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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, May 23, 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

Library Getting Fingerprint Scanners FT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM  - May 20, 2005 ...library has come up with a solution for keeping unauthorized visitors from their computers: fingerprint scans...

Why TV Dramas Irritate Real CSI ARIZONA REPUBLIC, AZ - May 18, 2005 ...with a nation obsessed, it hasn't made the job any easier for real-life CSI's...

Technology Solves Roanoke Valley "Cold Case"   WDBJ7.COM, VA - May 16, 2005 "...within about 30 minutes, I had a suspect name..."

Law And The Lab   WALL STREET JOURNAL  - May 13, 2005 argue that "C.S.I." is actually raising the number of acquittals is a staggering claim...

Last week, we posted an article on Ruthenium Tetroxide (RTX) by Kenzoh Mashiko.

This week we consider what happens when a splinter is allowed to fester.

I have two daughters (6 and 7 years of age), and they are completely different in many ways.  One enjoys being with others constantly; the other can play for hours alone.  One will become emotional at the drop of a hat; the other will just stare blankly at Amy and I in the midst of a major rebuke.  One is deathly afraid of the removal of a splinter and the other is not.

To the one who would rather leave the splinter in, I have started explaining the reason why we get out the tweezers (and sometimes a needle) and suffer the pain of removal.  If not dealt with immediately, the splinter will fester and we become much worse than before.  In fact, a couple of months ago I gave her the choice to let a splinter fester for a day, which she gladly accepted.  She came to me the next morning and had decided on her own to allow the removal.  More recently, she came to me with a small thorn that had begun to fester, opted to leave it alone, but changed her mind within an hour.  Progress has indeed been made on the homefront.

However, it seems that progress toward the removal of a major splinter in the field of latent print examination has not been so promising.

What has become known as the "Scotch Botch" in many circles is far from over.  From travel and discussion with other examiners, I know that most U.S. examiners consider the McKie situation resolved.  In fact, many examiners I have spoken with remember the situation as if it were a part of history, saying things such as "didn't that happen years ago?" or in disbelief, "there are still people who think it is a match!??"

Indeed there are... and they aren't just from the SCRO. 

The splinter is festering.


By Iain McKie on Saturday, May 21, 2005 - 05:30 pm:
( forum)

The solicitor of Peter Swann, Fellow of the Fingerprint
Society, in a 14 page letter to the Lord Advocate in
Scotland claims that the Shirley McKie and Marion Ross
identifications by the SCRO are correct and that a
miscarriage of justice is threatened against the SCRO
experts. He condemns the world experts who have supported
Shirley saying:

“foreign Fingerprint Experts and, indeed, Internet Experts
who repeatedly attack fingerprint standards in the UK in
circumstances where they would not be offered employment,
even to clean the toilets at SCRO.”

He has circulated this letter to the Scottish media and a
number of articles are expected tomorrow Sunday.


In February, 2002, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd of the Crown Office in Edinburgh, Scotland, stated that the BBC Frontline Scotland program on the case of Shirley McKie "helped uncover what were at best serious defects in the analysis of fingerprinting at the Scottish Criminal Records Office and forced the Authorities, including myself, to act to ensure that such a Case would not happen again."

In the letter to Lord Advocate Boyd from Mr. Swann's solicitor David Russell, he writes "That was a spineless speech in which you were doing nothing more than pandering to the McKies and currying favour with the media in Scotland."

"Peter Swann... was asked to provide an opinion on the comparison of the prints, prior to Ms. McKie's Trial for Perjury.  Mr. Swann stated with absolute certainty that there was a match between the prints... Mr. Swann recorded the exchange as follows:

Donald Findlay QC: Have you seen the mark?
Peter Swann: Yes, I have seen it in situ on the Door Standard.
Mr. Findlay: Is it genuine?
Mr. Swann: Yes it is.
Mr. Findlay: And whose is it?
Mr. Swann: It's the left thumb impression of Shirley McKie."

"the fingerprint of Shirley McKie was positively identified as a match... by a second Independent Fingerprint Expert, Malcolm Graham, who had been instructed by the Asbury Defense Team."  In a statement, Mr. Graham asserts "My conclusions concerning Ms. McKie were that her fingerprint could not have been planted on a door frame in the house.  I was also satisfied that it was her fingerprint.  I made that clear in my report to Asbury's Defence Lawyer and also gave Evidence to that effect at the Murder Trial."

In the letter, David Russell also states that "neither Mr. Swann nor Mr. Graham have ever withdrawn their Evidence on the McKie fingerprint."

He continues: "In Scotland, of course, the two "victims" are portayed as Shirley McKie and David Asbury.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  The victims are the family and friends of Marion Ross and the four named Experts within the SCRO."

For those who have not heard, the Fingerprint Society is holding the next conference in Scotland, but it has been made clear that there will be no public presentations regarding the McKie situation from either "side" of this issue.  "The Society will have a neutral stance on this matter next year and I for one will be most vocal in keeping it that way... The Society is at great pains to ensure that this conference does not become embroiled in matters surrounding your daughter's case... I intend to ensure that NO ONE is able to score any points via the conference...from either side."  (David Charlton, (

In reality, the heart of the issue is the concept of "sides" concerning a particular latent print comparison.  There should be no "sides" regarding the identity versus the non-identity of any pair of impressions except for truth.  When an element of mis-truth exists, as it must in any case of opposing conclusions, it becomes a splinter in the greater body of worldwide forensic science that must be dealt with.

In the Marion Ross case, it must be realized that a splinter still exists, and has always existed.  Some know that it does, but refuse to admit the wound is festering.  Others continue to believe the issue will just go away, but we find our discipline 6 years later in a lot more pain than if it had been immediately resolved.  The McKie situation was recently referred to in the Michael Jackson case.

In the Mayfield case, the FBI immediately resolved the issue through an independent, international panel of experts.  The wound has healed and forensic science walks on.  But the FBI opened the door and allowed the process to occur, even facilitated the process by inviting a completely unbiased panel to arrive at a conclusion they would live with.  And they have lived with that conclusion.

Unfortunately, it is obvious that the issues in the Marion Ross case will require a lot more effort to resolve.  For the good of the profession, this needs to happen as soon as possible.  All parties involved need to agree upon a course of action that will lead nowhere except to one unanimous conclusion based on two friction ridge impressions.  To do anything else at this point is simply allowing a splinter to fester.  And we all know from personal experience that it is better to deal with the pain as early as possible rather than cause more and more pain as time goes on.  It is past time to remove this splinter from the latent print discipline.
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Have a GREAT week!