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Monday, October 20, 2003

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

Finger Food - MID COLUMBI TRI CITY HERALD, WA - Oct. 14, 2003 The lunch cards of Hawthorne Elementary School students are replaced with a biometric system and finger-reader.

Sheriff's Office Gets High-Tech Palmprint ID from Motorola- Boca Raton News, Fl - Oct. 15, 2003 The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office gets Omnitrak AFIS/Palmprint Identification and Livescan...

State Police Unveil Fingerprint Technology - WTNH-TV, CT - Oct.15, 2003 ...witnesses testified that fingerprints and faked court documents link the man to the slaying...

Fingerprints to Prove Lottery Winner - News.com.au - September 20, 2003 ...a petition was filed by a Vancouver man claiming that a neighbor found his lottery ticket and cashed it... latent print work is being performed...

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.


John Nielson wanted me to mention that there are a few seats available in an in-service "Ridgeology Science Workshop" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin November 3-7.  For details, contact me at kaseywertheim@aol.com and I will put you in touch with John.  The course is only two weeks away, so let me know soon.  Details on the course are available on the RSW section of the Training page of CLPEX.com.


Last week, Pat Wertheim brought us his report on a Daubert challenge to the science of fingerprints in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  This week, we see a written opinion from U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Beistline regarding a motion to exclude fingerprint evidence in the District of Alaska.


U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
Case No. A03-0113 CR (RRB), U.S. vs. Zachary Ryan Carey
Filed October 15, 2003
Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Exclude Government’s Latent Fingerprint Evidence (Docket 14) brought pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). A “Daubert hearing” was held on October 9, 2003 at which each party presented expert testimony regarding the admissibility of fingerprint evidence. The focus of the hearing was not on the specific partial fingerprint at issue in this case, but on the use of fingerprint evidence generally.

The Court is well aware of the fact that fingerprint evidence has been utilized in the courts of the United States for years (roughly a century) and has been routinely recognized as reliable. It is undisputed that fingerprints are permanent and unique, and that the science and/or technique of fingerprint analysis and comparisons have been well established and extensively developed. Experts, including the Government’s expert in this case, Melisha Gische, have a clear understanding of the physiological basis for fingerprints and have established beyond a reasonable doubt that no two fingerprints are exactly the same, not even the fingerprints of twins. The Court concludes, therefore, that the testimony of a competent fingerprint examiner, utilizing a reasonably clear latent fingerprint and comparing it to a known print, can reliably assist the jury in its fact-finding function to render an opinion as to whether the prints in question match.

Defendant asserts, however, that there is insufficient scientific testing to justify using fingerprint evidence under the guidelines set forth in Daubert, id. The Court disagrees. While each factor suggested by the Supreme Court in Daubert may not have been perfectly addressed to the satisfaction of some in the scientific community, there is more than sufficient basis to conclude that fingerprints are reliable for the purposes utilized here. The use of fingerprints has been generally accepted in the “scientific community.” In other words, those with an interest in the subject, including law enforcement, the courts, scientists, the military, hospitals, etc., have routinely accepted the accuracy of fingerprinting and have utilized it routinely over the years. Furthermore, the use of fingerprints is well known and has been subject to peer review in the sense that defendants in criminal cases and scientists in general have had years in which to challenge the science and techniques associated with fingerprinting but have not done so with any success. In fact, the passage of time only adds to the number of verified matches that have occurred with misidentification rare, if at all. And fingerprint accuracy has been tested by virtue of its successful and reliable use, day in and day out. All state and federal prisoners are fingerprinted, as well as all military personnel and many others. Despite the wide use of fingerprints, never have two people been discovered with the same fingerprint. The potential for error is therefore de minimis if at all.

Defendant’s concerns about the reliability of specific print or a fragmented print is properly the subject of cross-examination and may certainly be considered by the jury as it determines the weight to be given to the evidence. The Court cannot conclude however, in light of the overwhelming evidence of reliability, that the field of fingerprinting is so speculative and uncertain that it must be kept from the jury. Defendant’s Motion To Exclude Government’s Latent Fingerprint Evidence at Docket 14 is therefore DENIED.

Entered at Anchorage, Alaska, this 14 day of October, 2003.

Ralph R. Beistline, U.S. District Judge


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Submitted by John Pedroza
Fingerprint Technician I
Riverside County Sheriff


UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Updated the Newzroom

Updated the Detail Archives

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

Have a GREAT week!