T  H  E      D  E  T  A  I  L

The Detail Archives

Discuss This Issue

Subscribe to The Detail


Monday, November 3, 2003

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

Fingerprint Pioneer Jailed for Multi-trillion Fraud -ANANOVA, UK - Oct. 31, 2003 ...former forensic scientist has been jailed for six years for his part in one of the world's biggest potential frauds...

Fingerprints For US Visas- ALL AFRICA.COM - Oct. 30, 2003 ...to combat international terrorism, the US government has directed all its embassies to scan and collect fingerprints from people applying for US visas...

New Program Will Fingerprint Foreigners - BEND BULLETIN, OR - Oct.29, 2003 ...immigration inspectors at air and seaports will have detailed information about visiting foreigners through fingerprints and digital photographs...

Fingerprint May Replace Credit - DENVER POST, CO - Oct. 29, 2003 ...people with sticky fingers won't be the only ones leaving their fingerprints behind in Colorado grocery stores...

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.


LumenIQ, Inc., formerly Limbic Systems, Inc. is pleased to announce its forthcoming discipline specific PrintIQ application, being released to the fingerprint community on November 30, 2003.  To view examples of what this software has to offer, visit the recently updated (http://www.lumeniq.com) website.  A free information CD is available upon request which includes system solution pricing, specification sheets, and value offerings.


Last week, Bill Leo brought us the result of a recent Frye hearing in California.  This week, we look at a recent appellate court ruling from Florida regarding the digital enhancement of latent print images.



CASE NO. 4D02-823

Opinion filed September 3, 2003
Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; James I. Cohn, Judge; L.T. Case No. 01-5105 CF10A.

Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Paul E. Petillo, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

Charles J. Crist, Jr., Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Richard Valuntas, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee. POLEN, J.

This appeal arises from Geoffrey Kennedy’s conviction of first degree murder and robbery. As his sole contention on appeal, Kennedy asserts the trial court erred in failing to conduct a Frye (1) hearing to determine if the state’s image enhancing techniques were based on scientific principles that were established to have gained general acceptance in the scientific community. Because we find the methods employed in this case did not alter or change any of the evidence, rather, the methods were merely enhancement tools, we hold that a Frye issue was not presented and affirm Kennedy’s conviction.

Kennedy was convicted of killing Michael Sortel in his apartment. Kennedy admitted that he and Kevin Hoffman went to Sortel’s apartment, smoked crack cocaine, then killed Sortel. Detective Hill testified that there were bloody shoe prints left at the scene. Hill explained that he took black and white pictures of the footprints. He enhanced them, changed the contrast, and made them better for viewing but did not add or subtract anything. Hill further explained that he used a liquid called Luco Crystal Violet (LCV”) that reacts with blood to make the print more visible.

In addition, Detective Cabrera testified that he lifted fingerprints from Sortel’s apartment. Specifically, he found a palm print on the comforter and fingerprints on a souvenir. The prints were sent to print examiner Carl Citola. Citola testified that normally a print on fabric or paper will not be lifted, it is photographed. Citola explained that shortly after this crime, the lab acquired a computer system called Morhitz Digital Imaging (“Morhitz”). The detective processed the print, took a photograph of the print, then put the photo in to the Morhitz software which allows the image to be enhanced. Citola explained that the system, like a digital camera, imports the picture directly from the camera. It then makes a copy of the original and authenticates it noting the time the photo was taken, who took it, and various information about the size of the file. The system then makes a copy of the picture off of which the detectives work. The original picture never gets changed. The software keeps a record of every change that is made to the enhanced photo.

It is the use of the LCV and the Morhitz software program that Kennedy takes issue with in this appeal. However, as noted above, neither he LCV or the Morhitz program alter the evidence, create evidence, or change the comparison methods used to match the evidence to a suspect. As the trial court aptly noted, they are both merely enhancement tools. In rejecting an argument that handwriting comparison testimony should be subject to Frye because it was not new or novel, the Florida Supreme Court recently pointed out that “[i]n the vast majority of cases, no Frye inquiry will be required because no innovative scientific theories will be at issue.” Spann v. State, 28 Fla. L. Weekly S293, (Fla. Apr. 3, 2003). Certainly the enhancement or otherwise available evidence is not an innovative scientific theory.

Even had we found the failure to conduct a Frye hearing error, our conclusion would not have changed, as any error in this regard would be harmless. The harmless error test places the burden on the state, as the beneficiary of the error, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the error complained of did not contribute to the verdict or, alternatively stated, that there is no reasonable possibility that the error contributed to the conviction.” State v. Diguilio, 491 So. 2d 1129 (Fla. 1986) (internal citations omitted).

In this case, not only was Kennedy seen by Detective Curcio near the apartment where the murder occurred, Kennedy confessed to going over to the victim’s house to smoke crack and admitted that he held the victim down and that he and Hoffman both strangled the victim. As a result, we affirm Kennedy’s conviction.

FARMER, C.J., and GROSS, J., concur.

(1) Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923).


This appellate decision suggests that when using software to enhance latent print images for comparison, examiners should:

1) work from a copy of the image

2) don't change the original
image bitmap (pixel values)
3) the software should keep a record of every enhancement done
4) don't use software that alters or changes the image
5) don't let software affect the methodology (ACE-V)


To discuss this Weekly Detail, log on to the CLPEX.com
message board: (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2)

More formal latent print discussions are available at onin.com: (http://www.onin.com)



“A complete fingerprint has at least 14 points for comparison. The partial fingerprint found by police [only] had ''seven or eight points"...

From a recent post by Michele Triplett, King County


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 try to work things out.

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

Have a GREAT week!