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Monday, January 28, 2002


BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...

Plaza: Gov. Motion for Reconsideration  Government asks Judge Pollak to reconsider; and asks for more time to prepare a supporting memorandum.

New Reagent Nabs Suspect
In Isreal, the amino-acid targeting fingerprint reagent 1,2-indanedione strikes success.  (from Dec 6.  ok... so I'm a little late getting this one to you... I'll try to do better next time.  :)~

2002 RSW schedule set
The Ridgeology Science Workshop was just scheduled for April 29 - May 3, 2002, in Norfolk, Virginia and October 7-11, 2002, in Arlington, Texas.  These are the only two open-enrollment courses this year!  Quite a few people have inquired about the Ridgeology Science Workshop, so register early... there are only 25 seats available at each location.  See what people are saying about this workshop!

Good morning via the "Detail," a weekly e-mail newsletter that greets latent print examiners around the globe every Monday morning. The purpose of the Detail is to help keep you informed of the current state of affairs in the latent print community, to provide an avenue to circulate original fingerprint-related articles, and to announce important events as they happen in our field.

Last week's Detail was Andre Moenssens's article, "The Reliability of Fingerprint Identification - A Case Report."  If you didn't get a chance to read his excellent comments on the effects of the Plaza ruling, read it from the Detail Archives.

Last week, the Government filed a motion for reconsideration in the Plaza case.  The Plaza case page of this site was updated the same day I received it.  They also asked for leave to prepare a supporting memorandum, due today, Monday 28, 2002.  As soon as it is available, it will also be posted.  It should re-enforce the Daubert issues addressed in the first series of Details and also provide direction for each of us on the stand when confronted with the types of arguments found in Judge Pollak's ruling on the Plaza defense's motion to exclude fingerprint testimony.

This week, let's turn to one of the fundamental misconceptions by those outside the field of latent prints when arguing that latent print examination is not a science.  That misconception involves the difference between pure science, applied science, and forensic science.  David Ashbaugh explains this concept quite well:



"There is science and then there is science and then there is forensic science and I think we should look at where all these people are coming from and what is what.  Starrs stated he was a purist and I think he means he believes in pure science.  Stoney is more of an applied scientist, but we are talking forensic science here and there is a difference."

  "Pure science is carried out for the sake of gaining knowledge.  Usually, the person is in academia and may or may not use a laboratory.  They seek understanding and truth but their research is knowledge oriented.  Statistics is a main stay of their conclusions, they believe they can never say never, and the consequences for error are minimal other than embarrassment or the loss of a Ph.D..  Most...  are seldom forced to apply their knowledge in the real world."

  "The applied scientist is more down to earth.  They take the pure science info and often create commercial products.  They usually always work in a laboratory as well as possibly teach.  They also seek understanding and truth, often on a contract to a corporation.  This research is usually goal oriented as opposed to just gaining knowledge for knowledge sake.  There is a tendency to express things with statistical models (never admit to never saying never) and the consequences for error is financial, embarrassment, and possibly the loss of status or tenure.  Both of these types of science deal in things that eventually affect people."

  "Forensic science takes place within science but also in a court room and is about law and science.  The law aspect is the court where judges also seek understanding and truth.  The courts are goal oriented, but, they use critical thinking as opposed to statistics to come to a conclusion after weighing the evidence or data.  A statistical model by its nature would always result in acquittal as there is doubt.  The consequence of error in court is extreme and affects people directly.  An error could destroy a persons career, marriage, financial well being or even life.  Caution and conservatism is usually the posture taken."

  "The science part of forensic science takes on all the aspects or baggage of science and drags it into the court room.  The forensic scientist usually works in a laboratory, seeks understanding and truth, is goal oriented and uses critical thinking to form opinions based on all the data in a manner similar to a judge.  Any doubts supports a negative hypothesis.  The consequences of error is extreme as it directly affects peoples lives.  Statistics can be a part of that decision making process or conclusion but not the sole factor."

  "So, when the opinion is expressed, the forensic expert witness steps one step outside of accepted science, and into the legal realm.  They use critical thinking and express an opinion based on their knowledge, what they have observed, their ability and within scientific moral ethical and legal bounds.  Stoney calls this a "leap of faith" but judges do this every day.  So while forensic science has the science side, the extra step or role of expression a subjective opinion is sanctioned in law as an expert witness and we fill that role.  Science may be offended but in forensic science it is a necessity."



I would also like your opinions on the distinctions between pure, applied, and forensic science.  I have added to the Forum (not the Detail chat board) another message under Fingerprints: is it an exact science.  If you have difficulty finding this discussion, simply use the search button on the left browser frame for new messages within the last 1 day.

Next week, a copy of the government's motion for reconsideration should be available, so that will probably be the Weekly Detail.  As always, the Detail chat board is available for informal banter about the Detail, or other latent print matters.  


UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Updated the Ridgeology Science Workshop page with the 2002 schedule, and added information regarding responsibilities of FITS and HOST when scheduling a RSWorkshop at your agency!

Updated the CLPEX.com Training page


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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!


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