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Monday, April 7, 2003

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

New Jersey Man Faces Arizona Murder Charges - PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY - April 5, 2003 ...police said the break came when Arizona's computerized fingerprint system was linked with systems in other states...

Police Get Power to Check Prints on the Spot - THE OREGONIAN - April 3, 2003 ...dozen officers will soon carry handheld devices that will allow them to instantly verify a person's identity by analyzing their fingerprints...

Workers Lose Jobs for Worn Fingerprints - NEW CALIFORNIA MEDIA - April 3, 2003 ...the "unclassifiable" fingerprints triggered a mandatory 10-year background check...

Robbery Case Wrapped Up After Two Years - THE EAST HAVEN COURIER, CT - April 3, 2003 ...responding officers were able to lift 15 fingerprints and 2 palm prints from a basement window on the victims house...

New Trial Opens in Slaying of Liquor Store Owner - THE DOVER NEWS JOURNAL, DE - April 1, 2003 ...suspect told the jury in his first-degree murder trial that Dover police falsified fingerprint evidence...

Arraignment For Man Charged with Murder - THE PENINSULA CLARION, AK - March 30, 2003 ...initially, the AFIS prints didn't "hit" -- this time a match was made with the fingerprints of the suspect...

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.

Just a reminder, there is a Daubert Symposium in Las Vegas, sponsored by ABFDE (American Board of Forensic Document Examiners) June 27th through June 29th at The Orleans Hotel and Casino. Registration paperwork can be accessed through ABFDE.org, theiai.org, onin.com and various other websites. Looking at the schedule, this year promises to be even better than the first symposium last year, which was excellent. While sponsored by ABFDE, the symposium is geared toward all comparative disciplines and offers a tremendous amount of information and knowledge gained through experience from forensic practitioners, scientists, attorneys and judges.

If you intend to attend (say that five times fast), please contact Derek Hammond of the Army Crime Lab 404-469-7044. Even if you don't have the funds to send at the moment, Derek needs to know if enough people are planning to attend in order to keep the symposium viable. There is concern that it may have to be cancelled and it would be a tremendous loss to all of us.


You may have noticed that the link to one of the Newz articles last week was incorrect.  It ended up being for the best, because through conversations with two different people who were personally involved with the case, I heard that there was some misinformation, misrepresentation of fact, and there needs to be more education on these issues in general.  Expect to hear more about this case and digital imaging in general  next week.  Until then, take the information in the article with a grain of salt, but here is the correct link: Man Who Spent 4-Years in Jail Cleared - THE SUN-SENTINEL, FL - March 29, 2003


Are you ready to vote on your favorite fingerprint-related slogan!?!  We have some AWESOME entries again this year!!  I had a very difficult time narrowing it down to 10 finalists.  As last year, the winner gets two free shirts!  Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2003 CLPEX.com t-shirt slogan contest.  Below are the top 10, and below the survey are the rest of the entries to get your mind in gear for next year.  Prepare to laugh, and vote for YOUR favorite! (once only, please)


(fingerprint and magnifying glass)
I was CSI before CSI was cool

(whorl pattern with a milk carton in the core) 
got ident?

(fingerprint with a vodka bottle in core)
Absolute Certainty

(image of a latent print)
"One way or another, we're going to find you, we're gonna getcha, getcha, getcha..."

(image of a magnifying glass (loupe))
Latent print examiners are always in the loop

(Whorl pattern with a Peace symbol in the middle)
Look!  Whorl Peace!!

(Large open field with lots of uniqueness)
Details? Details?... We don't need no stinkin' Details!

(Hand with hitchhikers thumb in 360 degree lens so you see the tip of the thumb very large with an obvious pattern)
Got a Lift?

(Fingerprint with a 'solid' look)
Like a Rock

(latent print)
Did you leave something behind, Genius?

2003 CLPEX.com T-shirt Survey                  VIEW FINAL RESULTS HERE


FINGERPRINTS--Ask not what fingerprints can do for you; ask what you can do for fingerprints.

Tape & Lift Squad 


Latent print examiners are brushed with greatness.

Where in the Whorl is Carmen Sandiego?

Start seeing latent print examiners.

All your latents are belong to us.

Why not give me a whorl?

I'd recognize that friction ridge anywhere.

(latent print)
You leave it, I'll lift it.

Bifurcation. Poreoscopy. Minutiae. Latent print examiners know big words.

"I can identify you,.. later."

(Two Zebras engaged in a fight, both standing on hind legs) 
"objective vs subjective"

Latent print examiners Make a Whorl of Difference 

FINGERPRINT EXAMINERS--Never has so much been owed by so many to so few.

All science is either latent prints or stamp collecting.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's

Science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, the greatest sceintists are
always artists as well.

The Whorling Dervishes 

(two matching prints)
"A match made in heaven."

The Latent Developers 

Show me a fingerprint, I'll find you a perp.

Leave a legacy. Go to jail.

Take a Powder with the Latent Crew 

A fingerprint is forever.

Fingerprints. The gift that keeps on giving.

Show me a fingerprint, I'll find it's mate.

Latent print examiners stick like Super Glue.

Coming to you Live from high atop Friction Ridge 

Just because your trained for something doesn't mean your prepared for it.

Latent print examiners love happy endings.

(fingerprints as petals on a flower)
He did it. He did it not.

(two zebras)
Fingerprint Science: No Two Alike

And our list would not be complete without some movie title suggestions:

"A Ridge too Far"

"My Big Fat Greek Fingerprint" 

"Lord of the Ridges: The Fellowship of the Ridges" 

Ocean's 11 (points of similarity) 

"The Divine Secrets of the ACE-V Methodology" (or Brotherhood, but 
that might suggest something...not to mention leave out our talented 
female examiners, but you could do a men's/women's shirt) 

"Crouching Bifurcation, Hidden Short Ridge" 

"Moulin Ridge" 

"Dr. Strangeridge, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept Ridgeology"


"StarWars, Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (all of which have different fingerprints)"


This week, we are inspired by a couple of difficult latent print processing scenarios that turned out well.  These cases speak for themselves, with discussion to follow:

Trigger Print
By Dennis G. Degler

The CLPEX.com discussion forum recently contained a posting on the frequency of latent prints recovered from firearms and included accounts of latents found on the triggers of guns. This reminded me of a case in Phoenix, Arizona that I was involved in back in 1993. In October of that year, two males in their early 20s entered a packed social club in the late hours of the evening and attempted to rob it at gunpoint. The owner of the club confronted the two males with his own gun and a gunfight ensued between one of the young men and the owner. The owner was shot to death, but managed to wound one of the would-be robbers in the leg. The two males ran from the scene down an alley that cut through the back of a residential area. The one who had fired the fatal shots tossed his gun in a grassy area of the back yard of a house about two blocks from the club as he ran. The gun, a stainless Smith and Wesson revolver, was located several hours later as were the two suspects. 

The recovered gun was first treated with cyanoacrylate fuming, after which ridge detail could be seen on the smooth surface of the trigger. Because the trigger guard hampered any effort to photograph the detail satisfactorily, a firearms examiner assisted me by disassembling the gun and removing the trigger piece. I was then able to photograph the trigger print using tented lighting and 4X5 T-Max film. Because of the shape of the trigger, it was difficult to obtain a photograph without recording hotspots in the print area, even with the tenting. Because of this, several photographs were taken as the trigger was rotated. 

The photographs were compared with the prints of the arrested person thought to be the shooter. The print was identified as the right index fingerprint of the shooter, specifically the base of the distal phalangeal area and its orientation was consistent with placing the finger on the trigger while holding the gun in a “normal” shooting position. 

I believe that the gun was also associated to the crime with firearms evidence as well . In any event, the case never went to trial and the suspects both pled guilty to their involvement in the crime. Although this was a spectacular case in terms of damning evidence, cases such as this are clearly the exception and identifiable latents are generally not found on handguns in the majority of cases, in my experience.

Fired Shell Casing Print
By Kasey Wertheim

A couple of months ago, I received a telephone from Kathy Kibbey, Supervisor of the Bakersfield PD (CA) Crime Lab. Several examiners and/or administrators were debating whether or not to introduce policy/procedure regarding standardized processing or non-processing of shell casings. She inquired about cases I knew of where prints had been developed / identified specifically from fired shell casings. One of the instructors in a recent crime scene reconstruction course in California had made comments to the effect that fired casings might as well not be submitted because nothing would ever be developed on them. She had heard of a poster I presented at an IAI conference, and mentioned that the general facts of the case (and images of the identification) might be interesting to Detail readers.

Two adult males were discussing their relationships with the same female when the conversation became heated and an argument ensued. The perpetrator revealed a .22 magnum revolver and fired one shot, hitting the victim in the chest. The revolver was dropped at the scene, and the suspect fled on foot. Police responded and collected the weapon for fingerprint and firearm processing at the Crime Laboratory. The perpetrator claimed that the gun did not belong to him, and it had discharged accidentally during the struggle. Firearms examination revealed that this was indeed possible; the gun would discharge with a sharp jolt to the body of the weapon. The major issue was whether the perpetrator had loaded the weapon or simply handled the revolver during the argument.

The weapon was collected and submitted to the crime laboratory with all cylinders of the revolver occupied by live rounds except one, which was occupied by a fired shell casing. The rounds and casing were removed from the cylinder and all items were processed with cyanoacrylate fuming followed by visual and black latent fingerprint powder examinations. One latent print of value was developed on and lifted from the fired shell casing. No other latent prints of value were developed. Upon comparison with the prints of the perpetrator, the latent fingerprint was identified and a report was issued.

During trial, it became important that the latent print was left on the surface in a matter that was inconsistent with normal handling during an altercation. I testified to the identification and to the logic behind the fact that a latent print on a shell casing in the cylinder of a revolver would have had to have been left 1) before the incident as the gun was being loaded or 2) after the incident by opening the revolver, removing the casing from the cylinder, handling it in a matter that left an identifiable latent print, replacing the casing, and closing the cylinder.  (Chain of custody was intact)  The jury obviously thought the former scenario was more realistic, as the perpetrator was convicted and is now serving his time in prison.

Obviously the likelihood of latent prints of value being developed on a trigger, or on a fired shell casing is not great. However, these cases demonstrate that it is possible, and the examiner and case can benefit from maintaining a positive mental attitude. If you don’t feel the possibility of developing an identifiable latent print exists, then you may not truly give it your best shot. However, if you approach the processing of this type of evidence with your full effort, you just might be surprised what comes about!  Dennis and I were certainly pleased to have developed and identified latent prints on these surfaces.  We are also pleased to offer these cases as inspiration to others for keeping a positive attitude when processing difficult evidence.

We have a lot of experienced examiners reading the Detail this morning… How about sharing some of your most surprising REAL-CASE latent print surfaces!  Visit the CLPEX 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.

For discussions with an international flair, check out Dave Charlton's forum at: http://charlton97.proboards12.com/index.cgi



"An extraordinary configuration of the
dermal ridge arrangements and the variance of pattern display indicates an elevated mental manifestation."


Submitted by Steve Everist
King County Sheriff's Office


UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Implemented the survey .cgi script that we will be using on a regular basis for different surveys!

Last week I mentioned adding more fingerprint books to the CLPEX.com bookstore this week, but I spent more time than anticipated working out the survey and organizing slogan submissions.  I will list the additional books next weekend.

If you want one of last year's shirts, fill out the online t-shirt order form by Noon on Saturday.  Next week, the order form will point to the 2003 shirt.  If you want one of both t-shirts, advise of that in the 'special instructions' section of the order form, and I will ship them together when the new ones come in.  A confirmation page will appear instructing you to send payment, but feel free to wait until your order the 2003 shirt to send a check for both.

Updated the Detail Archives

Updated the Newzroom


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!