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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, December 18, 2006

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

Prints Link Man to Bomb Threat BLUEFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH, WV - Dec 14, 2006 ...fingerprints found on a bomb threat letter mailed to the Tazewell County Courthouse have been linked...

Technology Gives Police Instant ID Info KOMO-TV, WA - Dec 13, 2006 ...a quick imprint of a suspect's two fingers on a handheld device can get instant access to the person's identity...

Lawyers File Motion in Murder Case STATE JOURNAL REGISTER, IL - Dec 13, 2006 ...attorneys have filed a motion asking Illinois State Police to resubmit fingerprints connected to a 1996 murder...

Oakland Police Without Fingerprint Crime Unit KGO.COM - Dec 11, 2006 ...Oakland police department has been functioning for seven months without the ability to analyze fingerprints...

Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
Last Week's Board topics containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
CLPE/CSI job opening Arlington PD (Texas)
Pete Salicco 16 Dec 2006 07:07 am

John's Quote about Confidence and Probabilities
g. 15 Dec 2006 04:41 pm

Two Latent Print Position Openings in Colorado
jbyrd 15 Dec 2006 07:42 am

Adobe Announces Public Beta of Photoshop CS3
George Reis 15 Dec 2006 12:47 am

Time spent assessing latents
charlton97 14 Dec 2006 08:58 pm

Criminalist (scenes/latents) job north of Denver, Colorado
sandra wiese 14 Dec 2006 08:56 pm

[ Poll ] Levels of Certainty
Strict Scrutiny 14 Dec 2006 05:21 pm

What are they teaching in our colleges????
Angie 13 Dec 2006 05:24 pm

Howard Speaks
Patrick Warrick 12 Dec 2006 03:43 pm

Crime Scene Investigator Position Opening
Royce D. Wilson 12 Dec 2006 02:05 pm

"Iris scan is more accurate than a fingerprint"
Jan LeMay 11 Dec 2006 06:28 pm

Blood Spatter Battle of the Experts in Indiana
John Vanderkolk 10 Dec 2006 05:09 pm



No major updates on the website this week.


Last week

Cindy Rennie brought us applicable latent print related notes from the recent ABFDE seminar.

This week

David Charlton brings us a very recent report from a recent legal seminar related to latent print examination.

Science in the Courtroom for the 21st Century
Organized by the De Paul University of Law
Summary by David Charlton

On December 8, 2006 I was in Chicago to attend and lecture at a seminar organised by the De Paul University of Law. Investigating the identification process as well as current topical issues in our profession, I wondered whether my research as well as discussion of the scientific validity of latent print examination would receive a cooler reception than the 5 degrees F outside the venue.

My hosts for this event were from the Cook County Public Defender's office. Over dinner the night before, other latent print examiners and myself discussed the format for the next day's proceedings. Dusty Clark and I shared beers with these legal minds wondering whether we were in for a rough ride, or whether this event would be less difficult than we imagined. Being an Italian restaurant in down town Chicago, we wondered whether this was all some covert way of getting latent print examiners from the FBI, UK and SCAFO together so that those men with violin cases could enter the pasta house and dispatch us all to our makers with a quick burst of machine gun fire. As it transpires the day of the conference an armed man took hostages two blocks from the University and shot dead three of the hostages before ending his own life. I can only surmise that he wasn't looking for us!

What struck me immediately was that although we have some differences in our respective legal systems in the UK and US, essentially we have the same problems and issues. Namely, communication of the facts between the courts and the forensic specialists in a way that maximises the effectiveness of the legal process while maintaining the integrity of the courts. I was also struck by the curiosity of the legal minds around the table in our work as forensic scientists. Not to score points I hasten to add. No, in my view it is basic interest in what we practice and a desire to learn more about our science. Now, I hear you say, why are you feeding data to a bunch of legal minds that could later be used against us in Daubert and Frye hearings. Admittedly I am not subject to these events in the UK, but nonetheless I have no problem with engaging with lawyers. We should only worry ourselves about serving the general public. I am a servant of the courts and I have no agenda other than to present the facts as I see them. It is for jurors to interpret my comments and for lawyers to use such information as they see fit. If our evidence is not interpreted correctly then that is down to bad practice by lawyers in some instances. Bad practice borne of ignorance and half-truth. That is why I will always attend such conferences as the one I describe in this piece.

Apart from yours truly presenting my research (I am sure you all know the basis of my studies with Dr Dror) to this body of legal students and professionals, well known latent print examiners such as Max Jarrell (retired FBI supervisor), Frank Sinise (Illinois State Police), Dusty Clark and Ken Moses were also invited to speak because of their varied stance on the science of fingerprints and the way forward. I was interested to see Ken Moses present a detailed explanation on the Mayfield erroneous, I was fascinated by Dusty Clark discussing the merit of level three detail.

The end of the conference was dominated by a panel discussion between all the speakers as well as John Vanderkolk who was invited to sit on the panel when it was known he was in attendance. The questions from the audience ran overtime such was the interest in the day's events. One particular question sticks in my mind since it related to my research. I was asked if my findings of bias in latent print examiners had tainted my own ability to conduct examinations knowing what I know about the frailties of human cognition. My answer was simple. Yes, of course my decision-making faculties have been changed by my findings. But not to a point where I cannot make a decision for fear of second-guessing myself. Rather, my decision-making processes are enhanced by an understanding of cognitive influences. Only through self-awareness of one's mind is it possible to more effectively apply ACE-V.

The detail in the lectures, while interesting of course, is not the main thrust of my musings within this article. The fact that very well known, and hopefully respected experts in their forensic field are prepared to discuss openly with lawyers the issues at the heart of our science is what is important here. By debating Mayfield, by debating erroneous identifications like Cowans and Mckie, by debate on the scientific principles of uniqueness and ACE-V application with legal professionals will avoid the sort of misinformation and half truth that leads to Daubert and Frye hearings in the first place. The science must be 'sold' to those who would misunderstand it. The reliability of our work will be proven only when we are humble enough to admit to analytical minds in law and the wider public that we are fallible. We will only be able to justify our assertions of overall reliability through scientific debate, validated research, open communication and honest assessment of methodology and human error rates in our work.

I left this conference knowing that I had made many new friends in the forensic as well as the legal field. It is often said that we keep our enemies closest to us. I don't see our legal men and women as enemies. By engaging their thoughts and by raising scientific debate, we ensure that they are at least friendly and sympathetic to our science and methodology. We also ensure that we can begin a process of education and understanding that may help to prevent Daubert issues arising in the future either in the US or the wider global community.

"The only difference between a dead skunk lying in the road and a dead lawyer lying in the road is that there are skid marks around the skunk."
Patrick Murray.

At this conference evidenced I can clearly state that Mr Murray was being very unfair to our legal colleagues in the extreme.

Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone.
Albert Einstein
Source: The Evolution of Physics.

Try talking to others about our science and methodology. You may be surprised at how a little explanation couched in simple terms can sometimes outweigh all the rhetoric of scientific endeavour. Go on, talk to a lawyer today and ask them what they want to know about our work. Kill the ignorance of our profession now and aid a process of education that will not only be beneficial to the standing of our science but maybe just as importantly the standing of judicial systems around the world that strive to use forensic evidence in the courtroom.

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

Have a GREAT week!