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Monday, February 23, 2009

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 Stephanie Potter

Fingerprints Place Accused Dentist Killer at Scene: Detective – Feb 18, 2009
Detective William Bienick of the NYPD’s latent print lab testified Tuesday that he and his staff positively identified three fingerprints found on a ...


Whatever Happened To… the Evil Twin?
Benton Co. Dailey Record -February 16, 2009
Deputy Prosecutor A.J. Anglin presented expert testimony that even identical twins have different fingerprints. He also presented Labelle's birth certificate, which indicated a single birth.


Fingerprints in Nazareth Bank Robbery Linked to Forks Twp. Man, Police Say
The Morning Call  - Feb 16, 2009
Nazareth police have traced a fingerprint on a PNC Bank robber's note left in a 2006 holdup to a Forks Township man ...


Jury Hears Closing in Deacon Death
News & Observer –Feb. 20, 2009
The attorney also reminded jurors that the only physical evidence in the trial linking Latham to the crime scene was a palm and finger print from his left ...



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    Added Stephanie Potter to the Detail team. Welcome Stephanie!! She is going to find and format our Newz you can Uze articles to keep us up to date on the weekly topics of interest.  Thanks Stephanie for stepping up - we look forward to hearing from you!

    Updated the Detail Archives


    Last week

    We looked at a report on a committee formed by IAI President Robert Garrett in regards to a review of the prints erroneously identified as Shirley McKie.

    This week

    we look at the table of contents, preface and the thirteen recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences committee report on Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States. Anyone interested in the entire report should download the 250-page .pdf document from the link provided below for $33.00, pre-order or wait for the paper publication at a later time.

    Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States - Prepublication Copy

    Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.



    Preface P-1

    Summary S-1


    Findings and Recommendations


    1 Introduction 1-1

    What Is Forensic Science?

    Pressures on the Forensic Science System

    Organization of this Report


    2 The Forensic Science Community and the Need for Integrated Governance 2-1

    Crime Scene Investigation

    Forensic Science Laboratories and Service Providers

    Case Backlogs

    NIJ’s Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program

    Forensic Services Beyond the Traditional Laboratory

    Federal Forensic Science Activities

    Research Funding

    Professional Associations

    Conclusions and Recommendation


    3 The Admission of Forensic Science Evidence in Litigation 3-1

    Law and Science

    The Frye Standard and Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence

    The Daubert Decision and the Supreme Court’s Construction of Rule 702

    The 2000 Amendment of Rule 702

    An Overview of Judicial Dispositions of Daubert-Type Questions

    Some Examples of Judicial Dispositions of Questions Relating to

    Forensic Science Evidence



    4 The Principles of Science and Interpreting Scientific Data 4-1

    Fundamental Principles of the Scientific Method



    5 Descriptions of Some Forensic Science Disciplines 5-1

    Biological Evidence

    Analysis of Controlled Substances

    Friction Ridge Analysis

    Other Pattern/Impression Evidence: Shoeprints and Tire Tracks

    Toolmark and Firearms Identification

    Analysis of Hair Evidence

    Analysis of Fiber Evidence

    Questioned Document Examination

    Analysis of Paint and Coatings Evidence

    Analysis of Explosives Evidence and Fire Debris

    Forensic Odontology

    Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

    An Emerging Forensic Science Discipline: Digital And Multimedia Analysis



    6 Improving Methods, Practice, and Performance in Forensic Science 6-1

    Independence of Forensic Science Laboratories

    Uncertainties and Bias

    Reporting Results

    The Need for Research

    Conclusions and Recommendations


    7 Strengthening Oversight of Forensic Science Practice 7-1


    Standards and Guidelines for Quality Control

    Proficiency Testing


    Oversight as a Requirement of Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants

    Codes of Ethics

    Conclusions and Recommendations


    8 Education and Training in Forensic Science 8-1

    Status of Forensic Science Education

    Challenges and Opportunities to Improve Forensic Science Education

    Research as a Component of Forensic Science Education Programs

    Status of Training

    Education in the Legal System

    Conclusions and Recommendation


    9 Medical Examiner and Coroner Systems: Current and Future Needs 9-1

    Medical Examiners and Coroners (ME/C)

    ME/C Jurisdiction

    ME/C Missions

    Variations in ME/C Systems

    Qualifications of Coroners and Medical Examiners

    ME/C Administration and Oversight

    ME/C Staffing and Funding

    The Movement to Convert Coroner Systems to Medical Examiner Systems

    Utilization of Best Practices

    Potential Scientific Advances that May Assist ME/Cs

    The Shortage of Medical Examiners and Forensic Pathologists

    Standards and Accreditation for Death Investigation Systems

    Quality Control and Quality Assurance

    Continuing Medical Education

    Homeland Security

    Forensic Pathology Research

    Common Methods of Sample and Data Collection

    Conclusions and Recommendation


    10 Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems 10-1

    Interoperability Challenges

    Conclusions and Recommendation


    11 Homeland Security and the Forensic Science Disciplines 11-1

    Conclusions and Recommendation



    A Biographical Information of Committee and Staff A-1

    B Committee Meeting Agendas B-1



    Recognizing that significant improvements are needed in forensic science, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciences to undertake the study that led to this report. There are scores of talented and dedicated people in the forensic science community, and the work that they perform is vitally important. They are often strapped in their work, however, for lack of adequate resources, sound policies, and national support. It is clear that change and advancements, both systemic and scientific, are needed in a number of forensic science disciplines—to ensure the reliability of the disciplines, establish enforceable standards, and promote best practices and their consistent application.


    In adopting this report, the aim of our committee is to chart an agenda for progress in the forensic science community and its scientific disciplines. Because the work of forensic science practitioners is so obviously wide-reaching and important—affecting criminal investigation and prosecution, civil litigation, legal reform, the investigation of insurance claims, national disaster planning and preparedness, homeland security, and the advancement of technology—the committee worked with a sense of great commitment and spent countless hours deliberating over the recommendations that are included in the report. These recommendations, which are inexorably interconnected, reflect the committee’s strong views on policy initiatives that must be adopted in any plan to improve the forensic science disciplines and to allow the forensic science community to serve society more effectively.


    The task Congress assigned our committee was daunting and required serious thought and the consideration of an extremely complex and decentralized system, with various players, jurisdictions, demands, and limitations. Throughout our lengthy deliberations, the committee heard testimony from the stakeholder community, ensuring that the voices of forensic practitioners were heard and their concerns addressed. We also heard from professionals who manage forensic laboratories and medical examiner/coroner offices; teachers who are devoted to training the next generation of forensic scientists; scholars who have conducted important research in a number of forensic science fields; and members of the legal profession and law enforcement agencies who understand how forensic science evidence is collected, analyzed, and used in connection with criminal investigations and prosecutions. We are deeply grateful to all of the presenters who spoke to the committee and/or submitted papers for our consideration. These experts and their work served the committee well.


    In considering the testimony and evidence that was presented to the committee, what surprised us the most was the consistency of the message that we heard:


    The forensic science system, encompassing both research and practice, has serious problems that can only be addressed by a national commitment to overhaul the current structure that supports the forensic science community in this country. This can only be done with effective leadership at the highest levels of both federal and state governments, pursuant to national standards, and with a significant infusion of federal funds.


    The recommendations in this report represent the committee’s studied opinion on how best to achieve this critical goal.


    Recommendation 1:


    To promote the development of forensic science into a mature field of multidisciplinary research and practice, founded on the systematic collection and analysis of relevant data, Congress should establish and appropriate funds for an independent federal entity, the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS). NIFS should have a full-time administrator and an advisory board with expertise in research and education, the forensic science disciplines, physical and life sciences, forensic pathology, engineering, information technology, measurements and standards, testing and evaluation, law, national security, and public policy. NIFS should focus on:


    (a) establishing and enforcing best practices for forensic science professionals and laboratories;


    (b) establishing standards for the mandatory accreditation of forensic science laboratories and the mandatory certification of forensic scientists and medical examiners/forensic pathologists—and identifying the entity/entities that will develop and implement accreditation and certification;


    (c) promoting scholarly, competitive peer-reviewed research and technical development in the forensic science disciplines and forensic medicine;


    (d) developing a strategy to improve forensic science research and educational programs, including forensic pathology;


    (e) establishing a strategy, based on accurate data on the forensic science community, for the efficient allocation of available funds to give strong support to forensic methodologies and practices in addition to DNA analysis;


    (f) funding state and local forensic science agencies, independent research projects, and educational programs as recommended in this report, with conditions that aim to advance the credibility and reliability of the forensic science disciplines;


    (g) overseeing education standards and the accreditation of forensic science programs in colleges and universities;


    (h) developing programs to improve understanding of the forensic science disciplines and their limitations within legal systems; and


    (i) assessing the development and introduction of new technologies in forensic investigations, including a comparison of new technologies with former



    Recommendation 2:


    The National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS), after reviewing established standards such as ISO 17025, and in consultation with its advisory board, should establish standard terminology to be used in reporting on and testifying about the results of forensic science investigations. Similarly, it should establish model laboratory reports for different forensic science disciplines and specify the minimum information that should be included. As part of the accreditation and certification processes, laboratories and forensic scientists should be required to utilize model laboratory reports when summarizing the results of their analyses.


    Recommendation 3:


    Research is needed to address issues of accuracy, reliability, and validity in the forensic science disciplines. The National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) should competitively fund peer-reviewed research in the following areas:


    (a) Studies establishing the scientific bases demonstrating the validity of forensic methods.


    (b) The development and establishment of quantifiable measures of the reliability and accuracy of forensic analyses. Studies of the reliability and accuracy of forensic techniques should reflect actual practice on realistic case scenarios, averaged across a representative sample of forensic scientists and laboratories. Studies also should establish the limits of reliability and accuracy that analytic methods can be expected to achieve as the conditions of forensic evidence vary. The research by which measures of reliability and accuracy are determined should be peer reviewed and published in respected scientific journals.


    (c) The development of quantifiable measures of uncertainty in the conclusions of forensic analyses.


    (d) Automated techniques capable of enhancing forensic technologies.


    Recommendation 4:


    To improve the scientific bases of forensic science examinations and to maximize independence from or autonomy within the law enforcement community, Congress should authorize and appropriate incentive funds to the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) for allocation to state and local jurisdictions for the purpose of removing all public forensic laboratories and facilities from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies or prosecutors’ offices.


    Recommendation 5:


    The National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) should encourage research programs on human observer bias and sources of human error in forensic examinations. Such programs might include studies to determine the effects of contextual bias in forensic practice (e.g., studies to determine whether and to what extent the results of forensic analyses are influenced by knowledge regarding the background of the suspect and the investigator’s theory of the case). In addition, research on sources of human error should be closely linked with research conducted to quantify and characterize the amount of error. Based on the results of these studies, and in consultation with its advisory board, NIFS should develop standard operating procedures (that will lay the foundation for model protocols) to minimize, to the greatest extent reasonably possible, potential bias and sources of human error in forensic practice. These standard operating procedures should apply to all forensic analyses that may be used in litigation.


    Recommendation 6:


    To facilitate the work of the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS), Congress should authorize and appropriate funds to NIFS to work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in conjunction with government laboratories, universities, and private laboratories, and in consultation with Scientific Working Groups, to develop tools for advancing measurement, validation, reliability, information sharing, and proficiency testing in forensic science and to establish protocols for forensic examinations, methods, and practices. Standards should reflect best practices and serve as accreditation tools for laboratories and as guides for the education, training, and certification of professionals. Upon completion of its work, NIST and its partners should report findings and recommendations to NIFS for further dissemination and



    Recommendation 7:


    Laboratory accreditation and individual certification of forensic science professionals should be mandatory, and all forensic science professionals should have access to a certification process. In determining appropriate standards for accreditation and certification, the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) should take into account established and recognized international standards, such as those published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). No person (public or private) should be allowed to practice in a forensic science discipline or testify as a forensic science professional without certification. Certification requirements should include, at a minimum, written examinations, supervised practice, proficiency testing, continuing education, recertification procedures, adherence to a code of ethics, and effective disciplinary procedures. All laboratories and facilities (public or private) should be accredited, and all forensic science professionals should be certified, when eligible, within a time period established by NIFS.


    Recommendation 8:


    Forensic laboratories should establish routine quality assurance and quality control procedures to ensure the accuracy of forensic analyses and the work of forensic practitioners. Quality control procedures should be designed to identify mistakes, fraud, and bias; confirm the continued validity and reliability of standard operating procedures and protocols; ensure that best practices are being followed; and correct procedures and protocols that are found to need improvement.


    Recommendation 9:


    The National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS), in consultation with its advisory board, should establish a national code of ethics for all forensic science disciplines and encourage individual societies to incorporate this national code as part of their professional code of ethics. Additionally, NIFS should explore mechanisms of enforcement for those forensic scientists who commit serious ethical violations. Such a code could be enforced through a certification process for forensic scientists.


    Recommendation 10:


    To attract students in the physical and life sciences to pursue graduate studies in multidisciplinary fields critical to forensic science practice, Congress should authorize and appropriate funds to the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) to work with appropriate organizations and educational institutions to improve and develop graduate education programs designed to cut across organizational, programmatic, and disciplinary boundaries. To make these programs appealing to potential students, they must include attractive scholarship and fellowship offerings. Emphasis should be placed on developing and improving research methods and methodologies applicable to forensic science practice and on funding research programs to attract research universities and students in fields relevant to forensic science. NIFS should also support law school administrators and judicial education organizations in establishing continuing legal education programs for law students, practitioners, and judges.


    Recommendation 11:


    To improve medicolegal death investigation:


    (a) Congress should authorize and appropriate incentive funds to the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) for allocation to states and jurisdictions to establish medical examiner systems, with the goal of replacing and eventually eliminating existing coroner systems. Funds are needed to build regional medical examiner offices, secure necessary equipment, improve administration, and ensure the education, training, and staffing of medical examiner offices. Funding could also be used to help current medical examiner systems modernize their facilities to meet current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended autopsy safety requirements.


    (b) Congress should appropriate resources to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIFS, jointly, to support research, education, and training in forensic pathology. NIH, with NIFS participation, or NIFS in collaboration with content experts, should establish a study section to establish goals, to review and evaluate proposals in these areas, and to allocate funding for collaborative research to be conducted by medical examiner offices and medical universities. In addition, funding, in the form of medical student loan forgiveness and/or fellowship support, should be made available to pathology residents who choose forensic pathology as their specialty.


    (c) NIFS, in collaboration with NIH, the National Association of Medical Examiners, the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, and other appropriate professional organizations, should establish a Scientific Working Group (SWG) for forensic pathology and medicolegal death investigation. The SWG should develop and promote standards for best practices, administration, staffing, education, training, and continuing education for competent death scene investigation and postmortem examinations. Best practices should include the utilization of new technologies such as laboratory testing for the molecular basis of diseases and the implementation of specialized imaging techniques.


    (d) All medical examiner offices should be accredited pursuant to NIFSendorsed standards within a timeframe to be established by NIFS.


    (e) All federal funding should be restricted to accredited offices that meet NIFS-endorsed standards or that demonstrate significant and measurable progress in achieving accreditation within prescribed deadlines.


    (f) All medicolegal autopsies should be performed or supervised by a board certified forensic pathologist. This requirement should take effect within a timeframe to be established by NIFS, following consultation with governing state institutions.



    Recommendation 13:


    Congress should provide funding to the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) to prepare, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, forensic scientists and crime scene investigators for their potential roles in managing and analyzing evidence from events that affect homeland security, so that maximum evidentiary value is preserved from these unusual circumstances and the safety of these personnel is guarded. This preparation also should include planning and preparedness (to include exercises) for the interoperability of local forensic personnel with federal counterterrorism organizations.



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    Have a GREAT week!