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Monday, March 10, 2003

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

Appeals Court Throws Out Conviction; Lack of Scientific Evidence - MLIVE.com - March 3, 2003 ...99 percent certainty is not 'scientific evidence' to support a conviction based on fingerprint evidence...

Attorneys Ask Judge to Bar Testimony, Evidence
 - THE OKLAHOMAN - March 4, 2003 ...Terry Nichols' defense attorneys asked a judge to ban an FBI fingerprint expert, chemist and a tool-mark expert from testifying...

Murder Suspect Arrested Eight Years After Crime - WHNT-TV, AL - March 5, 2003 ...at the time of the 1994 murder, police recovered fingerprints, but never found a match...

No Fingerprints, No ID Book, No Supper - THE INDEPENDENT ONLINE, So. AFRICA - March 8, 2003 ...the future this South African woman's life is more than in her own hands - it is literally in her fingertips...

State Points to Fingerprints to Fight Fraud - THE OKLAHOMAN - March 1, 2003 ...your index finger could become the latest weapon against identity theft in Oklahoma...

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 received the following note this week:

Dear Kasey,
Bob was correct in his response that Lightning Powder did discontinue the offering of Synperonic N. But because the requests increased for the product, we had to readdress stocking the chemical. At this time, we DO have it in stock, just as it was in the 2002 catalog.
I appreciate the effort that Morris-Kopek went through to keep the community supplied, I am sure it was a considerable expense on their part.
If you could just please inform all that Lightning Powder now has it back on the shelves, it would be greatly appreciated.
Allen Miller 
Forensic Technical Manager 
Lightning Powder Company 
Armor Holdings, Inc. 
13386 International Parkway 
Jacksonville, Florida 32218 


Whenever anyone mentions point minimums, I always think to myself, what about the other information present? 
As latent print examiners, we know that we don't base opinions on just characteristics, especially when the quantity or area of ridge detail is low.  I hope nobody would argue it is appropriate to only consider one level of detail and ignore the others.  In fact, I would argue the lower the quantity of detail, the more important it becomes to articulate the three levels of detail, qualitative quantitative analysis, and the philosophy and ACE-V methodology of identification.  Obviously, this is because in this situation, that type of detail must be taken into account to arrive at a sufficient volume of uniqueness to individualize.  If that information must be used to individualize, then as practitioners, we must be ready to explain our process and method used to arrive at our conclusion in that case to a jury.  If we aren't ready to articulate that, I see three possibilities.  Again, we are talking about a case where an examiner does NOT articulate Q/Q and Levels of detail concepts in court to explain the conclusion drawn from a low-quantity high-quality latent print comparison:

1) the examiner has not been trained or does not otherwise feel able to articulate ridgeology concepts
2) the examiner could explain ridgeology, but chooses instead to use a simplified explanation: points
3) the examiner did not actually individualize the print

In example 1, the examiner may be experienced in comparisons, but simply have never received the training necessary to talk about the detail used to arrive at a conclusion.  (in this example, a correct conclusion)  Perhaps third level detail or other features were taken into account subconsciously.  It was known that the print was made by the same source because of level 3, but the examiner had never been trained to consciously recognize what information was being compared and therefore did not necessarily know how to articulate the method used to arrive at the conclusion.  So they simply reverted to what was known: points.  They KNEW it was Ident.  But they didn't know how to explain it.  The problem is magnified when the examiner is not willing to let go of a point minimum.  The point minimum actually creates a conflict if an correct individualization is made in the mind of the examiner, but it is below the minimum.  It has been established that point minimums are not based in science because they do not take into account Q/Q.  A conflict will always occur, or identifications will be missed as demonstrated by the chart below:

Chart of the INNER CONFLICT when an examiner maintains a set point minimum (set quantity) but encounters an correct individualization in a print with low quantity and high quality of detail

In example 2, we are basically talking about taking the easy way out.  They could explain all that if they wanted to, but it's just easier to say a number and be done with it.

In example 3, the examiner may study the impression and reach a level of confidence just short of individualization, but there is not a sufficient volume of detail to reach a conclusion of individualization (based on the experience and training of the examiner in ridgeology)  However, instead of correctly arriving at an inconclusive determination, the examiner may actually feel compelled for some reason to call it an individualization.  Additional 'external' factors which might contribute to this shift include:

    -Pressure from a known investigator that they have the 'right guy'
    -Other circumstances in the case pointing toward the suspect
    -The inner need for affirmation resulting from a case identification
    -Other respected examiners are holding the same opinion

I would like to see some discussion on the message board, and I may update this Weekly Detail based on contributions this week.  Feel free to post on the board or e-mail me in private.  Also, just because you e-mail me doesn't mean it's public knowledge... I'll always ask before I circulate comments, and will only do so if granted permission.  John Nielson helped teach me that.  :)

Visit the CLPEX message board this week for informal discussions.
And as usual, the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent print-related discussions.
For discussions with an international flair, check out Dave Charlton's forum at: http://charlton97.proboards12.com/index.cgi


"Unlike human fingerprints, which are visible to the naked eye and can be rapidly categorized by their swirl patterns, gun fingerprints are subtle."


Contributed by Steve Everist 
Latent Print Examiner 
King County Sheriff's Office 

I need a funny submission for next week.

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!


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