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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, April 16, 2007

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

Murderer Arrested 2 Decades After Escape  DATELINE ALABAMA - Apr 12, 2007 ...agents were able to match the fingerprints taken during a recent arrest to those of the escaped prisoner...

Fingerprint Checkouts 'in 5 to 10 years'  STUFF.CO.NZ, NEW ZEALAND - Apr 11, 2007 ...imagine a day when the only item you'll need to take to the supermarket to complete a transaction is your index finger...

Robber Sentenced to More Than 5 Years in Prison WMDT-TV, MD - Apr 13, 2007 ...a fingerprint lifted from the envelope after the dye pack exploded led police to suspect...

Still Guilty After All These Years NEW YORK TIMES, NY - Apr 8, 2007 ...worry that the growing capacity of today’s forensics to reach farther into the past seems likely to undermine the law’s statutes of limitations...

Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
Last Week's Board topics containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist

Pollen impedes finding prints
L.J.Steele 419 15 Apr 2007 05:05 am

ACE-V The only methodology?
S. Siegel 509 14 Apr 2007 12:51 pm

Thomas Taylor 867 14 Apr 2007 11:02 am

Sequential Processing
JJ 156 13 Apr 2007 03:31 pm

Coffey Rules on Reconsideration of Langill Decision
steve ostrowski 333 12 Apr 2007 03:03 pm

Job Openings
KFarrell 150 11 Apr 2007 07:56 pm

Indanedione-Zinc formulations
Mike Fletcher 604 11 Apr 2007 10:39 am



No major updates on the website this week.


Last week

we continued a series on U.S. patents related to latent print examination.

This week

we look at Judge Coffey's ruling on the Motion to Reconsider in the NH Langill case.

Decision on Motion to Reconsider in State v. Richard Langill
by Stephen Ostrowski

The New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory has been notified that Justice Patricia C. Coffey has
ruled on the Motion to Reconsider in the case of State v. Richard Langill. The Motion to Reconsider was
filed following Coffey’s decision to exclude fingerprint expert testimony after a Daubert hearing (--see
"Judge Grants Motion To Exclude Latent Fingerprint Identification," The Weekly Detail, January 29, 2007).

Despite: 1) the State’s Motion to Reconsider, 2) a sworn affidavit from the case examiner and, 3) a sworn
affidavit from the lab’s QA/QC Manager, Coffey ruled that there was “insufficient information to support
a finding that the application (emphasis by Coffey) of the ACE-V methodology to the single latent print
in this case was reliable.” Thus, Coffey has affirmed her original decision and denied the State’s Motion
to Reconsider.

In her decision, Coffey describes the court’s role as gatekeeper as assessing the reliability of the
technique used by an expert to reach a given conclusion. She explains that the level of scrutiny the
court applies in the reliability inquiry depends upon the complexity of the evidence involved and the
impact the evidence will likely have on the trial itself (this identification of a single latent
impression is the only evidence in the case). She states that fingerprint analysis is complex and the
conclusion of individualization carries enormous weight. Furthermore, she writes that while the
scientific reliability of the ACE-V methodology itself should not vary according to the circumstances of
each case, whether the proffered witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of
the case will change and requires a case by case assessment, and therefore, the court has strictly
scrutinized the principles and methods in the case-at-hand.

In her ruling, Coffey outlined the administrative portion of the case examiner’s notes, but it is unclear
whether she considered the remaining four pages of technical notes (latent print worksheets and
photographs) in the case file. Also, Coffey seemingly ruled without regard of certain facts such as: the
NHSPFL is an ASCLD-LAB accredited laboratory, our SOP’s are based on ASCLD and SWGFAST guidelines, our
SOP’s were reviewed and approved by the ASCLD inspection team, the case examiner and the verifying
examiner are both IAI CLPEs, and the lab’s QA/QC Manager conducted an audit of the Langill case file and
found that all procedures were adhered to. Despite all of this, Coffey made the following arguments:

• There is nothing in the case notes that permits the court to assess whether the ACE-V methodology
itself was conducted properly.
• The fact that the documentation submitted in support of the individualization is sufficient to satisfy
the NHSPFL internal requirements, it does not assist this court in evaluating whether the principles and
methods of ACE-V were reliably applied in this case.
• Without contemporaneous bench notes on the application of the ACE-V methodology, neither legal counsel
nor the court can determine that a reliable comparison has actually been made.
• The examiner should have documented the application of the ACE-V methodology as extensively as

So basically, Coffey has ruled that even though 1) the lab is accredited, 2) the examiners are certified,
3) the SOPs were followed, 4) written and photographic notes were taken, and 5) the ACE-V methodology was
indeed applied in this case; the court cannot determine if the ACE-V methodology was applied reliably.

In my opinion, the fact that defense counsel believes that the examiner’s notes were insufficient should
go towards the weight and credibility of the evidence and not the admissibility. Obviously Coffey
disagrees. I am not saying that more notes could not have been taken, but rather the notes that were
taken did meet the minimum requirements set forth in our protocols and generally accepted in the field
(the IDU Affidavit included results from a telephone survey of forty-two forensic science laboratories
representing 38 states and Canada conducted by the NHSPFL IDU). Coffey wanted to see notes that went
above and beyond the minimum requirements, but is not clear on what would satiate herself.

Coffey also addressed blind verification by stating that the court would be satisfied that the analysis
was reliably conducted if blind verification processes were in place. This contradicts her claim that the
written case notes were insufficient. Coffey further stated that she views blind verification not as a
means of assuring the credibility of the result, but rather as a check and balance on the application of
the methodology.

This ruling supports Coffey’s previous decision to exclude fingerprint expert testimony and was fully
expected by all legal parties. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office now has the case and is
preparing an appeal to the State Supreme Court. Optimistically, a final decision will be reached by the
end of the year.

Written by:
Posted on the CLPEX Discussion Forum on April 11, 2007.

Stephen H. Ostrowski, MSFS, CLPE
Criminalist II
New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory
33 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03305
ph.: 603.271.3573

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

Have a GREAT week!