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Monday, July 22, 2002

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...

Italy's Jews suspend protest over foreigner fingerprinting. 15 July, 2002, ROME - Italian Jewish leaders have suspended a protest, planned for Monday, against Italy's new law requiring fingerprints of immigrants from countries outside the European Union.

Identical Twins with Same Fingerprints?
(sarcastically, of course)  August 2002 "Fast Company" magazine - As luck would have it, Schneider has an identical twin. So she called her sister, who lives in San Diego, told her to hop on the next plane to Las Vegas, and hoped for the best. At the convention, her sister was able to log on to Schneider's computer, and the presentation was saved.

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, Craig Coppock brought us an update on the June 24 Daubert hearing in Washington State Federal court.   This week, we continue discussing Daubert issues through a unique and potentially very useful idea from Steve Scarborough and Ray York: The Daubert Card.


The Daubert Card

by Raymond A. York and Steve Scarborough

     After the June 2002 ABFDE Daubert conference, two “old time” fingerprint examiners got together and began comparing notes. We found that we both had upcoming trials where “Daubert like questioning” may play a part. We thought that it would be a good idea to come up with a list of questions that we have been asked and questions that had been raised in recent court hearings and trials.  We could then pass them around the office and through discussion refine a number of appropriate answers for the questions. We also thought that although many jurisdictions do not have evidentiary hearings, “Daubert like” questions that have arisen out of those hearings are being asked by defense attorneys in local courts.

     The intent is to have the numbered questions on the front of a laminated card with a set of information, related to each question on the reverse side of the card.  Our thoughts were that it was more important to provide the background for the answers rather than create specific written answers as every examiner may answer each question differently.  It is essential to have the facts available in order to be able to answer the questions in an informed manner.

     For example, question number 10 relates to recent academic studies of Fingerprints. The reverse side of the “Daubert Card” includes information listing last February’s Harvard Cyberposium on biometrics, Sandia labs fingerprint research in 1997, research by Salil Prabakar at the IBM Research Center and Anil Jain at Michigan State University, at the Pattern Recognition and Image Processing Laboratory (for a huge list of recent research references see this link.  In other words, listing the wide range of worldwide academic research being done on Fingerprints like that at Information Center at Peking University, IBM Research Lab, Delhi, India and Biometric Systems Lab at University of Bologna.

     Another example would be information to answer question 12.  This includes a list of scientific studies of fingerprints including biological studies done by Whipple, Wilder, Cummins, and Hale all the way up to Babler. And listings of permanence and frequency studies that have been done over the years that lead right up to recent research.

     Information that addresses part of question number 13 would include testing done by Lockheed Martin and the FBI, constant testing by AFIS systems in continuous operation around the world.

      Some questions are obviously interrelated and may use some of the same research information. A good definition of Science provides background information for several questions. (There is no mention anywhere of error rates in the Scientific Methodology or any definition of science that we found.) Recent biometrics research addresses testing, studies and wide acceptance beyond the forensic community.

     Within the questions there is some re-phrasing of related questions that are included to comprise the various questions that have been posed by defense attorneys. 

     The obvious advantage of the Daubert Card is an all in one preparation card for any likely questions that may arise in future court proceedings, whether as an evidence hearing or a typical criminal trial. Additionally, the card would keep Latent Examiners aware of recent questions about Fingerprints.

     An unforeseen consequence of this project has been to debunk many of the prosperous statements made by “critics” in hearings, books and newspapers articles. Question 10, for instance. It has been stated that there is no academic research being done on Fingerprints and our research shows quite the contrary. We obviously knew the “critics” were wrong, we just didn’t realize how wrong.  The one constant we have found in obtaining research for all of these questions is that the challenges to the issues have no merit or substance and the information exists to fully answer every question in support of Fingerprint Science.

     Maybe the best advantage of the Daubert Card is the thought provoking effect and dialog between examiners that is triggered by the discussion of these questions

1.  Is fingerprints a science?  Are you a scientist?

2.  Isn’t it true that Fingerprints is only a creation of police agencies and that there are no communities other than forensics that view Fingerprints as a valid technique?

3.  What is the error rate for fingerprints?

4.  We haven’t seen all the fingerprints in the world so how can we make the assumption that fingerprints are unique.

5.  Fingerprinting doesn’t have any scientific-type methodology now does it?

6.  It is you opinion that this is an identification, could someone else have a different opinion?

7.  There are two groups of fingerprint people, point counters and ridgeologists, which one are you?

8.  There has never been any rigorous scientific testing or validation testing in fingerprints test it’s reliability, has there?

9.  Because the NIJ issued their request for research on the scientific validity of fingerprints that proves that none exists, doesn’t it?

10.  Doesn’t the fact that Fingerprints are not studied in any academic laboratories prove that it is not a science?

11. You can’t get a degree in fingerprints, so therefore it is not a true science, correct?

12.  What scientific studies, if any, have ever been done to support the science of fingerprints?

13.  History show us that there has been blind acceptance for Fingerprints and that Fingerprints have been accepted uncritically, without any real peer review, or challenge, without any testing such as that done in DNA would you agree to that?

14.  Until recently, fingerprint evidence had never been successfully challenged in any courtroom, doesn’t that mean it has been blindly accepted?

15.  In general there are no standards or controls for fingerprints are there?

16.  You say that there is no minimum point standard to make an ID, there are no real standards for making a fingerprint identification are there?

17.  I have a copy of your transcripts from last year and you never once mentioned ACE-V or anything about science at all. How can you explain that?

18.  Even if we accept the premise that no two fingerprints are alike, isn’t it true that it doesn’t follow that small-distorted fragments can be identified as there has never been any studies of the reliability of partial fingerprints?

19.  In fact, there is really no peer review of scientific method in fingerprints is there?  

20.  Some (maybe you) have called fingerprints an applied science, would you be surprised to know that a law professor said “it makes no sense to divide science into forensic sub-groups”?

21.  Doesn’t the fact that there has been fingerprint comparison mistakes made, and innocent people have been convicted by fingerprints prove that it is not a valid science?

22.  You said that you are 100% certain that this is an identification, but doesn’t that prove that it is not a science, as no other science is 100% in anything?


In corresponding with Steve on this issue, we thought it best to give these questions some time to be discussed before posting the "facts."  As he mentioned, we don't want to just give you the answers to the questions... we want examiners to discuss these questions and share input on the chat board. 

I am also preparing for a Daubert talk in Vegas, and in so doing I am corresponding with the Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the last 10 Daubert hearings (all in 2002).  They are assisting in a thorough understanding of more than just the issues, but also in how the issues are presented by the defense.  This will help us better prepare to present our position.  The conference will be an excellent place to further discuss this issue with examiners who have been involved in a Daubert related attack.  We will wait until after Vegas to complete the facts related to this list, so be sure to get your input on the board in the next few weeks.  Visit the
CLPEX chat board when you are ready to give your input.  I will start a "DAUBERT CARD" discussion for you to reply to with your contribution.  Be sure to re-define your post's subject line if you want to include which question you are answering. (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2)

The onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent print-related discussions.


UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

The CLPEX t-shirts have been boxed up and will be available in Vegas.  If you know someone who wants one, get their $ and take them back a shirt!  Or bring your own $ and take everyone back a souvenir.  (or at least your supervisor.  :)  They will still be available on the site until our contest next year.

Feel free to pass the link to The Detail along to other examiners.  This is a free service FOR latent print examiners, BY latent print examiners. There are no copyrights on The Detail, and the website is open for all to visit.

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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.

Have a GREAT week!


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