiographs were shown to medical examiners and families as proof of identification.

Dr. Maples and this author were also involved in several cases in which photographs taken by a surveillance or ATM camera were compared to court ordered photographs of an alleged perpetrator. One case, which went to trial, led to the conviction of a habitual criminal under Florida statute. This individual had a condition known as Stahl's ear, a deformation of the cartilaginous structure. The ear was seen clearly in many of the ATM camera photographs and was aligned easily with the known photographic sample.

Author Information

Austin, D
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Forensic Laboratories, Fort Worth, TX
Pages: 5
Price: $25.00
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Stock #: JFS14538J
ISSN: 0022-1198
DOI: 10.1520/JFS14538J