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Monday, September 29, 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
Fingerprints on beans tin lead to burglar's arrest
News Guardian, UK - Sep 25, 2008
But when officers searched the property they quickly found the empty tin, covered with Nolan's fingerprints. Nolan, of no fixed address, was arrested and ...
Lounge chair used in Batehaven double murder: court
Illawara Mercury, Australia - Sep 22, 2008
Investigators found shoe prints in the bloodied carpet of the Keytes' home and palm and fingerprints in blood left on the leg of a lounge chair. ...
New Zealand police struggle with mystery phantom picnic, Australia - Sep 23, 2008
"They're the sort of items that are not particularly good to get fingerprints off anyway. "And if it's a legitimate picnic then the chances are we won't ...
Science takes center stage at trial
Leader Vindicator, PA - Sep 23, 2008
State police Cpl. Randy Mocello, a latent fingerprint expert and expert in impressions in the Bureau of Forensic Services, testified on what he had found ...

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

Public CLPEX Message Board
Moderated by Steve Everist

Tribunal for McKie print expert
1, 2by charlton97 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 6:00 am 20 Replies 940 Views Last post by Big Wullie
on Sun Sep 28, 2008 3:34 am

Judicial enquiry briefing
by Iain McKie on Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:31 am 6 Replies 496 Views Last post by Big Wullie
on Fri Sep 26, 2008 8:31 pm

Injury and Disease on Friction Skin
by mschreel on Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:29 pm 2 Replies 251 Views Last post by Raul
on Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:19 am

Evidence Fabrication in South Africa
1 ... 19, 20, 21by Pat A. Wertheim on Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:48 pm 304 Replies 33439 Views Last post by Pat A. Wertheim
on Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:53 pm

ALS advice
by Mark on Thu Sep 25, 2008 10:43 am 0 Replies 95 Views Last post by Mark
on Thu Sep 25, 2008 10:43 am

Photoshop method to print fingerprints 1:1
1, 2by antonroland on Fri Sep 12, 2008 1:41 pm 17 Replies 521 Views Last post by antonroland
on Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:19 pm

KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony
1, 2, 3, 4, 5by clpexco on Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:52 pm 71 Replies 8783 Views Last post by Charles Parker
on Mon Sep 22, 2008 6:02 pm

IAI Conference Topics -
Louisville, Kentucky 2008:
Moderator: Steve Everist

No new posts

Documentation issues as they apply to latent prints
Moderator: Charles Parker

No new posts

Historical topics related to latent print examination
Moderator: Charles Parker

No new posts



Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group (FIG) page with FIG #63; Overlay; submitted by P. Salicco of Texas.  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 #37; Quality Assurance Measures, submitted by Michelle Triplett.  You can send your questions on courtroom topics to Michelle Triplett:

Updated the Detail Archives

Last week

JoePolski related the monthly IAI Update that covered the IAI conference in Kentucky last month.

This week

we look at an article by Michael Saks from a recent edition of the Tulsa Law Review entitled "Symposium: Daubert, Innocence, and the Future of Forensic Science".  Although Saks begins with a rather harsh admonition of the courts' recent stance on admitting testimony on many of the impression evidence forensic sciences, he ends up making some half-way decent recommendations for the future.  Not only does this article serve as a good indication of the areas in which we might expect future challenges, it also provides a few ideas for how we might consider being proactive and cutting off some of these challenges at the knees.  A recent Minnesota case is being transcribed that offers one such strategy in this regard - it will be the subject of a Detail in the near future. Until then, it might be wise to begin to consider ways that we can convey our conclusions while not being inflammatory toward some of the legitimate concerns of the critics.

Protecting Factfinders From Being Overly Misled, While Still Admitting Weakly Supported Forensic Science Into Evidence
by Michael J. Saks


[outline and excerpts only... entire article in .pdf is available at]:

I. Introduction

"If the students cannot pass the test, what is one to do? Answer: Get rid of the test. The legislators of Washington State were not the first to think of this idea. Federal (as well as state) judges, encountering a similar problem when applying the Daubert trilogy [2] to the non-science forensic sciences, [3] devised a similar solution.


II. Background

A. Weakness of the Non-Science Forensic Sciences

... "Fingerprint identification, the reigning champion of the non-science forensic sciences, notwithstanding puffery in its sales pitches [13] and by its many fans in the popular media, had long been recognized as unable to establish its most fundamental claims with any existing evidence, data, studies, or theory which it possessed. ...

... "Exaggerated belief in the forensic individualization sciences appears to play an important part in erroneous convictions. Forensic science errors account for more erroneous convictions than any source of evidence other than eyewitnesses. [44]

B.Judicial Treatment of the Non-Science Forensic Sciences Post-Daubert

... "In short, courts have found a multitude of ways to avoid the outcomes Daubert would have led to, had it been applied conscientiously to the reality of the non-science forensic sciences.

C. An Alternative History

... "What might history have looked like if these various courts had conscientiously applied the Daubert trilogy to the facts about the expert evidence before the court, and followed the law where it led? That portions of some or many of the non-science forensic sciences would have been excluded (or sharply limited) is a conclusion that seems hard to avoid. ...

III. Suggested Judicial Strategies for Surrendering to the Impulse to Admit Non-Science Forensic Science Without Firsaking the Legal Policy Underlying Rule 702

"We can assume that harmony will some day come to the law of admissibility of expert evidence. Either the courts will get around to following the rule [83] or the rule will be changed to reflect what judges are comfortable deciding. [84]

"In the mean time, judges feel a strong - for the most, an irresistible - impulse to admit the non-science forensic sciences regardless of what the evidence on the evidence teaches them about it.

... "This final section presents a set of possible actions judges can take, short of exclusion, to manage expert testimony from the non-science forensic sciences in ways that might help achieve the needed balance.

A. Partial Admission

... "courts could (and should) prohibit assertions of unique individualization, because such claims go beyond the actual knowledge and capabilities of any field, [86] and courts could (and should) bar ultimate conclusions of identity. [87]

B. Require That Examinations Be Conducted Using Blind Testing and Evidence Lineups

C. Require That the Examiner and Lab Be Certified [or accredited]

D. Require Experts to Stay Firmly Within the Bounds of What Their Field Actually Knows.

... "If courts closely scrutinized the claims being made or implicit in their testimony, and permitted experts to testify only to that which they could satisfactorily support with sound bases, less would be testified to, but what the factfinder was told would be more dependable. [90]

E. Prohibit Overpowering and Exaggerated Terminology

... "Overreaching and exaggeration should be banned from the witness box. Any expression of absolute certainty by forensic identification experts, or any term likely to be understood by the fact finder as conveying such a strong and unjustifiable meaning, should be prohibited. Among such suspect terms would be "identification," "match," "unique," "no other in the world," "identification to the exclusion of all others in the world," and "consistent with."

F. Jury Instructions About the Limits of a Field's Expertise

G. Use of Court-Appointed Experts and Panels of Experts

... "But the greatest challenge will be to appoint individuals who do not merely echo the unsupported claims [95] under scrutiny, but who can give real assistance to the court. [96]

H. Enabling the Adversary Process to Work by Facilitating Counter-Testimony

[outline and excerpts only... entire article in .pdf is available at]:

KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony - #37
Quality Assurance Measures

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 – Quality Assurance Measures:

What are some quality assurance measures you use to insure good results?


Possible Answers:

a)      We have standards and controls we go by.  For example, we have a methodology that’s scientifically accepted, a verification and a peer review process, a conflict resolution procedure, and a very low error rate.

b)      My agency has standard operating procedures in place that are consistent with industry recommendations, we monitor the competency of our examiners, and have all individualizations verified by another examiner.

c)      We use objective data that is reproducible to others, we use scientifically accepted principles, and we make sure all our conclusions are demonstratable and will hold up to the review of others. 

d)     My agency requires that all examiners have a certain education level, they’re certified, and our agency is accredited.  We audit casework, review testimony, participate in continuing education and participate in proficiency testing.



Answer a:  Additional standards and controls may include eliminating any pressures placed on examiners to arrive at particular conclusions (such as eliminating comparisons in court or in the presence of someone requesting the comparison) or providing examiners with the appropriate equipment and tools to do their job (lighting, magnification, computerized enhancement equipment, etc).

Answers b and c: These answers are very similar to Answer a.  The list of quality assurance measures can be extensive.  Generally speaking, the items listed in these answers directly affect the quality of the conclusions.

Answer d:  All of these things insure that examiners are educated and competent.  This may indirectly insure good results but it doesn’t directly insure quality results.



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

Have a GREAT week!