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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, July 11, 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

War Zones Linked to FBI's Fingerprint Database HOMELAND RESPONSE, OH - July 7, 2005 ...U.S. military using the same tools police in the U.S. use to check criminal backgrounds...

Inmate Can Fight Trial's Lip-Print Evidence CHICAGO TRIBUNE, IL - July 7, 2005 ...a man convicted of murder with the help of controversial lip-print evidence will get a chance to argue that flawed forensics sent him to prison...

Fingerprints Used to Identify Woman's Body   THE HOUSTON CHRONICLES, TX - July 6, 2005 ...if not for fingerprints taken from a driving arrest, authorities still would not know the identity of a woman whose body was discovered...

Meet the Crime Scene Investigator for Bentonville PD   BENTONVILLE DAILY RECORD, AR  - July 4, 2005  ...on TV, the stars almost wipe their brushes along surfaces, she said. "They’re actually wiping off the print..."

Last week

we reviewed current latent print related McKie case events as  SCRO examiners went public and there were discussions of out-of-court settlement.

This week

we look at a recent line of questioning in court involving IAI certification and the individuals involved in the erroneous Brandon Mayfield identification.
A Letter to the IAI RE: Certification Issues
From Ronan Shouldice

I am a member of the I.A.I. (#17711), and a CLPE (#01-08) and am writing to you [I.A.I.] on a matter of some concern. I have recently been in the position of having to defend my Certification in the courtroom, of seeing it diminished in the eyes of a polled jury, and of having no specific answers regarding the position of the I.A.I. on erroneous identifications by I.A.I. Certified Examiners. This was following a cross-examination which highlighted an erroneous identification by other CLPE holders whose current status is generally unknown. Having worked hard to attain CLPE status, I am extremely upset by having to defend it!

I am referring, of course, to the Brandon Mayfield case aftermath and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the misidentification of Mr. Mayfield. Ken Moses, retired SFPD, was apparently de-certified by the Latent Print Certification Board in August 2004. Inexplicably, there has been no publication of this fact by the I.A.I., and so the timely action of the CLPE Board has been squandered. The consequence of this is that the hard-won Certification has been devalued greatly. The prevailing perception is that the I.A.I. has done nothing to defend the high standards of CLPE status in the profession, and the failure to act is a discredit to the 722 Certified Examiners worldwide.

I read the report by Robert Stacey (JFI Vol. 54, No. 6) in which a select committee examined the circumstances leading to the misidentification. It was an impressive report, and concludes, “the consequences to any examiner for any such error should reflect the agency’s seriousness about issues involving quality assurance”. Even here, however, there is no mention of the I.A.I. recommended sanctions against Certified examiners who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in such a situation.

I should add that Ken Moses is someone I regard highly on both a personal and professional level, and that he has been more than forthcoming about his role in the Mayfield case. However, this issue is greater than the individual and warrants attention by the organization that is regarded as being the gatekeeper of the profession. The membership deserves at least that much. My suggestion would be that any change in an examiner’s Certification status be published in the JFI, just as new applicants or awardees are. The idea is simply to reinforce the high standard inherent in CLPE attainment by demonstrating that the I.A.I. has the courage of conviction to act following thorough review of an erroneous identification. It would further allow the membership to be kept abreast of such critical issues and minimize the devaluing of such a prized credential.

The Case
[in a separate e-mail correspondence]

The court case that led me to this was a residential burglary case with a long exposure for the defendant. I'll summarize the main details and then get into the certification issue.

The case involved a single partial latent palmprint on a cashbox. There were no other latents developed, and there was evidence of "cleanup".

Simon cole was retained by the defense and was allowed, by a visiting judge, to testify.

The victim testified and was found to be somewhat 'unsympathetic' by the jury (wealthy and came across as indifferent) while the defendant's Mother sat in court every day.

The assistant DA, who is very capable, addressed all the usual areas in the qualifications phase, including IAI Certification, and went into some detail about the difficulties in attaining CLPE and the relatively few there are. Defense refused to stipulate to expertise and immediately initiated a line of questioning regarding the Mayfield case. You can imagine the rest...

When the subject of CLPE examiners being involved in the mis-identification was hammered home to the jury, the defense sat down and her job of obliterating claims of expertise and the value of Certification was done.

At the time, I had no idea as to the fate of any of the examiners, and could not advise the ADA on re-direct. I could not address the position of the IAI on this matter because I could find nothing in print indicating pending or completed action.

I cannot say realistically how much impact this ultimately had on the hung jury (ten to two, by the way, with 2 dissenting). There were other issues at play. The point is, however, and what drove me to become more proactive about getting to the bottom of this, is that it clearly DID diminish my capacity to testify on a level that satisfied the jury's expectation of expertise. The beating that Certification took after the line of questioning obviously did not help a case that was based solely upon one partial latent! What enhanced the problem was my inability to articulate the "official" position, or to testify with confidence that the IAI had moved to immediately review and take appropriate action.

The jurors, without exception, wanted to believe in the print testimony, but had in one case a great misgiving about the non-blind verification process we use here in SF. Food for thought. The dissenters could not understand the absence of prints at the point of entry, despite rigorous testimony addressing that, or the absence of other latents throughout the house. Again, despite descriptive testimony, one juror could not fathom the principals of AFIS searching.....The ADA figured at the end of the day that the 2 hung jurors just didn't want to put this guy away regardless and made their stand on what was available to them. The remaining jurors, when polled, were completely convinced of the defendant's guilt and were frustrated at the outcome.

Last Friday
in the IAI Update by Joe Polski in a review of IAI Board results from the mid-year meeting, we saw the first published official IAI position on this subject:

The results with respect to the certification of the individuals involved [in the Mayfield/Madrid bombing case] will be published in the September/October JFI.  It should be noted that the individuals involved in that incident [the erroneous identification] are no longer certified as Latent Print Examiners by the IAI."

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Changed to the new Message Board.  We have had more positive feedback than negative.  In addition, several of the issues brought up as drawbacks have solutions.  There were several comments from different users who preferred the old board.  These prompted a few highlights of the new features:

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

Have a GREAT week!