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Cut Above: Sharpening the Accuracy of Knife and Saw Mark Analysis

NCJ Number
Forensic Magazine Volume: 3 Issue: 3 Dated: June/July 2006 Pages: 8-11,13
Date Published
June 2006
5 pages
After providing an overview of the value and features of knife and saw mark analysis, this article outlines the plan of action for a research project whose goal is to develop a gold-standard methodology that forensic scientists can use to perform reliable knife and saw mark analyses and support their conclusions with quantitative and statistical data.
The project is being conducted by Steven Symes and his colleagues with the support of the Applied Forensic Sciences Department at Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA. The National Forensic Academy and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences are partners in the project, which is being funded by the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice. The project will use the range of saws and knives on the market to make experimental cuts in human bone and describe key variables useful in analysis. This phase builds on Symes' original research conducted in 1987. The project will also conduct a validation study of the derived variables to determine which ones offer the most useful findings for the correct identification of knives and saws. Standards will be developed for assessing saw mark characteristics in order to provide a methodology that meets criteria for admissibility as scientific evidence. In addition, a documentation standard will be established for cutmarks in bone for use in the forensic setting. One of the products of the project will be a comprehensive handbook that describes diagnostic knife and saw mark characteristics, analytical techniques, documentation procedures, and reporting protocol. A computer program that complements the handbook will provide a statistical approach for estimating the probability of tool matches based on variable input. This will allow forensic experts to testify about probabilities and error rates in their knife and saw mark analyses. Appended relevant case files of Steven Symes

Date Published: June 1, 2006