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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, November 1, 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

Fingerprint Evidence Not Good Science, Scholar Says ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, CA  - Oct. 27, 2004 scientist wages his campaign to prove that the science of fingerprint analysis is missing a crucial element - namely, the science part...

Fingerprint Match Leads To Two Suspects in Murder Case   WBRZ-TV, LA  - Oct. 29, 2004 ...fingerprint match has identified a pair of suspects in a two-year-old murder case...

New Software Judges Quality of Scanned Fingerprints   EUREKALERT, DC - Oct. 27, 2004 improved automated fingerprint tool that judges the quality of a scanned fingerprint is now available...

Fingerprinting Glitches Are Said to Hurt Anti-Terror Effort NEW YORK TIMES, NY - Oct. 26, 2004 ...problems in searching databases have left the military unable to check fully the identities of thousands of detainees...

If you haven't checked out the Reference Grail lately on, there have been a couple of additions.  Recently a gold mine of information was found at a website called  All of Francis Galton's papers, books, and the books of Herschel, Faulds, and Henry are available to download as facsimile .pdf files.  Details are available on the "New" additions under the history section of the Reference Grail.

At 1.00 pm on Friday November 12, the inauguration of the Dr Henry Faulds Memorial in Beith,  under the chairmanship of the President of the Henry Faulds Society, Rev Fiona C Ross, will take place with a finger buffet and speeches afterwards in Beith High Church, Kirk Road, Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland. The plaque will be unveiled by Provost Drew Duncan of North Ayrshire Council and Rt Hon Brian Wilson, MP for Cunninghame North. A press release will be prepared for circulation to all national newspapers and BBC/STV as well as national and local Radio stations.  It would be nice to be able to include comments from those in the fingerprint world across the globe giving an international feel to this special memorial.  If you would like to make any comment for inclusion in the press release regarding Dr Faulds or the memorial together with authorizing a contact number or e-mail should the press wish to make contact, Donald Reid would be pleased to receive this by Friday 29 October. Please oblige and pass this information on to any interested parties who may wish to make a comment on the first memorial to Dr. Faulds. Over 120 invites are in the process of being sent out with several to USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and one to India. The memorial will be fully completed to coincide with the inauguration date to avoid the possibility of vandalism.

Donald L Reid

Henry Faulds Society
Tel: 01505-503801

Dear colleagues,

Our institute (IPS - Institut de Police Scientifique, University of Lausanne, Switzerland), in collaboration with the Forensic Science Service (FSS, UK), is conducting a major project on fingerprints statistics under the umbrella of the US Department of Defense (TSWG). The project is mainly concerned with statistics associated with level 2 features.

Within this project, we are very interested to pinpoint the definition of third level characteristics as understood by fingerprint examiners. In fact, we aim at designing, in a later stage, specific algorithms to detect and study systematically level 3 features, and therefore there is a need to define them with precision.

In this context, we would like to invite you to participate in our web based survey. The survey is anonymous and personal. The data gathered will be used within the strict framework of the TSWG project.

The survey is titled:
"Survey on level 3 characteristics"

To participate, please click on the link below:

If you are interested in accessing the results of this survey, please contact us (for security reasons).  Also feel free to circulate this mail to other interested people to contact us.

We thank you in advance for your kind assistance.


Prof. Christophe Champod and Alexandre Anthonioz

If you have any questions or problems, please contact Alexandre Anthonioz

17th Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Sciences
21-26 August 2005, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Call for Papers

It is my pleasure to announce that the 17th Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Sciences (IAFS 2005) will be held in Hong Kong on 21-26 August 2005 under the theme of "Justice Through Science".  We are working on a rich and balanced professional programme with stimulating workshops.  Inspiring cultural and social events will also be organized for the participants.

If you are interested in submitting abstract(s) that fit in the topics of the programme, please act NOW.  Submission guidelines and form are available on our website.

Pleases click IAFS - Call for Papers for more information and a submission form.

Should you have any enquiries, please feel free to contact the Conference Secretariat at

Yours Sincerely,

Sze-chung Leung
International Association of Forensic Sciences

Last week
we looked at a summary of a document from South Africa regarding Daubert concepts, demonstrating that these issues are not simply U.S. issues... they are global in nature.

This week

Pat Wertheim brings us a report from the Daubert Symposium held in Las Vegas, Nevada last week.

“Daubert and the Comparative Sciences”

Summary of the Symposium sponsored by the

American Board of Forensic Document Examiners

October 29-30, 2004, Las Vegas, NV

By Pat A. Wertheim


1. “Frye” – the 1923 Supreme Court decision that “scientific” evidence had to meet the test of “general acceptance” to be admissible in court.

2. “Daubert” – the 1993 Supreme Court decision that “scientific” evidence should be considered in light of four criteria: testing and validation, peer review, error rate, and general acceptance. Not all or even one of those criteria need to be met, but they are the criteria that should be considered by the court in determining admissibility of expert testimony.

3. “Rule 702, Federal Rules of Evidence” – If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is sufficiently based upon reliable facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

4. “Rule 16, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure” – Rule 16 (a) (1) (G): At the defendant’s request, the government must give to the defendant a written summary of any testimony that the government intends to use under Rules 702, 703, or 705 of the Federal Rules of Evidence during its case-in-chief at trial. . . . The summary provided under this subparagraph must describe the witness’s opinions, the bases and reasons for those opinions, and the witness’s qualifications.


The second symposium on Daubert and the Comparative Sciences, hosted by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, was held at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas October 29-30, 2004. As with the first such symposium held two years earlier, the topics were evenly split mainly between document and fingerprint examination, but footwear/tiretread, firearms, fracture match, and other comparative sciences were also addressed. Most attendees were from the US, but there were also examiners from Canada and Australia. Speakers included prominent experts from crime laboratories and the private sector in documents and fingerprints, but also included Judge Stephanie Domitrovich, Pennsylvania State Trial Court Judge; AUSA David Leta, US Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia; Professor William McComas, USC; Roni Dahir and Mara Merlino, University of Nevada, Reno; and Dr. Thomas Busey, Indiana University. These “outside” speakers provided an especially valuable and insightful perspective on the Daubert related problems facing us today and in the future.

Daubert cases from the fields of documents and fingerprints were discussed by the speakers in the field, most of who have participated in actual Daubert hearings. Information on such hearings and how to prepare for them can be found on other websites and the discussion here will not focus on those hearings and issues. Rather, some of the concepts and trends not generally known or anticipated by the majority of document and fingerprint examiners will be discussed in this summary.

From a historical perspective, Judge Domitrovich discussed Frye and judicial expectations, then traced the history of Daubert and related cases in both intent and actual development. Of interest, but no remaining practical application, was the fact that the Supreme Court’s original intent in the Daubert decision was to provide a mechanism to make it easier for “new and novel” sciences to make it into court. Thus, for example, DNA would have taken years longer to meet the Frye standard of “general acceptance” to be used in evidence. Daubert allowed introduction of DNA under testing and validation, peer review, and discussion of error rate without having to wait for general acceptance. By the late 1990’s, however, the defense community figured out they could use Daubert to challenge long standing sciences, thus circumventing the original intent of the Supreme Court and instead of simply making it easier to introduce new science, Daubert could be used to make it harder to get generally accepted science into the courtroom.

Judge Domitrovich also discussed Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, as amended in 2000, which addresses the admissibility of scientific evidence. Basically, Rule 702 requires that the principles and methods used to conduct the scientific examination be reliable, that there be sufficient facts or data, and that the witness applied the methods and principles reliably to the facts and data. Judge Domitrovich went on to explain, however, that the rules applied under Daubert, Frye, and 702 are not applied uniformly across the US. She discussed “restrictive” Frye and Daubert states as well as “permissive” Frye and Daubert states. This discussion helped some of us in the audience understand how the situation has evolved in which our reports differ so drastically from department to department and state to state in the amount of detail we include. The judge gave examples of Michigan as a “restrictive Frye” state, Texas as a “restrictive Daubert” state, Indiana as a “permissive Daubert” state, and Arizona as a “permissive Frye” state. This led several of us from Arizona to speculate on ASCLD-LAB inspectors who seem overly strict in interpreting our policies and procedures. Would an inspector from a “restrictive” state unintentionally impose stricter interpretation than required in a “permissive” state? Would an inspector from a Daubert state conduct an inspection with subconscious expectations that a Frye state is not required to meet? Has ASCLD-LAB considered these variations of legal requirements in training the inspectors?

AUSA David Leta presented Daubert, Rule 702, and Rule 16 (Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure) from the perspective of a Federal prosecutor who has handled Daubert challenges. In his introduction, Mr. Leta stressed that, “You only get one change to make a good impression.” In other words, you cannot approach a Daubert hearing less than totally prepared and expect a second chance. Once a judge rules against you, it’s all over. Taking that to the real “first impression” level, Mr. Leta stated that your written report should fulfill all of the requirements of disclosure. He gave examples of cases he has lost during the pretrial phase because the police examiners thought he was asking for unnecessary information from them and their reports failed to meet the requirements of Daubert, Rule 702, and Rule 16, even after he asked for the additional specific information such as full curriculum vitae.

Professor William McComas instructs at USC on how to teach science. Most attendees agreed that Prof. McComas, a former science teacher himself, was the most dynamic speaker at the symposium. He talked about “myths of science,” which include a widespread failure of the public, and even many scientists, to fully understand the differences between a law, a theory, and a hypothesis. Even the definition of science itself is poorly understood, as shown by surveys that show a large percentage of Americans believe astrology, spiritualism, and graphology are science. Prof. McComas’ main point was that an expert witness has to explain to a jury how science works before asking the jury to evaluate the evidence. Further, though, he added that the witness has to explicitly discuss common misconceptions. We have all read at and other places of the problems caused by the beliefs jurors bring with them to the courtroom from “CSI” and other television programs or movies. Prof. McComas said we have to dispose of those misconceptions right up front before we get into the examination process and our conclusions.

Mara Merlino and Veronica Dahir, University of Nevada at Reno, have been conducting a nationwide survey of judges to learn what they believe about science. Their research pointed to the fact that some judges are very knowledgeable about science, but many more are ignorant or worse, have a terrible misunderstanding of how science works. The recommendations of Ms. Merlino and Ms. Dahir were that our reports explain not only how the analysis was done, but that we provide to the court multiple studies to support our methodology and the scientific foundations our discipline as attachments to our reports.

Dr. Thomas Busey, Indiana University, is conducting a scientific study of error rate of latent print examination, with particular emphasis to determine if there is a difference between error rate of trained and experienced latent print examiners and that of lay persons. Of course, we all believe intuitively there would be a drastic difference between our ability and the ability of the jurors to make identifications and exclusions. But our belief that such is the case is not scientific proof. The results of Dr. Busey’s study, when published, should go a long way to answer defense critics who challenge us on the issue of error rate. While his study will not provide a reliable error rate of our methodology, such an error rate is not as necessary as showing that an expert’s conclusion (“opinion”) is significantly more reliable than the opinion of an untrained lay person.

Several common threads ran through the presentations of the document and fingerprint experts and the presentations of the “outsiders” as well. Like them or not, among those common threads were the following issues:

1. There will be increasing reliance by the courts on accreditation of laboratories, certification of examiners, and standardization and publication of our procedures. We need to move with all due haste to meet those criteria.

2. Many jurisdictions, if not all, that are covered by Rule 16 now require automatic disclosure, not just disclosure “at the defendant’s request.” Even in jurisdictions not covered by Rule 16, we can expect the requirements to come into effect in the next few years. We would all be wise to start moving in that direction now rather than wait for the requirements to be thrust suddenly upon us in a case lost because we had dragged our feet.

3. The primary issue in Daubert has been shifting from the four stated criteria to the importance of witness qualifications. That interpretation was explicitly stated in Judge Pollack’s second decision in the Llera-Plaza case. We can expect that witness qualifications to become a primary focus of future defense pretrial challenges under Daubert. Witness qualifications will also take on added importance in the trial itself and in the appellate process. In that regard, the expert cannot overstate his or her qualifications. Never be humble or think that you are indulging in overkill when you list your qualifications. Present a complete but honest curriculum vitae and testify to it in its entirety in Daubert situations or when you disclose your qualifications under Rule 16.

4. Regardless of whether you are in a Frye or Daubert jurisdiction, restrictive or permissive, you can’t go wrong by complying with the strictest interpretation under Rule 16. You can lose your case before it even makes it to trial if you do not comply right up front. In some cases, the case might even be dismissed without you being notified that more information is needed. AUSA David Leta: “You only get one chance to make a good impression.”

5. Every report by an expert should fulfill the requirements of disclosure whether the defense files a disclosure motion or not.

6. Include in disclosure as part of the “bases and reasons” SWGFAST guidelines, ASCLD requirements, and current published articles or references that describe or define those “bases and reasons.”

7. KNOW science and especially how to articulate it in your discipline. Stay current on the accepted practice. Include it in disclosure and be able to explain or teach it in the courtroom.

8. Be able to explain the testing (proficiency and certification) available to experts in your field and be able to testify that you have complied with and passed that testing. Explain your laboratory’s accreditation requirements. If your laboratory is not yet accredited, expect it to become a virtual court mandated requirement in the coming decade and move in that direction now.

9. The discussion of “error rate” under Daubert is trending toward the individual error rate as gauged by certification testing, proficiency testing, and errors discovered in the verification process. Type II errors (missed identifications) are irrelevant in considering error rate in cases where the expert is testifying to an identification.

Conclusion:  It does absolutely no good to argue what should or should not be required in our field. Forget the bellyaching and complaining that we shouldn’t have to do these things. The fact is that courts are going there so we had better just suck it up and get ready. The sooner you are prepared, the better you will fare. Those who spend their time complaining instead of preparing will likely find themselves on the street corner with a cardboard sign saying “Will do fingerprints for food.”

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Updated the Smiley Files with a new smiley from the Smilie Czar.  Send yours in today!  If you only have hard-copies, contact Bill Wolz to arrange a digital smilie conversion:

Added 2 new consultants to the Complete Consultants Worldwide page

Updated the Newsroom

Added electronic copies of the foundational books of our forefathers, Herschel, Faulds, Galton, and Henry to the Bookstore as free downloads and to the History section of the Reference Grail page.  If you are interested in downloading these, don't feel you have to do it this week... these will be around for quite a while on the website, and I only have so much "free" bandwidth a month for people to pull information off the website.  If everyone downloaded these this week, I would have to start charging for the Detail!


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

Have a GREAT week!