T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, November 3, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
Jailed for Multi-trillion Fraud -ANANOVA,
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...
Program Will Fingerprint Foreigners -
BEND BULLETIN, OR
- Oct.29, 2003
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
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.
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.
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF
FOURTH DISTRICT JULY TERM 2003
GEOFFREY KENNEDY,Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.
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
More formal latent print discussions are available at
“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
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!