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Monday, October 31, 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

Police Nab the Wrong Man with the Right ID   INDEPENDENT ONLINE, So AFRICA - Oct 28, 2005 ...a fingerprint test proved the East Rand man was a victim...

Lawyer: Cops In Dismemberment Cases Got Wrong Man CBS3, PA - Oct 27, 2005 ...fingerprints prove he did nothing more than carry bags in which mutilated body parts were found...

Fingerprint Cited in Arrest ORLANDO SENTINEL, FL - Oct 26, 2005 ...a fingerprint on a car window linked a 15-year-old to the robbery of an 83-year-old woman...

Shop by Fingerprint   DAILY MAIL, UK - Oct 24, 2005 ...a scan of their 'fingerprint' will bring up details of their credit or debit cards...

Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
Last Week's Board topics containing new posts

Fingerprints from mummified body
Danny L. Harness Sat Oct 22, 2005 6:41 am

ALS Documentation
Mike Heintzman Thu Oct 20, 2005 10:53 pm

IAI Certification Test
Guest Thu Oct 20, 2005 9:30 pm

Downdraft Table Choices
Steve Everist Thu Oct 20, 2005 8:43 pm

Job Posting - Lateral Forensic Specialist Beverly Hills PD
J Cascadden Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:43 pm

COGENT User Group Conference
S. Siegel Austin, TX Mon Oct 17, 2005 7:52 pm

lasik surgery
Mark Mills Mon Oct 17, 2005 3:38 am

Photographing Firearms
Jessica Mon Oct 17, 2005 3:30 am



No major updates on the website this week


Last week

Sandy Siegel posted details from the 8th annual Cogent User Group Conference.

This week

We take a look at advice for first-time testimony, from the Message Board.
RE: First Time Testifying


Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 6:01 am
Post subject: First Time Testifying

I volunteered to go to court on a questioned identity case verified by a former employee. (think Ten Print) I was eager to get on the stand, considering I'm relatively new and have never been. I don't have to testify until December, and I'm curious as to what people on this board think I should brush up on.

any and all comments welcome




Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 1:16 pm
Post subject: 1st Time on the Stand

I've had to testify a couple of times -- for an attorney being on the other side of the cross is quite nerve wracking experience.

Ask the prosecutor who represents the defendant. Either the prosecutor or folks in your office can likely tell you about that person's style if they've been around for a while. (That doesn't mean that someone can't try something new, but it is a good place to start.)

If you don't already know, find out if the fingerprint is a major or minor bit of evidence in the case.

If, for example, there is a confession, a couple of eyewitnesses, DNA, and the print, defense counsel is unlikely to fight hard on the forensics -- there's too many targets he or she would have to defeat in order to convince the jury of reasonable doubt -- the plan will likely be one of mitigation (he was there but...). You may want to bone up on material about "aging" fingerprints and what the position, deposition pressure, etc. tells you about what the culprit was doing.

If, on the other hand, the print is the sole evidence inculpating the defendant, you may have a fight on your hands. This would be good time to bone up on Mayfield, Cowans, and the other mis-ID cases and be ready to explain why your case is different from those.

In general -- make sure your documents on chain of custody within the lab are ready for court. If you didn't make the enlargments to be used as trial exhibits, go over them and make sure they are clear and correct. Go over the office protocols as used by the person who reached the opinion. Make sure they followed the correct procedures. If you've got time, you may want to go thru the ID from scratch and make sure you agree -- then it isn't as much about what the prior examiner thought as about what you think. (This will, obviously, raise a confirmation bias issue as you know the expected answer -- think about the topic and how you might answer questoins about the effect of knowing the answer on your analysis.)

You will likely be asked to explain the basic assumptions of fingeprint matching (uniqueness, permanence) and methods -- you may want to think about a short, informative response. You may get asked questions that aren't entirely in your field about how the print was located, documented, lifted etc. (if done by a crime scene person and not your office).

General thoughts:
Have your resume ready and up to date. Double check it for typos or wrong dates.

Listen to the question and answer it. If you don't understand the question you can ask. If the questioner is using technical terms incorrectly, see if you can find a way to give a correct answer without sounding argumentative or like a smart-ass.

If there's an objection, stop answering and wait for the judge to rule. If the judge overrules the objection, you can answer. If you don't recall the question, ask for it to be repeated.

If you think there should be an objection, pause before answering to give the prosecutor time to react.

Don't let either side turn you into a partisan, get you angry, etc. -- you're there to testify about evidence. The jury decides guilt.

Try not to get lost in jargon -- the jury will thank you for this.

Pay attention ot the jurors as you give explanations -- if you have a series of blank faces, then you need to explain more. If they seem to understand, then you can wrap up.
As soon as you come near the courthouse, get into witness mode. You may encounter jurors on the street, parking lot, halls, etc. You don't want to make a bad impression when you aren't "on stage". Same thing when waiting in the courtroom before and after testifying.

(And remember that you can't talk to jurors outside the courtroom, you can politely decline casual conversation by saying you are a witness in a case. (Jurors usually have an ID badge just to avoid this problem.))


RL Tavernaro

Posted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 4:25 am Post subject:


1 - Be prepared; as others have noted, review your case beforehand; attempt to arrange a pre-trial interview with the prosecutor; give the prosecutor a copy of your statement of qualifications (or equivalent), a suggested list of qualifying questions that you will be comfortable with, and (if your training qualifies you to do so), a suggested list of basic questions to establish the identity of the subject within your field of expertise. It is often helpful to have an extra copy of statement of qualificaitons available for the defense as well.

2 - Listen carefully to each question, whether from the prosecutor or defense attorney... look at the person asking the question.

3 - Turn to the jury to answer questions when appropriate, especially with longer answers. Attempt to acknowledge the jury even when giving shorter answers. Do not zero in on the prosecutor or defense attorney to the exclusion of others when giving answers.

4 - For many examiners, becoming something of a teacher on the stand works well. Explaining things as a teacher would instruct a beginning student can be very effective. Have a good idea of how you are going to explain how fingerprint identifications are made, and why a fingerprint identification is valid.

5 - Attempt to make eye contact with each juror during the course of your testimony. Try & determine if your testimony is being understood by observing the jury. Adapt as necessary.

6 - If technical jargon is used, define the terms for the jury in language they can understand. It not only helps the jury do their job, but demonstrates your expertise and enhances your credibility.

Good Luck!


Gerald Clough

Posted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 2:43 pm

A couple of things from a great many appearances in criminal court as case officer.

Answer questions as briefly as possible, consistent with truthful accuracy. It's a great mistake to keep on talking after you've properly answered the question. Good attorneys know to leave some silence and see if you'll run off at the mouth, often leaving them something to work on.

(On the other hand, I've had some attorneys who just couldn't bring themselves to stop asking questions until they had kicked open doors that the State could never have explored.)

You should never feel pressed to such things as yes-or-no answers where such an answer would me misleading. It's perfectly okay to respond that it can't be answered yes-or-no without being misleading. It's okay to say that your answer requires explanation to be accurate. The judge will support you in this.

I'll again mention the pre-trial conference. It's nice to know what in general to expect, and you can clear up any misconceptions the attorney has.

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

Have a GREAT week!