T  H  E      D  E  T  A  I  L


Monday, January 6, 2003

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac

Neighbor Sentenced to Death for Kidnapping and Killing Girl - NEW YORK TIMES - Jan. 3, 2003 ...In keeping with the jury's recommendation, Judge William Mudd of Superior Court sentenced Mr. Westerfield to death for first-degree murder committed with the special circumstance of kidnapping... in the Danielle Van Dam case.

Budget Cuts Threaten Oregon's Crime Labs
- STATESMAN JOURNAL - Dec. 24, 2002 ...barring a successful tax vote or government action, the number of  laboratory workers will drop from 135 to 50...

Fingerprinting At Banks Causing Controversy - NEWNET5.COM - Dec. 26, 2002 ...when fingerprints are required, banks cut fraud by nearly 60 percent...

Kroger Testing New Fingerprint Checkout Technology - WKRN.COM - Dec. 26, 2002 ...a scanner reads your index print and automatically bills your account...

Santa Fe Sculptors Solve Forensic Art Caper - ALBUQUERQUE TRIBUNE - Dec. 27, 2002 ...the sculpture's 8-foot-wide lens will cast a slowly moving shadow of a fingerprint on the south face of the building....

Crime Scenes, Minus the Script - THE EDMONTON JOURNAL  - Dec. 29, 2002 ...a window was smashed, a screen mangled, bedrooms ransacked, and a pleasant young family left on edge...

`This Is Me, I'm Not Dead' - CTNOW.COM - Dec. 31, 2002 ...Hartford, CT. police told Mark Denison's family he was dead. Not only was he alive, Denison had to prove it to police...

Fingerprint Plan in Doubt - LONG BEACH PRESS-TELEGRAPH - Jan. 3, 2003 ...California: Fraud system may cost more than it will save, auditors say...

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.

I hope everyone had an excellent holiday season and is ready to return to work with a renewed passion toward a productive new year.

This week, many of us learned of the tragic and untimely death of fellow friend and colleague, Scott Spjut.  There are several news articles that provide more information about the circumstances surrounding Scott's passing:

West Valley is Probing Forensics Death - THE DESERET NEWS - January 3, 2003

Expert Killed in Gun-Lab Accident  - THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE - January 3, 2003

Officer Remembered for Keen Crime Work  - THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE - January 4, 2003

As the shock of this news ripples through the fingerprint community, I receive numerous e-mails and posts from mutual friends expressing the impact Scott has had in our lives and on our science.  Those of us involved with the IAI know Scott as a passionate lecturer and instructor and the newest Chairperson of the Latent Print Certification Board.  If you never had the opportunity to meet Scott, I hope the following comments will offer a glimpse of the professionalism and dedication we should all strive to achieve. 

"There are those people in life that you meet and instantly know that you have found a friend for life. Scott was one of those people for me, not because he was a great forensic analyst, but because he was a great person. We shared many laughs and discussions via email and instant message. He always had time to talk to you. Everyone will remember him for his contributions (too many to count) to Forensics for years to come. He was an amazing individual who had a true love for Forensics. His presence will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."  Jason Pressly, Meridian, Mississippi

"He was more than a boss, he was a teacher and a best friend.  He taught all of us much of what we know.  He was my inspiration to continue in the forensics field."  Holly Plotnick, forensic investigator.

"It was my pleasure and honor to have known Scott for a number of years, and count him as a friend. He was passionate about his chosen vocation, and exhibited an enviable quest for knowledge. His willingness to share his own acquired knowledge was but one of his many fine qualities. He will be greatly missed, yet his memory will endure, not only for his professional contributions, but also for the kind of person he was. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and colleagues at this time of tragic loss."  Robert Tavernero, Phoenix, Arizona

"His faith, his family and his career meant the world to him and in that order. Scott was a peer, a father, a husband and my friend. May we all remember him the way he was."  Dwane Hilderbrand, Scottsdale AZ

"Scott excelled as a supervisor because of the concern he had for the quality of work which we did and the amount of constant training that was made available to us.  He was also a very good listener and had an open door policy.  We exist as a unit today because of his organization and innovation.  He was probably the most respected forensic investigator, clearly in the state of Utah and was known and respected across the nation for his work not only here in Utah but with the IAI (International Association for Identification), the largest forensics organization in the world.  He was chairman of the certification committee of the latent fingerprint certification board for the IAI." Kent Timothy, forensic investigator.

"He was considered to be one of the best in his field and, more importantly, a fine Christian man.  He will be sincerely missed by all."  Jamie Bush, Meridian, Mississippi

"Scott was a friend to everybody.  He would do anything for anyone who asked him, whether he had the time or not.  No matter who asked, he would say, 'Sure, I'll do that for you.'  He would literally give you the shirt off his back.  He's an inspiration to all forensic investigators across the world.  He inspired myself and Jason to leave law enforcement and pursue careers in criminalistics."  James May, forensic investigator.

"Such a loss is so hard to fathom by friends, family and colleagues and those of us having a common thread." Ernie Hamm, Jacksonville, Florida.

"He gave so freely of all of his time and talents, not only to us as his employees, but to agencies nationwide."  Jason Cole, forensic investigator.

"Scott was one of a handful of rising stars in our profession whose influence will help shape our science in decades to come. We will all be poorer for the greater promise that will remain unfulfilled due to his early passing. My heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends."  Pat Wertheim, Tucson, Arizona

You may visit the web site of the funeral home and sign a guest book to leave a thought for the family.


All emails will be printed on parchment and presented to the family.  Unfortunately, due to the volume of inquiries, telephone contact with his family is difficult.  You may send flowers directly to the funeral home.  Cards and letters may be sent to the Spjut household.  Donations for a trust fund set up for the children may be sent to Deseret First Credit Union, 390 South Main, Bountiful, Utah.


Comments about the 60 minutes fingerprint program on Sunday reflect a fair, unbiased representation of our field.  Some perceived it as negative, some as positive, on average neutral.  Pat Wertheim brings a short commentary on the program:

The 60 Minutes segment of fingerprints could have been better, or it could have been worse. I believe it was a fairly well-balanced program. The bottom line is this: THE SYSTEM WORKS! It is true that a man was convicted by a single erroneous fingerprint identification and served two years in prison. It is also true that the defense attorney hired defense experts, which led to the reversal of the conviction. The man wrongly convicted of murder, although he served two years in prison, will doubtless be well compensated by the time the civil lawsuits are settled. But, as Stephen Meagher also pointed out in the program, every single Daubert challenge to the science has held fingerprint identification to be reliable. So the 60 Minutes segment said basically two things: Science is accurate, but people make mistakes. Have you ever been unable to balance your checkbook? (I suspect the Yes's far outnumber the No's.) Does failure to balance a checkbook mean the science of mathematics has failed? Of course not! Does an erroneous fingerprint identification on the part of an unqualified latent print examiner mean the science of fingerprints has failed? Of course not! Competent, qualified fingerprint examiners seldom if ever, make an erroneous identification. But should they, the system allows the defense to hire their own expert, and this 60 Minutes program proves the value of a competent, ethical defense expert. THE SYSTEM WORKS! Let us not be afraid of television programs nor of defense experts. Our science, correctly applied, is valid and our evidence, when correct, easily defensible.

If anyone taped the broadcast and could convert it to a format I could place on my website, please let me know.  I have heard from several examiners who missed the show.  Size would probably prevent an video file, but a .mp3 file would probably suffice.  Or typed transcripts.

There have been some excellent posts on the website.  To discuss fingerprint related topics, visit the informal CLPEX.com message board at http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2
As usual, 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...

Updated the newzroom

Updated the Detail Archives


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

If you have not yet signed up to receive the Weekly Detail in YOUR e-mail inbox, go ahead and join the list now so you don't miss out!  (To join this free e-mail newsletter, send a blank e-mail to: theweeklydetail-subscribe@topica.email-publisher.com )  Members may unsubscribe at any time.  If you have difficulties with the sign-up process or have been inadvertently removed from the list, e-mail me personally at kaseywertheim@aol.com and I will work things out.

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

Have a GREAT week!