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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, June 27, 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

Forget Credit Cards Or Checks: Pay With Your Fingerprint KSDK-TV, MO - June 20, 2005 ...It's simple, easy... You just walk in... put your fingerprint on this, make your purchase, and it comes out of my checkbook...

Fingerprint reading at forefront of security New Zealand Herald, New Zealand - June 22, 2005 ...more people are turning to biometric solutions to keep their data secure...

Some visitors delayed by mismatched fingerprints on passports   CNN - June 23, 2005 ...only a tiny fraction of the millions who enter the United States every year have experienced such problems, the Homeland Security Department said.

Police say fingerprints link suspects to deadly purse snatching    The Grand Rapids Press, MI - June 23, 2005  ...fingerprints were the key to eliciting confessions from the two women...

Last week, we looked at an internet article by Simon Cole.

This week, we continue to keep abreast of current latent print related events.

Potential Daubert Hearing on Simultaneous Impressions
to be held in Boston, Massachusetts:

Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square, Suite 1400, Boston, Massachusetts 02108-1724
Telephone 617-557-1020, Fax 617-557-1145

RE:  Docket No. SJC-09478



Please take note that the following entry was made on the docket of the above-referenced case:

June 13, 2005 - ANNOUNCEMENT: The Justices are soliciting amicus
briefs. This reservation and report seeks pretrial resolution of
the issue whether the Commonwealth has met its burden under
Commonwealth v. Lanigan, 419 Mass. 15 (1994) and Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), to establish
the reliability of latent fingerprint individualization applying
ACE-V methodology to simultaneous impressions.

Susan Mellen, Clerk



Amicus Curiae

Definition:  Latin term meaning "friend of the court".  The name for a brief filed with the court by someone who is not a party to the case.

"... a phrase that literally means "friend of the court" -- someone who is not a party to the litigation, but who believes that the court's decision may affect its interest."  William H. Rehnquist, The Supreme Court, page 89.

Amicus Curiae briefs are filed in many Supreme Court matters, both at the Petition for Writ of Certiorari stage, and when the Court is deciding a case on its merits. Some studies have shown a positive correlation between number of amicus briefs filed in support of granting certiorari, and the Court's decision to grant certiorari.  Some friend of the court briefs provide valuable information about legal arguments, or how a case might affect people other than the parties to the case.  Some organizations file friend of the court briefs in an attempt to "lobby" the Supreme Court, obtain media attention, or impress members.

"An amicus curiae brief that brings to the attention of the Court relevant matter not already brought to its attention by the parties may be of considerable help to the Court.  An amicus curiae brief that does not serve this purpose burdens the Court, and its filing is not favored." Rule 37(1), Rules of the Supreme Court of the U.S.


E-mailed by a CLPEX Member:

Boston Phoenix
Issue Date: June 24 - 30, 2005

A report reveals the sins that led to a wrongful conviction

Stephan Cowans spent seven years behind bars for a crime he did not
commit: shooting a police officer. Even after newly tested DNA
evidence led to a reversal of his conviction in January 2004, the
Suffolk County District Attorney's Office remained convinced of
Cowans's guilt, and initially promised to re-try him. After all,
said David Meier, head of homicide prosecutions, Cowans's thumb
print was right there on a glass the shooter drank from after the

In fact, as Meier soon learned, the print did not match Cowans's. In
fact, it did not come close to matching, despite the trial testimony
of BPD officers from the latent-fingerprint lab, Dennis LeBlanc and
Rosemary McLaughlin.

The Cowans fiasco led to grand-jury proceedings against LeBlanc and
McLaughlin, but no indictments. It also prompted a review that found
the remaining BPD latent-fingerprint team untrained and incompetent;
Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole eventually shut the unit down last

But the facts behind the misidentified Cowans print have never been
revealed. Now, the Phoenix has obtained a report produced by an
outside team of experts that the BPD hired to investigate the
incident. Prepared by Ron Smith & Associates, of Mississippi, the
report, dated March 8, 2004, alleges considerable misdeeds.

It also depicts a fingerprint lab where officers rarely documented
what they were doing. LeBlanc's work over a period of five years,
the report found, "revealed an almost total disregard for quality of
evidence received, work performed, comparisons conducted and
verifications conducted." All this was accepted by his supervisors,
says the report. More broadly, the environment in the unit "could
not insure that at least a minimum amount of information was placed
in each case file."

In addition, the review confirms an egregious bit of sloppiness
reported by the Phoenix last May: that a BPD detective mislabeled a
set of fingerprints that is, the detective took a set of sample
prints from one person, but mistakenly placed another person's name
on the card.

But the report suggests that the Cowans case went beyond
carelessness, into actual fraud:

" LeBlanc was told to make the prints match. In a signed report
dated June 24, 1997, LeBlanc wrote that he was given Cowans's name
as the suspect, and "[u]pon my comparison of the latent prints to
the suspects prints, I was to conclude that one of the latents was
identical to the inked impression of one; Stephan Cowans."

" LeBlanc made numerous untrue statements during the Cowans trial,
and deliberately presented the fingerprint as a match when he knew
it was not. The review concluded, "At some point, after the
erroneous identification was made ... Officer Dennis LeBlanc
discovered his mistake and concealed it all the way through trial."

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


Updated the Smiley Files with one new Smiley.

Updated the Training page with a new Ridgeology Science Workshop in Colorado, August 22-26, instructor: Glenn Langenburg.  This course is only 8 weeks away, so reserve your seat today if you are interested: will hold your seat.

Updated the Training page with information on IAI Training through Ron Smith and Associates.  Courses are scheduled for Demystifying Palm Prints, Courtroom Testimony Techniques, and Advanced Fingerprint Comparison.

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

Have a GREAT week!