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Monday, October 20, 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
Experts Testify In Double Murder Case
WHNS, SC - Oct 19, 2008
A fingerprint expert testified that fingerprints matching those of Torres were found on a flower pot outside the Emerys' home and on their van that was ...
LAPD head requests review of fingerprint unit
The Associated Press - Oct 17, 2008
The LAPD had planned to carry out an audit last year to review the fingerprints unit but could not get the funds for the effort, Assistant Police Chief ...
1985 murder trial shifts to the defense
Youngstown Vindicator, OH - Oct 17, 2008
Sheryl Mahan, a former BCI fingerprint expert, testified that fingerprints taken off Tenney’s television included four that came from Adams. ...
Woods trial continues
Chillicothe Gazette, OH - Oct 15, 2008
A fingerprint expert from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation said their office found fingerprints that matched Woods' on a note passed ...

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

The merits of photographing a latent at 1000 ppi
1, 2 by antonroland on Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:27 am 22 Replies 152 Views Last post by George Reis
on Sun Oct 19, 2008 3:10 pm

LAPD Fingerprint Mistake
by Dennis Degler on Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:40 am 4 Replies 242 Views Last post by Steve Everist
on Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:29 pm

Fluorescent Powders
by acroreef on Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:17 pm 1 Replies 77 Views Last post by antonroland
on Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:28 am

Judicial enquiry briefing
1, 2by Iain McKie on Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:31 am 18 Replies 1225 Views Last post by Big Wullie
on Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:33 pm

Tribunal for McKie print expert
1, 2, 3by charlton97 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 1:00 am 32 Replies 1883 Views Last post by Big Wullie
on Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:02 pm

A interesting article on error rates of medical diagnoses.
by Boyd Baumgartner on Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:40 am 1 Replies 108 Views Last post by Gerald Clough
on Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:41 pm

Great News For Megrahi (Lockerbie Bomber)
by Big Wullie on Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:39 pm 0 Replies 98 Views Last post by Big Wullie
on Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:39 pm

On-scene chemical investigations
by antonroland on Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:27 am 6 Replies 176 Views Last post by Gerald Clough
on Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:37 am

KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony
1 ... 4, 5, 6by clpexco on Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:52 pm 75 Replies 9313 Views Last post by Charles Parker
on Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:40 am

Digital Image based comparison process
by GEilers on Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:36 pm 2 Replies 205 Views Last post by GEilers
on Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:35 pm

statistics and fingerprints
by Michele on Fri Aug 29, 2008 2:02 pm 3 Replies 471 Views Last post by Gerald Clough
on Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:27 pm

by antonroland on Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:16 am 0 Replies 104 Views Last post by antonroland
on Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:16 am
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 #66; an example of blood matrix distortion; submitted by Godlewski of PN.  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 #40; Analysis - Sufficiency - How much of a full print did you have?; submitted by Michelle Triplett.  You can send your questions on courtroom topics to Michelle Triplett:

Updated the Detail Archives

Last week

we looked at a recent article from Georgia regarding legal challenges to fingerprints.

This week

we look at what happens when we aren't careful with close look-alikes from IAFIS searches. Stay tuned over the course of the next year or two as some research addresses the issue of whether latent print examiners should apply a stricter standard to comparisons of IAFIS latent print search candidates than to comparisons of named suspects in local cases.  Historically we haven't treated the standard any differently, but statistically there is a big difference between these two scenarios.

LAPD blames faulty fingerprint analysis for erroneous accusations
An audit finds shoddy work by specialists and cites two cases in which charges had to be dropped. The total number of such instances is unknown and officials say they lack the money to determine it.

Los Angeles Times,0,6832992.story

The Los Angeles Police Department has acknowledged in a confidential report that people have been falsely implicated in crimes because the department's fingerprint experts wrongly identified them as suspects.

The 10-page internal report, obtained by The Times, highlighted two cases in which criminal defendants had charges against them dropped after problems with the fingerprint analysis were exposed. LAPD officials do not know how many other people might have been wrongly accused over the years as a result of poor fingerprint analysis and do not have the funds to pay for a comprehensive audit to find out, according to police records and interviews.

"This is something of extraordinary concern," said Michael Judge, public defender for Los Angeles County. "Juries tend to accord the highest level of confidence to fingerprint evidence. This is the type of thing that easily could lead to innocent people being convicted."

The two cases were used by investigators to illustrate broader problems with shoddy work and poor oversight that have plagued the department's Latent Print Unit. Rhonda Sims-Lewis, chief of the LAPD's administrative and technical bureau, acknowledged the findings, but said changes to the unit's leadership and protocols were made last year after senior officials became aware of problems.

Internal discipline investigations led to the firing of one fingerprint analyst, who had been involved in both of the mishandled cases. Three other analysts received suspensions, Sims-Lewis said. In addition, two supervisors responsible for overseeing the unit were replaced, staff was bolstered and oversight tightened, she said.
"This is very, very serious," Sims-Lewis said. "We feel very compelled to take quick action when something like this arises. Guilty people can be set free and innocent people can be jailed."

There are 78 forensic print specialists assigned to the unit, according to the department's website. They are not sworn police officers but among the hundreds of civilians who fill specialty jobs in the department. After prints are lifted from a crime scene, the specialists run them through automated databases to find possible matches and then analyze those to seek a more precise match. Two other analysts are then supposed to check the work for accuracy.

Sims-Lewis and other department officials, however, described a poorly run operation, in which records and evidence were left lying around or misplaced, and supervisors "were stuck in the old way of doing things." Pressed to explain the sloppy work of the unit, Yvette Sanchez-Owens, commanding officer of the Scientific Investigation Division, speculated that "people were reviewing the work of friends and just rubber stamping it without really reviewing it."

In one of the cases highlighted in the report, a man was extradited from Alabama to face burglary charges after an analyst matched his prints to those found at the scene. The mistake was missed by two reviewers and was caught only when a third reviewer was preparing to testify at the trial.

In the other example, Maria Delosange Maldonado, a pregnant hospital technician, was charged in February 2006 with breaking into a San Fernando Valley cellphone store. When questions were raised about the accuracy of the print analysis, the LAPD said the prints could not be reexamined because they had been lost. The audit characterized the fingerprint identification in that case as "erroneous."

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Dist. Atty Steve Cooley, said the D.A.'s office was "looking into" the question of what, if anything, prosecutors should do to better guard against faulty evidence making it into a courtroom.

The LAPD's internal investigation challenges the widely held view that forensic matches made by fingerprint experts are airtight. The authors of the internal LAPD report recalled the infamous example of an Oregon man who was linked through faulty fingerprint analysis by three federal agents to the 2004 terrorist train bombings in Madrid.

Jack Weiss, chairman of the City Council's public safety committee said there was "nothing more basic and more bread and butter than fingerprints. You have to be able to take each one of them to the bank."

He said he will hold hearings on the issue and call fingerprint lab employees to testify before his panel. "We want to know the extent of it and whether it affects any other cases. We want to know how far back it goes," he said.

Los Angeles police officials had initially planned to hire an outside expert last year to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the unit. They failed, however, to secure the $325,000 to $450,000 from city coffers needed for the review. In-house auditors were used instead, but Sims-Lewis acknowledged that they did not have the expertise required to comprehensively examine the unit's past and current practices.

"We still want outside eyes to come in and make sure we're doing things right," she said. The focus of the audit would be improving the operation, officials said, but they also believe it would uncover past errors if any had been made.

Although there is no way to be certain without the full audit, Sim-Lewis said she was confident that faulty work by the unit had not sent an innocent person to prison or freed someone who was guilty. Mistakes, she said, would have been caught by experts hired by defense attorneys.

Judge, the public defender, disputed that notion and called on the city to hire the outside auditor. "Law enforcement should take seriously this matter by investing more in testing and studies, and by focusing more on these people they are sending into court with very powerful evidence."

Times staff writer Harriet Ryan contributed to this report.

From the Forum:

Re: LAPD Fingerprint Mistake

Postby Pat A. Wertheim on Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:17 pm

A couple of friends called and emailed me about the situation in Los Angeles this week. I replied something like, "Look, as I understand it, you've got one case of lost latent print lifts and one case of erroneous identification in, what, the last ten years? Come on, LAPD has about 50 full time latent print examiners doing probably tens of thousands of correct identifications during that time. Is there a problem? Maybe. Is it serious? I doubt it!"

Stephen Meagher stated at a conference a few years ago that the FBI makes an erroneous identification about 1 for every 11,000,000 correct identifications. If you happen to be the person misidentified in that one erroneous ident, it is a serious problem (ask Brandon Mayfield). But in the overall scheme of things regarding reliability of forensic evidence, it is not a big problem.

It has always been my contention that dishonesty is a far more serious problem than erroneous identification. Cases of fabricated evidence far outnumber cases of honest mistake. But the underlying current of this thread is that this is a problem we in the fingerprint community have to deal with, and that is correct. We need to take corrective action wherever and whenever erroneous idents occur, but we also need to purge the dishonest people from our ranks. They are the ones who do more harm. And each of us needs to stay informed on these issues so we can answer in court when questioned about them.
Pat A. Wertheim

KEPT - Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony - #40
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 – Sufficiency:

How much of a full print did you have?


Possible Answers:

a)      (Stating a percentage of the physical size) 1/3 of a fully rolled fingerprint.

b)      (Stating a percentage of level two details)  I had 30 level 2 details, most rolled impressions have about 100-150 level two characteristics.

c)      (Stating the amount of relevant information needed)  I had enough relevant information that any expert would agree with my conclusion.

d)     There are several methods to determine how much of a fully rolled print a latent was from, and all methods will give different result.  Would you like me to explain some of these and the differences in the conclusions? 



This question is usually trying to imply that you had less than a sufficient amount to do an adequate examination or to arrive at the best conclusion.

Answer a:  This measure of how much you had can easily be misinterpreted.  As an example, you can have 1/2 of a rolled impression but not have the clarity to make a conclusive determination.  You can also have 1/20th of a rolled impression and have more than enough information to come to a conclusion.  In this case I had 1/3rd of the physical area of the rolled impression but without stating the clarity level then it’s not clear to others if I had a sufficient amount of information.

Answer b:  Another method would be to figure out the percentage of level two characteristics in the latent print compared to the number of level two details in the rolled impression. If I have 30 points out of 100 then the latent was 1/3rd of the rolled impression.  But this is misleading because we don't only use level 2 details to make an individualization.

Answer c:  Another method is to look at how much relevant information was available.  If I wanted to find out what kind of liquid was in a glass, how much of the liquid would be needed to come to a conclusive determination, surely not the entire glassful.  In the case with a latent print and a rolled impression, how much is needed to have a sufficient amount of relevant information?  We need enough information in the latent print that any expert using the same information, would arrive at the same conclusion.

Answer d:  This is the best answer because it makes an attorney commit to allowing you the time needed to give a comprehensive answer.  If an attorney allows a full answer then someone can state all of the information in answers a, b, and c.



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

Have a GREAT week!