The Detail Archives    Discuss This Issue    Subscribe to The Detail

Fingerprint News Archive       Search Past Details

G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, August 16, 2004

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.

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

High-Tech Fingerprints   KOTV, OK  - Aug. 13, 2004 ...criminals might be able to escape the clutches of officers, but today's hi-tech crime catchers are able to find people who might otherwise get away...

Finger Scans Replacing Keys   NEWS JOURNAL, DE - Aug. 12, 2004 ...stuffing something in a public locker usually isn't a memorable experience - fingerprints may make that easier...

Print Hit Nets Murder Suspect NEWSDAY, NY - Aug. 11, 2004 ...a break in the case came when police matched a fingerprint lifted from suspect's home...

Technology Makes its Print on Future BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES, PA  - Aug. 9, 2004 ...not long ago,  police would have had to wait 6-weeks for fingerprint confirmation of identity - now it takes 30 minutes or less...

Last week
Gerald Clough brought us the results of discussion and his thoughts on the importance of objectivity during analysis and comparison.  He recently summed it up nicely on the message board... "
In computer science, you start thinking about the world in terms of systems that take input and produce output in a well-defined way that are very particular about what constitutes valid input. If you feed a system data it wasn't designed to accept, it either locks up or produces bad output. The problem with our human function is that we don't error out on bad input - we produce bad output."

This week

we prepare for what is likely to be the largest educational event for identification that many of us have ever seen... the US Centennial IAI conference in St. Louis Missouri in celebration of 100 years of fingerprinting in America.  Activities are kicked off on Sunday night with the Presidents reception and will last all week long.


The 2004 t-shirts will be ready on Thursday!  Check out the 2004 order form on the website, available by hyperlink on the left side of the home page under "site features."

They will be finished just in time for me to pick them up and take them to the conference...  If you are attending and want to make sure I have one for you at the conference, place your order on the website BY THURSDAY and specify "Deliver at the conference" in the comments section.  I will have your shirts there!  (this will also save $5 shipping).


Update from Donald Reid regarding the Henry Faulds Memorial being constructed in Beith, Scotland:

Hi Folks

Just a brief note to advise you that the ( VERY EXPENSIVE ) bronze plaque arrived from the foundry today and it is, in my view, first class. A very fitting tribute to Henry Faulds. Tom Armstrong (NAC liaison) advises via phone message earlier today (Friday) that the railing is now ready at the engineers in Kilmarnock and only requires confirmation of the colour of paint (black). The granite stone is at Ardrossan and will soon be married to the plaque, delivered to the site between Main Street and the Cross, contractors organsied to place the railing and carry out paving and ground work. October looks a realistic months for the inauguration of the memorial. At long last Dr Henry Faulds will be suitably honoured in Scotland and in Beith, the town of his birth and early education and future generations will know of his special contribution to the science of fingerprinting. I will try to arrange a photo of the plaque this weekend and request it be displayed on the web sites. Thanks again to everyone for their help and support. It has been a long haul, but we are almost there. Cheers



An interesting discussion took place on the CLPEX message board this week regarding "John Doe" warrants.  The following is a re-print of some of the key conversation surrounding this concept, prompted by a post from Dennis Degler:

Subject: Indicting John Doe
By: Dennis G. Degler
Date: 11/Aug/2004 at 2:58:06pm

I just read an article on CNN about the practice of indicting DNA profiles in Wisconsin in lieu of knowing the perpetrator's name so that the statute of limitations on Sexual Assault cases will not run out. Apparently they've indicted some 15 profiles, and last year an appeals court upheld a conviction based on such an indictment that had gone past the statute of limitations. Why don't we do that with fingerprints that we feel reasonably sure are the suspects? Just indict the John Doe depositor of the fingerprint in all Burglaries, Robberies, Thefts, etc. and if we ever match it up, why we'll send him/her up the river.

The article was copied from:


Date: 11/Aug/2004 at 4:12:10pm
Subject: Re: Indicting John Doe

Funny you should mention it. Last week I cut a warrant for a man identified by fingerprints and photo. It was a burglary with a solid case that the fingerprint was the actor's. He was hit on AFIS from a single arrest for public intoxication. At that time, he had no ID and gave a name and date of birth orally. He was illegal but was not in Homeland Security.

I have no reasons to believe he gave a right name, and no reason to believe there's not someone else out there with that name and DOB. All I really know about him is his prints and photo. So, the warrant reads, in part:

...arrest a Hispanic male who has used the name Javier Jimenez and whose fingerprints and photograph appear on Exhibit "A" and Exhibit "B" attached and by this reference incorporated in this Warrant for all purposes.

It's a bit different from cutting a warrant solely on a latent print that's never matched up. But it should be as good a warrant as any, since that's a unique person. However, I have a reasonable chance of getting Javier, since he may well use the name again and get checked.

A warrant off a latent stops the time running under the limitations statute, and should AFIS hit the fugitive from a future booking, it would still be good. A real issue, though, is if it's worth in on property crimes. The limitation period is sufficiently long, even without being frozen by a warrant, that an AFIS hit after that period had expired wouldn't raise too much enthusiasm for prosecution.

And fingerprints are nearly so often absolute proof of the actor's identity. They place a unique person on the scene and are often highly suggestive of guilt and sufficient for a warrant. But that's quite a bit less than the weight of biological material recovered from a sexual assault victim.

Date: 12/Aug/2004 at 8:22:58am
Subject: "Probable Cause"

The legal requirement for obtaining an arrest warrant is "probable cause," which is a lower standard than that required for conviction, which is "beyond a reasonable doubt." So if there were probable cause to believe a latent fingerprint from a crime scene or evidence were the fingerprint of the perpetrator, and if you could convince a judge to issue an arrest warrant for "John Doe, whose fingerprint is shown in appendix 'A' of this affidavit," then you've got your warrant and have only to wait for an unidentified latent to 10-print hit in somebody's AFIS. I am not sure that was the intent of the various legislatures when the various statutes of limitations were established in the 50 States and the Federal laws. But if the courts allow it, then it becomes law. And if the Supreme Court accepts it, then it becomes "the law of the land." Hey, if it works for DNA, why not for fingerprints?

Date: 12/Aug/2004 at 7:10:19am
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Indicting John Doe

The sweaty fingerprints on the inside and outside of the jagged piece of glass still in the window that the suspect tried to remove.

The fingerprint on the trigger of the murder weapon (Not frequently seen, but I've seen two in my career. Identified only because we knew who the likely suspect was)

The fresh-looking prints left in the thick layer of dust on the box pulled down from the top shelf during a burglary.

The prints on both sides of the wrapper torn off the new CD/DVD/other merchandise.

The prints on the soda can brought up to the convenience store counter that was inadvertently left there by the suspect after he robbed the store and fled, and the prints do not belong to the store owner, who stocked the sodas.

These and many others are real situtations I've come across and no doubt most of you have seen these sort of things as well. These, in my estimation, would be situations in which, if you had a name, the print matched, and there was no innocent explanation as to why that person's print was there, would lead to an indictment. But what if you didn't have a name for several years? Indict the fingerprint? Forget about it, because there's no interest in prosecution?

I'll bet the victim has an interest, even if it was several years ago. I was a victim of a small property crime many years ago in which the suspect was never caught and punished, and I'm still pretty burned about it.

Date: 12/Aug/2004 at 10:38:19am
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Indicting John Doe

One caveat to note here with John Doe warrrants. I attended a conference (MAFS...think about joining won't you?) in Madison, where the atty gen. there was talking about his novel use of John Doe warrants and the conditions under which they would get them.

Three conditions that spring to mind were:
1) DNA samples taken from an area that in all likelihood would be the perp and only after all elimination work had been done

2) ONLY THE MOST SERIOUS AND GRIEVOUS CRIMES. So for example they weren't doing these on every rape coming through, but rather a rape and sodomy of a 12 yr old handicapped girl or a serial rapist, etc. The conditions under which they would serve these were very strict and after (as Gerald points out) the approval of a strict and observant magistrate.

3) They listed right on the warrant the EXACT alleles for all 13 loci. Now Gerald mentioned attaching IMAGES of the prints...that would be consistent with this, but I think the clarity of the print and amount of information on a print like this should be pretty overwhelming, as in, there is little to no room to have someone say, "eh, I see similarities, but not enough to call it..." as in the highest Q&Q range of John V. graph.

Just some thoughts. Otherwise, I think it is a great and very compelling idea. The instances where this would be used (per my 3 conditions above) I suspect would be few and far between.

(one example I like is a print under layers of duct tape on the murder victim...pretty hard to weasel out of that one...)

Date: 12/Aug/2004 at 12:28:49pm
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Indicting John Doe

That reminds me that I was going to respond to something Dennis said about the victim's perspective on whether or not prosecution of some lesser crimes asn't preserved by a valid John Doe filing.

We would, in most cases, only resort to a John Doe indictment to prevent losing prosecution through statutory limitation. Texas, by statute, put no limitation on sexual assault where foreign DNA is found. Otherwise, it's ten years.

For theft, burglary or robbery, probably the most common felonies for which we might have John Doe latent evidence, it's five years. For five years, we're not conserned with a John Doe indictment. AFIS should tell us if a suspect comes through the system during that time.

Do we worry about a burglary case that's aging past five years for which we could get a John Doe indictment, on the chance that, after more than five years, a suspect gets hit who hasn't been documented through a jail before? I would say not.

There are practical resource problems with keeping cases alive beyond the limitations period. Evidence of all sorts must be kept. The prosecutor has open case files. Witnesses, examiners and officers drift off or die. Memories fade. Commercial victims go out of business. Actors die without being identified with the offense. The chance of recovering property is essentially zero. We would also, of course, need a way to lock the latent data into AFIS systems beyond the limitations period. Prosecution may have to be undertaken under law that was otherwise superceded since the offense.

All of that requires resources that are better expended on cases with better prospects. There are vastly more current cases that cannot be investigated or effectively prosecuted because of shortages than there will ever be John Doe cases cleared after the limitations period.


To discuss this Detail, the message board is always open: (

More formal latent print discussions are available at (


The FFF folder is empty again!  Send 'em in as you find 'em.



Getting the most out of the IAI conference

(re-printed from last week for those who didn't read it with this in mind!  :)

Your organization is footing the bill for you to attend an industry conference or seminar.  How can you make the most of the experience?  The best way is to eliminate distractions and hone your listening skills.  Here's how:

1) Sit near the front,  so you have a clear view of the speaker.  It's easier to be attentive if you're sitting at the front of the room.  If you sit in the back, you may be distracted by others in front of you.

2) Come prepared.  Ask yourself "What will I gain from this presentation?"  Review what you already know on the subject, so you'll be able to relate the information to your own interests.

3) Take notes, but don't try to write everything down.  Don't be consumed by your notes, or you'll be distracted from the overall message.

4) Have high expectations.  You hear what you expect to hear.  If you think the event will be boring, it will be.

-Adapted from "1000 Things You Never Learned in Business School,", by William N. Yeomana via Communication Briefings, February 2004, 800.722.9221,


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:  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 and I will try to work things out.

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

Have a GREAT week!