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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, April 18, 2005

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

More fingerprints needed in murder case
Daytona Beach News-Journal, FL - Apr 16, 2005
..."More thorough fingerprints of the four Deltona mass murder suspects will be taken to see if they match a print found on a piece of tape"...

Federal Workers To Get High-Tech IDs
Information Week - Apr 14, 2005
... "millions of federal employees and contractors will later this year start receiving ID badges with chips storing information such as digital fingerprints." ...

Leopard-bitten finger no match for Wendy's Digit found in chili
San Francisco Chronicle - Apr 15, 2005
... "We had our latent print examiners analyze the fingerprints from the lady in Nevada, and we determined it's not a match to the finger found at Wendy's" ...

Passport fingerprint scheme to go ahead
Manchester Evening News, UK - Apr 12, 2005
..."PLANS to fingerprint new passport applicants are to go ahead despite the loss of the Government's ID Cards Bill, it was confirmed today." ...

Last week, Ed German related a need in the Middle-East.  I hope that you packaged up your outdated or other fingerprint supplies and sent them to the address Ed gave.  If not, please do this while the need is still fresh in your mind.

This week we take a look at the Human Identification 2005 e-symposium that occurred last Thursday.

Over the course of the morning, there was an opening keynote presentation involving fingerprint concepts by Professor David Faigman, two biometric presentations by Fred Preston and Peter Komarinski, and two fingerprint related presentations by Steve Meagher and Professor Michael Saks.  There were also two fingerprint-related panel discussions on 1) the Baysean approach to fingerprint evidence and 2) whether fingerprint examination is a science.

The HumID 2005 website,, purported that the presentation archive would be made available 48 hours after the close of the e-symposium, but as of 10:00 PM Sunday April 17, the above audio archives had not yet been made available.  I would recommend that you check back occasionally if you are interested in listening to the entire contents of these presentations.  Below is an outline (from online Power Point presentations) of the two fingerprint related presentations.  (the panel discussions had no associated Power Point slides).

Fingerprint Evaluation
Stephen Meagher
Chief, Latent Print Unit
Laboratory Division, FBI

Fingerprint Evaluation
Latent to Inked

Methodology: ACE-V; Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, Verification

Level 1 Detail: Ridge Flow (core, delta(s), scars, classification, orientation
Level 2 Detail: Ridge Path (characteristics, ending ridge, bifurcation, dot
                     location, type, direction and relationship
                     absence of characteristics)
Level 3 Detail: Ridge Attributes (edge shape, width, and pores)

Applied ACE-V:
Qualitative Analysis of Latent Print (Level 1 and Level 2)
Qualitative Analysis of Known Print (Level 1 and Level 2)
Comparison (Latent to Inked)
Level 1, 2, and 3

The Quality of the ridge detail along with the Quantity of all three levels of detail is used to effect an identification.

Evaluation: what is present and in agreement

Verification: All identifications are verified by another qualified examiner
Quality Assurance
Peer Review - part of the scientific process


Professor Michael Saks
College of Law
Arizona State University

Legal Considerations of Fingerprints

What We'll Consider:

-U.S. Federal Admissibility Law: Daubert & Kumho Tire
§Judicial Responses to Challenges to Admissibility of Fingerprint Expert Testimony
§Growing Awareness of Shortcomings
§Steps to Take While Waiting for the Science

In the Wake of Daubert and Kumho:
-Empirically Testable and Tested
-Peer reviewed publication: methodological soundness
-Error rates
-General acceptance
-Applicable to “non-science” expert evidence

U.S. Federal Fingerprint Cases:
-Dozens of admissibility challenges
-Many leading to published opinions
-All ultimately conclude that the testimony is admissible without limitation
-But if we read the opinions…

None of these opinions:
-applied criteria of Daubert & Kumho Tire,
-found well-designed empirical tests and acceptable error rates
-for the task-at-hand,
-and in that light concluded that fingerprint expert testimony met the test for admissibility.

Instead, they:
-Reverse burden of proof.
-Ignore Kumho Tire’s task-at-hand requirement.
-Conclusory judgments with no analysis.
-Substitute trial process criteria for the scientific criteria required by Daubert.
-Rely on general acceptance
-Emphasize flexibility of criteria
-Bring the standards down to meet the expertise

The Courts Seem Unable to Part with Fingerprint Expert Testimony… Yet an Awareness is Growing of Shortcomings

There are 21 documented erroneous identifications

A science without data:
-No data on what percentage of the population has any particular characteristics
§No systematic knowledge of how small or poor a latent can be and still be accurately matched… to any given person or population proportion

Fundamental Assumption Not Provable:
“It is unfortunate that this approach carries the implication that a complete correspondence of two patterns might occur…” “... it is impossible to offer decisive proof that no two fingerprints bear identical patterns.”
Cummins & Midlo (1943)

“The criteria for absolute identification in fingerprint work are subjective and ill-defined. They are the product of probabilistic intuitions widely shared among fingerprint examiners, not of scientific research. This generally is unappreciated.”
David Stoney (2003)

“[I]t must be observed that there is no rational or scientific ground for making claims of absolute certainty in any of the traditional identification sciences, which include fingerprint, document, firearms, toolmark, and shoe and tire-tread analysis.”
Bunch (2000)

“practicing latent print examiners, researchers, and senior administrators from Federal, State, and private forensic science laboratories... reached a consensus that the field needs... [b]asic research to determine the scientific validity of individuality in friction ridge examination based on measurement of features, quantification, and statistical analysis.”
NIJ Soliciation - Forensic Friction Ridge Examination Validation Studies

During the Dilemma - Intermi Solutions for Courts -

-Ultimate conclusions of identity (Llera-Plaza I)
-Use of certain terms (e.g., match)
-Assertions not supported by available knowledge

-Data on risks of error
        -Lab and Examiner error rates
        -Task-at-hand (small latents, poor quality)
-Input information (as with DNA typing)
-Justifiable estimates of probabilities (even if only subjective, so labeled)
-Remain within bounds of field’s demonstrated knowledge

Additional Resources
-Fingerprint Identification, in Faigman et al., Modern Scientific Evidence (West, 2005)
-Epstein, Fingerprints Meet Daubert, 75 Cal. L. Rev. 605 (2002)
-Various works of Simon Cole

Legal Considerations of Fingerprints:
-Courts in jurisdictions requiring demonstrated scientific basis cannot find it for fingerprint identification
-Those courts use numerous evasions to admit the testimony anyway
-Growing realization of shortcomings
-During the dilemma: Interim solutions

Remember, the message board is always open: (  For more formal latent print discussions, visit (


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Have a GREAT week!