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G o o d   M o r n i n g !
Monday, May 19, 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
Yet Another CSI Effect
The Plank on, DC - May 16, 2008
Though a 2005 study in the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology suggests a fingerprint false-positive rate a bit below 1%, a widely read 2006 experiment ...

What's Wrong with CSI?
Roger Coppl, Forbes Magazine - June 2, 2008
"...independent triplicate fingerprint examinations in felony cases would ... eliminate most false convictions that result from fingerprint errors ..."

Fingerprint leads to suspect’s arrest, PA - May 14, 2008
Then, Boston said, he got a hold of some of McClintic’s fingerprints on file and made a match with the prints found on the demand note. ...

Fingerprints discovered on gun bag
The Asian News, UK - May 14, 2008
Giving evidence at Manchester Crown Court, a fingerprint expert said markings on the bag had sufficient similar features to `clearly and conclusively ...

Now, Laser Beams to Capture Killers' Fingerprints
MedIndia, India - May 13, 2008
Spotting a fingerprint involves applying a solution containing silver nanoparticles to the skin. SERS is then used to image the silver, which sticks to skin ...

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

Announcement: Smiley Files goes Hollywood...
clpexco 15 Sun May 18, 2008 2:09 pm

Announcement: Click link any time for recent, relevant fingerprint NEWS
clpexco 2659 Sun Dec 16, 2007 3:36 pm

"Forged" fingerprints
Pat A. Wertheim 5683 Sun May 18, 2008 6:50 pm

Evidence Fabrication in South Africa
Pat A. Wertheim 23958 Sun May 18, 2008 6:32 pm

KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony
clpexco 5098 Sun May 18, 2008 5:54 pm

Grinds My Gears
Charles Parker 417 Sat May 17, 2008 2:02 pm

Scientific Working Groups
Charles Parker 548 Fri May 16, 2008 7:12 pm

Calls for Inquiry to be scrapped
Daktari 30387 Fri May 16, 2008 6:41 pm

Iris Scans
Charles Parker 216 Fri May 16, 2008 5:04 pm

Duplicate Lifts
Charles Parker 1446 Fri May 16, 2008 1:07 pm

NAS Report on Ballistics Imaging/Firearms ID
L.J.Steele 747 Thu May 15, 2008 6:57 pm

The Return of the Bite Marks
Gerald Clough 128 Thu May 15, 2008 3:47 pm

Need published studies on results of casing processing...
Amy Miller 2474 Wed May 14, 2008 10:22 pm

Two SWGIT Documents for Review and Feedback Posted
Steve Everist 345 Wed May 14, 2008 5:44 pm

Fingerprints on fruit
charlie 1103 Tue May 13, 2008 10:20 pm

Footwear / Tiretrack Examination Course
clpexco 152 Tue May 13, 2008 10:17 pm

Bob McAuley 605 Tue May 13, 2008 10:16 pm

Not quite a cuspal...
josher89 588 Tue May 13, 2008 10:24 am

Superglue Oddities
Charles Parker 285 Mon May 12, 2008 2:18 pm

New latents on fired cartridge study?
Amy Miller 344 Mon May 12, 2008 2:13 pm

Aspects of a News Article
Charles Parker 1131 Mon May 12, 2008 12:02 pm

New Hampshire Supreme Court Ruling
Dennis Degler 1012 Sun May 11, 2008 10:43 pm

Admissability Challenge in Kansas City
Steve Everist 2350 Sun May 11, 2008 9:58 pm

Simultaneous Impressions
Charles Parker 1605 Sun May 11, 2008 9:28 pm

IAI Conference Category Update
Steve Everist 1370 Sun May 11, 2008 9:22 pm

The error could have been worse!!!?
moorel 899 Sun May 11, 2008 8:58 pm



Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group (FIG) page with FIG #45; a spotted print in wet matrix, submitted by Sandy Siegel.  You can send your example of unique distortion to Charlie Parker:

Updated the forum Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony (KEPT) thread with KEPT #20; Analysis Phase - In Court, submitted by Michelle Triplett.  You can send your questions on courtroom topics to Michelle Triplett:

Updated the Detail Archives


Last week

we looked at strange types of Cyanoacrylate Ester (CAE) Fuming anomalies.

This week

Charlie Parker passes on a humorous anecdote in a clean version of the "Peter Griffin" Family Guy style of humor.

You Know What Grinds My Gears
by Charlie Parker

Sitting in a courthouse for ¾ of the day for 15 minutes of testimony!

This thing started with a stop and rob and the subject pulled a gun on two clerks and took a little over $1,000 and a cell phone. Before he robbed the clerks he had picked up a soda bottle and left it on the counter when he took the money and ran. The bottle was processed and you know what happens when a cool bottle starts to “sweat”. Well I have to hand it to the CSA as he was able to develop a latent print on that bottle (which I did not know until later). A few weeks go by and the investigator gets a lead as this subject shoplifts some items from another store and gets caught. He fits the general description so the detective puts together a line up and heads for the witnesses and lo and behold they both pick him out. The detective files his case (forgets to ask for a latent comparison).

The case rocks along and the ADA calls me up wanting to know where the latent comparison report is. I look it up and tell the ADA that no request was received by the Latent Section (the Detective has a different story about making one but someone other than him dropped the ball). Well he wants a rush—priority as this thing is going to court PDQ. I then make my second mistake (answering the phone was the first one) and tell him no problem I will get right on it.

Well I pull the latent prints and sit down and this latent print was light, had movement all over it with moisture droplets, and a sweat run down part of it and to top it off it was from the palm of the hand with NO FOCAL AREAS. It is the kind of latent print you look at and you let out a deep sigh because you know you are going to be spending a lot of time on it.

I start my examination and I am trying to remember all those search clues that Ron Smith told me about and how it is better not to turn the latent around and around. Finally I locate my anchor and slowly work my way from latent to inked back to latent back to inked print, etc. I take it to PS and scan it in and work both of them from the screen (I do not care what anybody says, I like working from the screen as I cannot use pointer anymore as my fingers shake and I tear the tape up from the lift—pointers are deadly in my fingers these days.)

Finally I reach a conclusion with thirteen events in agreement, mark it, and send it to be verified or whatever it is called these days and tell the LPE that this is a RUSH. The next day the Rubber Stamper brings it back and as it is being bar-coded back to my custody she looks at me and raises one eyebrow and with a curt voice states “I do not want to see another one of this quality for a long, long, long time”. I put a fake smile on my lips and she turns quickly and disappears into the tangle of cubicles that form the maze of the Latent Print Section.

I type my report with all the flash and zinger words I can remember and send it for Admin Review with the RUSH tag attached (a good way to get work finished even if it is not a priority). It comes back in a short time and I am on the phone to the ADA (I am not in the mood to talk to the detective right then). The ADA says “Atta Boy” and is fixing to hang up when I ask the dumb question “who is the defense counsel”? He says it is Ms XYZ and hangs up.

I groan and declare this is not a Chuckie-Boy week as things just went from bad to worse. Ms XYZ is the defense counsel that had me on the stand a year ago for four hours asking me all kind of questions about mind-set, error rate, methodology, etc. Before I went on she had the CSS on the stand for 9 hours. Now I know this lady is not going to make the same mistakes twice and she is going to be loaded up for bear, elk, moose and all the other things that Ann likes to hunt.

Here is a defense attorneys dream. Two ID witnesses that are not exactly nuns in society, shown a line up two weeks later and a single latent print that no one is going to see on the lift card unless they have a 10X magnifier, a strong white light and 20-10 vision. The jury is certainly never going to see it if they get their hands on it. No weapon was found, the clothing he was wearing is gone and he is screaming he did not do it and he has never been in that store. Time to gear up Chuckie-Boy.

Court day and I get up early and clean up. As I am getting dressed I open my dresser drawer and see my athletic supporter there (a cup). I think should I put that on in case there is kicking, biting and scratching breaks out in the courtroom. I decide against it as I will just take my chances. I drag out my best J.C. Pen-Nay suit and try to brush all the cat hair off it (damn cats). I get into work early and scan my latent and exemplars in LIMS in case they get entered as evidence as I will need something to put back in file so I can comply with accreditation, certification, registration, mortification and all the other words that end in “tion”. I head for the pool cars and what the “heck” there are none there. Great now I will have to park 4 blocks away in my private vehicle. I call the supervisor with the intention of giving him a “what for” but someone must have warned him as he defuses the situation and gives me his car keys. As I am walking to the car I wonder why he did that. Is it low on gas and he wants me to fill it up; does he want me to wash it. Something is going on here but I do not have the time to figure it out yet.

I head for the DA’s office as they want to talk to me early---a pre-trial conference. Maybe this is a trend or something. I get there early. You know what they say the “early bird gets the worm”. Well whoever said that obviously has never gone to the DA’s office for a meeting. I wait in the lobby and my time comes and goes. I slowly nod off and wake up with someone shoving their hand out at me. The ADA introduces himself and says he has another attorney who will be second chairing and who will be doing all the questioning as he is the DA’s expert “expert witness” questioner. I said “huh” and a shiver runs down my spine. So I sit down and wait some more. In a little while this other ADA comes out and introduces himself and says to follow him. We wander the maze back to his office and I am thinking to myself I should have been dropping bread crumbs along the way. We get to his office and we sit down and he tells me he will ask me my qualifications and then ask about the evidence. I reach for my satchel explaining I have some questions prepared and he states “No---that is OK, as I have my own questions”. That shiver comes back. I ask him what kind of questions and he states “Oh, you know the standard ones”. I then ask you mean the ones in the Texas District Attorneys set of Expert Predicate Questions and he states yes. Now I have seen those questions and I do not know who dreamed them up but whoever did certainly needs to be eliminated from the gene pool. The ADA jumps up and heads toward the door with the statement that he needs to get me up to the court room so I can print the subject. I follow and mutter to myself that I would never answer the office phone ever again in my life.

We get to the courtroom and there is Ms XYZ and the defendant. I say “Hi” to Ms XYZ and she just looks at me with that look that could freeze the devil out of hell itself. I print her client and she is watching me like a hawk. I finish and go to the ADA who then asks that I compare the prints with the latent print. I make a comment about DNA and Firearms examinations done in the court room but I do not think he caught the snide remark as he just responds with “huh”. I compare the inked prints from the original examination with the set I just obtained and yep they be the same person. I then check all my paperwork, taking my time and then approach him and in my best and loud voice “yes sir, they are the same”. I then take a seat and wait for the judge to come in and swear in the witnesses.

As I am sitting there they bring the jury in for them to be sworn in. The jury is all females except for one. I say to myself “now that is certainly interesting”. Finally the witnesses get sworn in with the usual “Invoking of the Rule”. Yea, like I am going to talk to this detective---I don’t think so. I go out in the hallway and head for the men’s room where I try to slick up and make sure the cowlick is down and stomach pulled in. Got to look nice for the ladies! So the wait begins. One hour, then two and my gut hurts from its unnatural position for so long. The tie is starting chaff my neck and I have hand picked every piece of cat hair off the suit and it is starting to become a visible pile on the floor next to me. I am getting uncomfortable and I am thinking about going down the hall and getting an attorney so I can sue for cruel and unusual punishment. Three hours, then four and all of a sudden the courtroom breaks and everyone is scattering like a covey of quail. The DA’s Expert on Experts comes over and says lunch break but I need you back here early as I think we can get to you next. Yea-Right. So I go off to the snack bar downstairs and grab one of those cold pre- processed tuna fish sandwiches. You know the ones made during the Iraq war and I do not mean the current one but the one before.

I get back to hallway outside the court room and notice that the pile of cat hair has not moved, but there are two cleaning crew people that are looking at it funny. I decide to pick a different place to sit. Finally the Expert-Expert shows up right before court is to start and says he got caught in traffic but would try to get me on right away. So I sit down and now everyone is gone. I have the hallway to myself. The screaming kids are gone. The other witnesses are gone and I am all alone----with that tuna fish sandwich trying to swim upstream again.

Finally the doors swing open and the bailiff comes out and looks up and down the hallway and calls out “Mr. Charles Parker” and as I am getting up he asks the question “are you Charles Parker”? Now I have the desire and urge to answer in a smart alecky way as I am the only one in the hallway, but my desire to get this over with far outweighs my need for short term gratification. So I say “yes” and step into the courtroom and find the witness chair and sit down. The Experts-Expert then goes though my qualifications and starts with those out of place and out of sync questions. About half way through all of a sudden my mind goes blank---I get vapor locked. Now it has been a long time since I locked up in a court room. That just does not happen to me. But it did. I look at the jury and with a smile state “I have lost my train of thought” and then turn to the ADA and state “can you repeat the question” which he does and I get back on track. For fifteen minutes the Experts-Expert asks questions and all the evidence gets in. He stands and tells the judge that he has concluded his questions. I turn slightly towards Ms XYZ and she pauses and then states in a clear and distinct voice “I have no questions for this witness”. I sit back and in a low voice I mumble “the worm has turned” and the judge leans over and asks “did you say something Mr. Parker” and I quickly respond with “your honor, may I be excused to go back to work” and the judge says yes. I pick up my satchel and head for the door.

I have to say I did some very poor testimony that day. I know I can certainly do better, but some days you are the windshield and some days you are the bug. The next day my supervisor calls me in and he has my “witness evaluation form” from the ADA and I cringe, and tell my boss that my testimony was not up to par. He looks at the form and hands it to me. Every box on it is checked ‘Excellent’ and at the bottom the ADA wrote “Mr. Parker was excellent. If I had to choose I would want him on all of my print cases.” From my POV he has not seen very many latent print people testify if he thought that was excellent. Then my boss looks at me and says did I know that after I testified that the defendant through his attorney wanted to agree to a plea. They excused the jury and they settled a plea agreement right there.

Life is fickle that way, but it still grinds my gears that I had to sit for ¾ of the day for 15 minutes of testimony.

Life as a Latent Print Examiner.


KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony - #20
Analysis Phase - In Court
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 – Analysis in court:
Will you look at this lift card and tell me what you see?

Possible Answers:

a) (Using a magnifier) I see a whorl pattern latent print that appears to have been processed with black powder.

b) (Using a magnifier) I see friction ridges that are very clear, clear enough to see the edges and pores.

c) This is a latent lift card. On one side it says it’s from case number…..and on the other side is a tape lift. I cannot analyze what’s on the tape here in court; I need the appropriate tools, lighting, and the appropriate amount of time to do an accurate analysis.

It’s a standard policy in some agencies to bring a magnifier to court to analyze latent or known prints. Just because this is a routine procedure doesn’t mean that this is a good procedure. This can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. Problems include using inappropriate equipment, pressures placed on the examiner, no written report or documentation of the results, no verification available, and there’s a tendency to make quick judgments instead of doing a thorough analysis. Examiners should be called to court to testify to the results of previous work completed, not called to court to do additional work on a case. In my opinion, answer c is the only good answer.


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

Have a GREAT week!