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Monday, June 16, 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
Texas Executes Sexual Predator, Murderer
Lone Star Times, TX - Jun 12, 2008
You see, it was only after being convicted of attempted robbery and abduction in Houston that his fingerprints led to his arrest in Ms. Prechtl’s murder. ...
Nepal's monarchy comes to an end
The Kingston Whig-Standard, Canada - Jun 12, 2008
He was arrested five years later after his fingerprint was matched to a print on the roll of duct tape. When he was arrested, he confessed. ...
Predator charged in '84 death
Gary Post Tribune, IN - Jun 11, 2008
While waiting for more DNA evidence to be analyzed, Detective Thomas Huber sent a latent fingerprint recovered from Bennitt's bedroom window for analysis. ...
Maze escaper in Tidey kidnap trial
BBC News, UK - Jun 11, 2008
The prosecution barrister said Mr McFarlane's fingerprints were found on a milk carton, a plastic container and a pot in the hideout. ...

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

Click link any time for recent, relevant fingerprint NEWS
by clpexco on 16 Dec 2007 03:36 pm 0 Replies 3189 Views Last post by clpexco
on 16 Dec 2007 03:36 pm

KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony
1, 2, 3, 4, 5by clpexco on 29 Jan 2008 11:52 pm 65 Replies 6812 Views Last post by clpexco
on 16 Jun 2008 01:51 am

Jury Assumes an Expert Witness is Certified?
by Steve Everist on 10 Jun 2008 10:16 pm 2 Replies 230 Views Last post by Gerald Clough
on 13 Jun 2008 02:21 pm

Calls for Inquiry to be scrapped
1 ... 26, 27, 28by Daktari on 11 Sep 2007 12:28 pm 406 Replies 34824 Views Last post by Gerald Clough
on 13 Jun 2008 01:46 pm

Keeping Elimination Prints
by Terry A. Smith on 13 Jun 2008 11:46 am 1 Replies 68 Views Last post by Gerald Clough
on 13 Jun 2008 01:15 pm

IAI Conference Category Update
by Steve Everist on 20 Feb 2008 03:56 am 9 Replies 1780 Views Last post by Red
on 13 Jun 2008 12:04 pm

"Forged" fingerprints
1 ... 5, 6, 7by Pat A. Wertheim on 20 Apr 2008 05:21 pm 91 Replies 11116 Views Last post by r.cohen
on 13 Jun 2008 12:17 am

Keeping Latent Prints of No Value For Identification
by Danny Lamont on 02 Jun 2008 03:09 pm 6 Replies 549 Views Last post by Ann Horsman
on 12 Jun 2008 10:08 am

Documenting Verification
by FPB on 11 Jun 2008 02:16 pm 0 Replies 126 Views Last post by FPB
on 11 Jun 2008 02:16 pm

"...fingerprints were used to make a tentative match."
by Steve Everist on 09 Jun 2008 10:16 pm 3 Replies 264 Views Last post by David Fairhurst
on 11 Jun 2008 12:31 pm

by clpexco on 30 May 2008 01:44 am 9 Replies 494 Views Last post by Steve Everist
on 10 Jun 2008 04:18 am



Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group (FIG) page with FIG #49; Overlay and Substrate distortion, submitted by Bonnie Manno.  You can send your example of unique distortion to Charlie Parker:  For discussion, visit the forum FIG thread.

Updated the forum Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony (KEPT) thread with KEPT #24; Verification - Exclusions, submitted by Michelle Triplett.  You can send your questions on courtroom topics to Michelle Triplett:

Updated the Detail Archives


Last week

Various authors brought us replies to Charlie Parker's thread on keeping latent prints deemed not of value for identification.

This week

we stay in touch with talk of latent print examination at the Maryland State Bar Association's annual meeting.

Is The Evidence Right At Your Fingertips?
Danny Jacobs
Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
June 16, 2008

OCEAN CITY — Prosecutors and defense attorneys had just closed their arguments on the admissibility and reliability of fingerprint evidence in criminal trials during a program here at the Maryland State Bar Association’s annual meeting. So it was fitting that a judge was among the first members of the audience to respond.

 “Just because we’ve always done it the same way doesn’t mean we can’t review it to see if we can do it better,” said Prince George’s County District Judge Patti Lewis.

 The judge’s verdict came at the end of spirited discussion based on a decision last year by Judge Susan Souder to not allow fingerprint evidence in the death penalty case of Brian Rose in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Souder ruled such evidence was not reliable despite its use by courts for more than 100 years.

 “There was a reverberation throughout the country,” said Byron L. Warnken, a University of Baltimore School of Law professor who served as moderator for “Real World CSI: Does Fingerprint Evidence Meet the Frye-Reed Standard?” sponsored by MSBA’s criminal law and practice session.

 Paul B. DeWolfe, the district public defender for Montgomery County who worked on the case, praised Souder’s decision. The examination of “latent prints,” or prints taken from a crime scene, is not reliable and has not been accepted by the relevant scientific community, the two tenants of Frye-Reed, DeWolfe said. He agreed with Souder that fingerprint examiners’ own approval of the process is equivalent to fortunetellers endorsing tarot cards.

 “She studied the issue, she understood the issue, and in our humble opinion she got it right,” he said.

 But Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein called Souder’s ruling “esoteric,” noting Rose’s appeal did not challenge the use of fingerprints in the trial. Rosenstein’s office indicted Rose in April, taking over the case at the request of Baltimore County prosecutors.

 “It’s not based on hard science and not based on proper legal analysis,” said Rosenstein.

‘Ugly babies’

 Wicomico County State’s Attorney Davis Ruark said Souder’s ruling was “bizarre,” taking particular issue with the judge beginning her opinion by discussing the death penalty.

 “The law should not be different because it’s a death penalty case,” Ruark said.

 Souder’s opinion referenced, and the panelists discussed, the case of Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer falsely arrested in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings based on partial fingerprints recovered at the scene incorrectly identified as his by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case prompted the launch of an internal review and changes to the FBI’s fingerprint examination process.

 Patrick Kent, chief of the forensics division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender who worked on the Rose case, showed pictures of the partial fingerprint next to the fingerprints of Mayfield and the Algerian national who was actually involved with the train bombing. While the two men’s fingerprints were noticeably different, FBI fingerprint experts chose to see a connection between the smudge and Mayfield’s that was not there, he said.

 “Latents are the ugly babies,” Kent said. “They’re left at the crime scene, they’re slivers, they’re smudged. But to fingerprint examiners, they’re beautiful.”

 Rosenstein countered Kent used the same method he criticized to show the partial fingerprint was not Mayfield’s, and that while no method of evidence-gathering is 100 percent accurate, fingerprint analysis is close.

 “Infallibility has never been required in testimony in American courts,” Rosenstein said. “The reality is, if you do [fingerprint analysis] right, you’ll probably find a match.”

 Melissa Gische, an FBI fingerprint expert not involved in either case, said the method currently used — analysis, comparison, evaluation and verification — is based on long-established science that an individual’s fingerprint is “unique and persistent” from birth.

 “Impressions and friction ridges can be used as a reliable means of identification,” she said, referring to two traits of a fingerprint.

 Researchers are working on a way to quantify the accuracy of fingerprints, but until then such evidence should not be dismissed as unreliable, Gische added.

 Both sides agreed that the cases collectively have forced investigators to think of ways to improve their fingerprint analysis.

 “It has the effect of making the FBI take another look at what they do and do it better,” said Gerard P. Martin of Rosenberg|Martin|Greenberg LLP in Baltimore.


KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony - #24
Verification - Exclusions
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 – Verification –Exclusions:

Why don’t you verify exclusions?


Possible Answers:

a)      We’ve always done it this way.

b)      That’s our office policy.

c)      We don’t have the manpower to do this.

d)     Erroneous exclusions don’t have the same hazards as erroneous individualizations.  Nobody will be falsely imprisoned due to an erroneous exclusion.  We verify individualizations as a quality assurance measure.  This measure isn’t needed for exclusions. 

e)      If the examiner is competent and they say it’s not an ID then it’s not an ID.

f)       We don’t exclude people from leaving a latent print.  Our agency either individualizes a latent print or states that no individualization was effected.

g)      Our agency verifies all conclusions.



Answers a and b:  “We’ve always done it this way” and “It’s our office policy” is never a good answer.  People should know why policies exist and be able to communicate the reasons to other people.

Answer c:  A lack of manpower is never an adequate reason for not doing something that should be done.  This sounds more like an excuse than a valid reason.  Another topic for discussion regarding this answer is the use of the term ‘ID’ vs using the term ‘individualization’ (but that’s a topic for another discussion).

Answer d:  This is a valid reason for not verifying exclusions but examiners should remember that erroneous exclusions can have serious effects.  If someone is erroneously excluded from leaving a latent print then this may leave a guilty person in the community to commit more crimes.

Answer e:  This sounds reasonable but agencies that verify all conclusions know that even competent examiners may not be able to orient or locate all latent prints.  The accuracy of a conclusion is in the justification behind the conclusion and not in the competence of the examiner.

Answers f and g:  If either of these answers are your office policy then I see nothing wrong with these answers.


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

Have a GREAT week!