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Monday, May 5, 2008

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...
by Kasey Wertheim
FIVE MINUTES WITH: A guy who fingerprints the dead
Detroit Free Press, United States - May 2, 2008
Some people's identifications, or latent print examiner's identifications, are not verified. Ours are. One person makes an identification, ...

News in brief
Eagle Tribune, MA - May 2, 2008
... will adhere to when gathering and handling fingerprints. "His work in the fingerprint field is exceptional," Andover police Lt. James Hashem said. ...

Sheriff Gobble: Bradley Sheriff's Office Clears Record Caseload
The Chattanoogan, TN - May 1, 2008
In fact, the BCSO has developed such a strong reputation for locating and identifying latent fingerprints, our assistance is regularly solicited by other ...

Arrest in '81 crime brings some relief, FL - Apr 28, 2008
Dilbert's attorney, Herb Smith, hopes to challenge the fingerprint match in court. Who's to say the fingerprint examiner didn't make a mistake? ...
Retired detectives take time to probe old murders (subscription), OR - Apr 27, 2008
In the case of a woman killed 25 years ago he found at least two dozen fingerprints police hadn't been able to match by searching hundreds of fingerprint ...

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

Announcement: Click link any time for recent, relevant fingerprint NEWS
clpexco 2438 Sun Dec 16, 2007 3:36 pm

KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony
clpexco 4113 Sun May 04, 2008 8:33 pm

Evidence Fabrication in South Africa
Pat A. Wertheim 21635 Sun May 04, 2008 5:37 pm

Carbon paper??
nlarsen 272 Fri May 02, 2008 3:57 pm

Calls for Inquiry to be scrapped
Daktari 27564 Fri May 02, 2008 12:53 pm

Fingerprint Society - May Newsletter
fpsociety 135 Fri May 02, 2008 7:12 am

Red Button Phrase
Charles Parker 248 Thu May 01, 2008 2:16 pm

You Are What Ails You - Non-DNA Identification
Gerald Clough 159 Wed Apr 30, 2008 11:12 pm

The Man Who Grew a Finger
Steve Everist 334 Wed Apr 30, 2008 11:04 pm

VCA chamber
gerritvolckeryck 369 Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:16 pm

Nominations for excellence in the domain of fingerprints.
charlton97 353 Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:36 pm

Two SWGIT Documents for Review and Feedback Posted
Steve Everist 156 Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:13 pm

Looking for work after uni.
charlie 347 Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:45 am

"Forged" fingerprints
Pat A. Wertheim 4545 Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:05 am

Position Vacancy
Charles Parker 1008 Mon Apr 28, 2008 4:16 pm

Fingerprints on fruit
charlie 709 Mon Apr 28, 2008 3:59 pm

Aspects of a News Article
Charles Parker 601 Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:15 pm



Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group (FIG) page with FIG #43.  Visit the FIG page to see this example of  a double-tap from Fingerprint and Identification Magazine, 1969.  You can send your example of unique distortion to Charlie Parker:

Inserted Michelle Triplett's Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony (KEPT) #18: Research Studies - Reliability Studies.   Discuss this topic on - a discussion has been created for KEPT.

Updated the Detail Archives


Last week

we reviewed Alex Mankevich's article regarding going beyond repetition in the Verification stage of ACE-V.

This week

We make ourselves aware of the major network fingerprint segment that appeared yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning.

Weighing Fingerprints As Forensic Evidence
4, 2008.

Sunday Morning: After Judge Disallows Print Analysis From Trial, Experts Debate How Foolproof Fingerprints Can Be

(CBS) As anyone who's ever read a crime novel or watched a cop show knows, there's nothing like a fingerprint to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent Ö except, that is, when it doesn't. Long the unquestioned standard of identification, fingerprinting is coming under fire, and some courts are taking notice. Erin Moriarty of 48 Hours has our Cover Story:

Fingerprints - they are a universal symbol of identity. The ridges which allow us to grasp objects form a complex mix of whorls, arches and loops, believed to be unique to each person. Not even identical twins have identical fingerprints.

Which is why fingerprint analysis plays a huge role in solving crimes.

Once a cop, now a criminology professor at the University of Maryland, Tom Mauriello says the best way to track down criminals is still the old fashioned way: dusting for prints.

"It's the most common physical evidence that we find- at a crime scene," Mauriello said. "'Cause when two objects touch each other they take on characteristics of each other. And there's always fingerprints everywhere."

Fingerprint analysis was first used in an American court to convict a killer in 1911.

Since then, as any fan of "CSI" knows, criminal investigation has become a lot more high-tech. After almost a century, fingerprint analysis remains a widely-accepted forensic tool.

But that may be about to change.

"Without question, fingerprint evidence is considered to be, by juries, actual evidence of guilt, incontrovertible evidence of guilt. And, unfortunately, the reality is far different than that," says attorney and forensic expert Patrick Kent.

Kent, who's with the Maryland Public Defender's Office, says that while DNA evidence is a science, fingerprint analysis is basically an art.

"It's never been tested," he said. "It's never been shown to be accurate. They don't even have a standard way that they do fingerprint comparisons."

"Are you saying fingerprint evidence shouldn't be allowed?" Moriarty asked.

"My answer, unequivocally, is that it should not," Kent said.

And in a decision last fall that shocked lawyers across the country, a judge in Maryland agreed. She threw out the fingerprint evidence tying the defendant Brian Keith Rose to murder.

Glen Langenburg, a fingerprint examiner with the Minnesota State Crime lab, says the jury in that case was actually being denied very valuable evidence.

"I'm not saying that it is foolproof," Langenburg said, "and is that the standard, that in order to use evidence in court it must be perfect? I mean the irony is, eyewitness testimony gets in every time. I mean, no one ever challenges eyewitness testimony."

The judge's decision in the Rose case could jeopardize thousands of criminal investigations nationwide.

"She called fingerprint evidence 'a subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure.' How do you respond to that?" asked Tom Bush of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "I don't believe there's evidence to support that type of decision."

Tom Bush runs the FBI's West Virginia complex which processes as many as 140 thousand fingerprints a day. He says the department has been using prints to catch criminals for more than 80 years, which means a lot of bad guys (and their fingers) have left a lasting impression, like Al Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

Today, with the automated fingerprint I.D. system which stores tens of millions of prints from criminal arrests and employment background checks, analysis can take just minutes. Police from around the country can contact the system and get a response in just hours.

And how reliable is this system?

"We believe our system to be in the high 98-percentile accurate," Bush said.

But if fingerprint analysis is so accurate, why did the Baltimore County judge in the Brian Rose case refuse to allow it as evidence? Because of what happened to another man in Portland, Oregon.

On May 6, 2004, FBI agents came to Mona Mayfield's home with a search warrant.

"They sat at the kitchen table and the gentleman opened up his briefcase and he said, 'This bag was found in the van, 20 minutes away from the Madrid Spain bombing,"' Mayfield said. "'And your husband's fingerprint was on it.'"

"It was surreal. It was just surreal. My first impression, 'No way. There's gotta be a mistake.'"

Just two months earlier, terrorists had bombed four commuter trains in Madrid, killing almost 200 people. An international investigation led to Brandon Mayfield, Mona's husband, an American lawyer who converted to Islam. Mayfield was arrested after a smudged partial print, found on a bag of detonators, was matched to his - not by one FBI examiner, but three.

"I honestly felt that I was being framed," Brandon Mayfield said, "because I hadn't been out of the country for ten years."

Mayfield, an Army veteran, had no criminal record and no ties to terrorist groups. His lawyer brought in an independent examiner with the hope of clearing his name.

That person, as well, told Mayfield, "It's your fingerprint."

"That was a very dark day for me, to say the least. I'd probably been in jail in lockdown for over two weeks. I was tired. I was just being worn thin."

Mayfield's family was in a quasi-lockdown as well. Mona said people were thinking she was married to a terrorist. "I didn't want to let my kids out of the house," she said. "I didn't want to send them to school. I was afraid for their safety."

Two weeks after Mayfield's arrest, Spanish investigators found the man to whom the fingerprint really belonged.

And if Spanish police hadnít found the real source of that print, where would Brandon Mayfield likely be today? According to Patrick Kent,"There's no question that Mr. Mayfield would be sentenced either to life or sentenced to death. No question."

It turns out a partial, distorted print, like the one the FBI had, often yields multiple potential matches. In fact, when the Madrid print was put into the government's automated system, 20 different prints with similarities came up, including Mayfield's. After the first FBI examiner mistakenly matched the print to Mayfield, the other two confirmed it.

The Bureau has since promised "procedural reforms," but Kent says he isn't buying it.

"The problem is, how many Mayfields are there?" he said. "If the best, by their admission, can make such a glaring error in a high-profile case when they knew the world was watching, what is happening in the counties, in the countryside, in areas where we don't, quote, 'have the best of the best?'"

But examiner Glen Langenburg believes this case is not the norm:

"I'm always concerned if an innocent person has to go to jail, of course. But I not concerned it's a rampant issue, that this is happening every single day, that people are [wrongly] going to jail on fingerprint evidence. I just don't believe it."

Brandon Mayfield was released and received a public apology from the FBI - along with a $2 million legal settlement.

"I was looking at much more severe consequences, and had no idea and felt totally helpless and had no idea how my family was gonna take care of themselves, or what's going to become of me," he said.

"I just want to leave it in the past," Mona Mayfield said, "but of course, it's gonna affect me, it's always gonna affect me. I mean, even for my children, it's always going to affect them for the rest of their lives."

As for Brian Keith Rose in Maryland, he's still facing murder charges. The case has now been moved to federal court where the judge is expected to allow in the fingerprint evidence.

"Mr. Mayfield is not an aberration," Kent said. "Mr. Mayfield is a public face of many people in jail. It leaves me sleepless, quite candidly, because in fact it not that it just scares me to death, it's evidence that they use to put people to death."

feedback on the article:

A few responses to posters:
1) There is no ''point'' minimum for fingerprint ID
2) In any human endeavor there are mistakes - their presence doesn't invalidate all human endeavors.
3) Fingerprints are incredibly unique under magnification, the extent of which most people don't realize.
4) Critics of the fingerprint discipline mostly have other agendas than the truth - that the practice is very accurate and reliable when done correctly by competent analysts.
5) There is a lot of information on the practice, and there is are excellent professional communities devoted to the truths behind fingerprint analysis... those interested in the discipline should interact with appropriate organizations or communities and refrain from mis-informed attacks of a reliable discipline.
Posted by clpex-com at 03:01 PM : May 04, 2008

" ...a partial, distorted print," This story is a typical CBS INFLAMMATORY inference. Fingerprint evidence is here to stay. This guy did not get convicted nor did he go to jail. He was questioned. The judge decided correctly the evidence in that case was not compelling. We cannot conclude from this one case that all fingerprint evidence is corrupt.
The various data in fingerprint can be interpreted by a computer. I believe there must be thirteen IDENTICAL matches for it to be used in court. That hardly means mistakes are never possible, but they are extremely UNLIKELY!
Posted by JEGibbons at 01:37 PM : May 04, 2008

Just use DNA.
Posted by headpop3 at 01:28 PM : May 04, 2008


KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony - #18
Research Studies - Reliability Studies
by Michele Triplett, King County Sheriff's Office

Disclaimer:  The intent of this is to provide thought provoking discussion.  No claims of accuracy exist. 

Question Ė Reliability Studies:

Have there been any reliability studies on ACE-V?

Possible Answers:

a)      Iím not aware of any studies that are published.

b)      There are a number of error rate studies such asÖ..

c)      There are a number of statistical studies on the probability of two prints having the same characteristics.  Some of the more well known studies are those done by Galton, Balthazard, Cummins, Wilder, Champod, etc.

d)     I know that different people are studying the validity of ACE-V but Iím not sure if any of these studies have been published yet.

e)      Are you speaking about the reliability of the conclusion or the reliability of the method itself (the principles within ACE-V)?  The reliability of a conclusion may sounds impressive but it may not mean you have a good conclusion.  Reliable conclusions just show reproducible results but it doesnít show if the results are good.  For example, my blender goes the same speed on every setting.  This isnít good but it happens all the timeÖ.itís very reliable.

f)       Specifically what kind of reliability studies are you looking for?

g)      ACE-V is synonymous with the scientific method of hypothesis testing.  Hypothesis Testing has been used and tested for hundreds of years and found to produce reliable results.



This is an interesting question because it implies that we should have some reliability studies.  If someone answers that none have been done then it looks like weíre using a method that hasnít been tested.  My experience has taught me that most people asking this question donít really know what they are looking for.  They are commonly using words that they donít understand.  For example, reliability indicates that something is able to be reproduced.  It doesnít indicate that the results are good results.  My toaster is a very reliable instrument; it burns the toast every time I use it.  I can try it over and over again and it always gives the same results.  I can rely on the results my toaster gives even though those are not my desired results. 

When we are asked about reliability tests in court we should ask exactly what are they referring to.

Answer a:
  This may be accurate but it implies that ACE-V hasnít been tested as a viable method and it leave the jury and the court with the opinion that ACE-V isnít a good way to arrive at conclusions.

Answer b:
  This answer assumes the question is about the reliability of our conclusions and this may not be what they are asking about. 

Answer c:  This answer is assuming that they are asking about the possibility of patterns duplicating and it ignores the error rate of our interpretations.

Answers d, e, and f:
  These are all good answers but answer e might be giving them more information than they are looking for.

Answer g:
  This may be true but it doesnít answer the question, it just states that ACE-V is accepted but doesnít show that itís been tested.

My personal opinion is that d and f are the best answers because they donít assume the meaning behind the question.


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

Have a GREAT week!