NEWS 最新消息


Forensic Magzine April 28, 2021: Unethical Use of 1985 MOVE Bombing Skeletal Remains Highlights Inequality in Death Investigations

As was recently publicized, the skeletal remains of at least one Black child were wrongfully retained for decades and used by biological anthropologists to teach forensic anthropology. The details are still developing; however, it appears this situation began when Alan Mann, a biological anthropologist teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, was contacted to examine the remains of individuals killed by Philadelphia police in the 1985 MOVE bombing. For unknown reasons, rather than returning the skeletal material to the appropriate legal authority, Mann kept the remains in his possession, even after leaving to take a teaching position at Princeton University. These remains appear to have been shared between Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania over the ensuing decades, culminating in their use as teaching material in at least one online course on forensic anthropology in 2019 by University of Pennsylvania biological anthropologist Janet Monge.

As practicing forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA), we feel it necessary to speak out against this inexcusable mistreatment of human remains. Further, this case exposes several issues within the discipline of anthropology, namely systems of structural racism as well as the need to appreciate qualifications and ethical practice in forensic anthropology.

Structural violence of marginalized groups and racism in the United States permeate this case—from the initial bombing and murder of those within the building through how the remains were treated at the time of their discovery, their retention for decades, and ultimate use as teaching specimens. The remains of at least one Black child who entered the death investigation system as a result of race-based violence were able to be kept by a private citizen because of the marginalization and power differential between his position in society relative to those of the victims. This case highlights the unequal treatment in this country within death investigations and how the current system can serve to further disenfranchise marginalized and racialized groups. As forensic science practitioners, we need to be cognizant of these imbalances and push to create meaningful systemic change to ensure equity. more

Copyright c Taiwan Society of Forensic Medicine, All Rights Reserved.