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Monday, November 9, 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.
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Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
by Stephanie Potter

New Information on Oconomowoc Murder
Today's TMJ4 11-04-09
An affidavit says Welch's fingerprints were found on a knife inside Smith's home and on a pair of latex gloves found in a sewer drain nearby. ...

Fla. burglar allegedly loots place he got caught
MiamiHerald.com 11-06-09
Small was arrested Wednesday after police say blood and fingerprints left at the scene matched his profile. A witness also told police he was wearing a pair ...

DC snipers' first two victims were at ABC store in Montgomery
Gadsden Times 11-06-09
A crucial break in the case occurred when Malvo's fingerprints were lifted from a firearms publication found near the Montgomery ABC store. ...

Teen Arrested For Stealing Items From 24 Parked Cars
WBAL Radio 11-05-09
During the investigation, a Sheriff's Office Crime Scene Technician recovered latent fingerprints from several of the vehicles. ...

TILLINGHAM: Convicted killer on trial for teen's murder
This is Total Essex - Essex,England,UK 06-24-09
He said three thumb prints and one finger print were found on the rubbish bags Dinah was wrapped in. The court was then told of the defendants previous ...

Recent CLPEX Posting Activity

news article: "McKie inquiry evidence to start"
by Identify » Tue Jun 02, 2009
Last post by Daktari View the latest post
Sun Nov 08, 2009

Fingerprint Society Update
by fpsociety » Tue Oct 13, 2009
Last post by Colin View the latest post
Sat Nov 07, 2009

news article: Fingerprinting Is the ‘Mark of the Beast’
by Identify » Fri Nov 06, 2009
Last post by briano View the latest post
Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:51 pm

The Weakest Link
by Daktari » Fri Nov 06, 2009
Last post by Daktari View the latest post
Fri Nov 06, 2009

A new "expert" that we have to deal with
by ioan_truta » Fri Oct 23, 2009
Last post by Gerald Clough View the latest post
Fri Nov 06, 2009

Equipment to set-up implementation of on screen comparisons
by kimba325 » Mon Nov 02, 2009
Last post by Robert Miller View the latest post
Fri Nov 06, 2009

Fingerprint examiner charged with perjury
by Ann Horsman » Mon Oct 26, 2009
Last post by rbostrum View the latest post
Thu Nov 05, 2009

VERMONT Is Evolving!
by Ann Horsman » Fri Aug 28, 2009
Last post by Kathleen Birnbaum View the latest post
Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:40 pm

Joint Forensic Association Meeting
by Kasey Wertheim » Mon Oct 26, 2009
Last post by Kasey Wertheim View the latest post
Sun Nov 01, 2009 10:49 am


Updated the Detail archives


Andre Moenssens is Co-Editor of the Wiley Encyclopedia of Forenic Science: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470018267.html

This A to Z encyclopedia provides a comprehensive, definitive, and up-to-date reference of the main areas of specialist and expert knowledge and skills used by those involved in all aspects of the forensic process, including, but not limited to, forensic scientists, doctors, practicing and academic lawyers, paralegals, police, crime scene investigators, analytical chemists, behavioral scientists and toxicologists.
This five-volume set covers all topics which, either as part of an established forensic discipline or as a potentially useful emerging discipline, are of interest to those involved in the forensic process. This includes both the scientific methodology and the admissibility of evidence. The encyclopedia also provides case studies of landmark cases in the definition and practice of forensic science.

Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science presents all material on a level and in a style that makes it accessible to a wide range of readers. In particular, lawyers needing to better understand the key aspects of the science, and scientists who require a deeper insight into legal issues will find the encyclopedia an important resource, as will physical, biological and behavioral scientists who require background information on the most important aspects of each other’s areas of expertise.

ALLAN JAMIESON, The Forensic Institute, UK

ANDRE A. MOENSSENS, Forensic Consultant, Columbia City, USA.

Douglas Stripp Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri at Kansas City, USA


Behavioral Sciences


Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, Policy Analyst, USA

Biological Sciences


The Forensic Institute, UK



Department of Chemistry and Forensic Science, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Digital Evidence, Multimedia and Engineering


Netherlands Forensic Institute; Ministry of Justice, The Netherlands

DNA and the Analysis of Biological Fluids


The Forensic Institute, UK

Fire and Explosives


Scientific Fire Analysis, USA

Investigation and Law Enforcement


School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, UK



Forensic Consultant, Columbia City, USA.

Douglas Stripp Professor Emeritus, University of

Missouri at Kansas City, USA



Department of Forensic Medicine, University of

Turku, Finland

Statistics and Evidence Evaluation


Institut de Police Scientifi que, Université de

Lausanne, Switzerland


Institut de Police Scientifi que, Université de

Lausanne, Switzerland

Toxicology and Drug Analysis


Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Monash

University, Australia

Trace Evidence


Forensic Science Laboratory, Garda HQ, Ireland

Read a review of the encyclopedia by Anil Aggrawal at: http://www.geradts.com/anil/ij/vol_010_no_002/reviews/tb/page002.html

 Some additional detail from Andre:

The volumes will be continually updated in the online version, which just came online this month by subscription, which is something Dr. Aggrawal's review did not mention. The complete text of the print version, including all the color illustrations, is currently available also online,  I am staying on as co-editor-in-chief for the annual online updates, the first of which will be placed online in March of 2010. (We are currently working on this first set of March 2010 updates.) The online updates will comprise copy totaling about one-fifth of the print edition pages yearly. The first two years it is expected most of it will be new articles that we just didn't get in on time to put in the print run, either because we had not found contributors for some topics yet, or the contributors we had were not ready with their final approved manuscripts, or we had rejected manuscripts as being not sufficient rigorous and scientifically based. From the third annual update, it is expected that there will be also significant updates of existing articles mixed in with new materials. If it becomes necessary to either correct an existing article urgently because of dramatic new developments, that can be done almost immediately in the online version.  (By the way, a number of SWGFAST and IAI members contributed articles for the encyclopedia in the friction ridge examination fields, among them Alice Maceo, Glenn Langenburg, Cedric Neumann and Christophe Champod. -- There may be more whose names I may not remember at the moment --  Christophe was in fact a section editor, along with his wife who is also a scientist, for the "Interpretation and statistics" section.
I do not know at this time whether Wiley will plan to put out an updated print version in the fifth year, nor am I privy to the various online subscription plans they will be offering to interested parties. agencies, and libraries. It is my feeling that that is the place were Wiley expects to make its profits. Wiley & Sons has already published a dozen or more encyclopedias on other scientific topics, which are all kept updated in online versions. It is clear they are very experienced in maintaining and scheduling such major projects, all of which are run out of their Chichester (U.K.) division.


 John Black brought us a survey on Verification.


we read an article that was heavily circulated in the forensic community over the last few days.

By Jennifer Friedman
October 29, 2009; © 2009 The Daily Journal Corporation. 
All rights reserved. 
The National Academy of Science Report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: a Path Forward (NAS Report 2009) concluded that the courts are ill-equipped to ensure that only forensic results, which are valid, are admitted into evidence and moreover, are incapable of "curing the documented ills of the forensic science disciplines." Conversely, the NAS Report 2009 notes that DNA has been subject to rigorous scrutiny by the courts, which it attributes to courts and lawyers being more "literate" about the science than they were in the past. While some would argue that DNA has not been sufficiently scrutinized, no one will deny that it has received more scrutiny than virtually all other forensic disciplines. This seems to suggest that while courts alone may not be able to "cure the ills" of forensic science, there are things courts and lawyers can do to prevent scientific evidence that has not been validated from being admitted into evidence in criminal trials. Similarly, there are things courts can and should do to ensure that admitted forensic science is scrutinized and evaluated.

Lawyers and courts can also act to prevent erroneous or misleading results from being admitted into evidence. Becoming more "literate" or conversant in science is one obvious way to help effectuate this goal. However, neither education alone nor recommendations made by the academy alone will cure these ills. The NAS Report 2009 states that "(w)ith more and better educational programs, accredited laboratories, certified forensic practitioners, sound operational principles and procedures, and serious research to establish the limits and measures of performance in each discipline, forensic science experts will be better able to analyze evidence and coherently report their findings in the courts."

While these are certainly important targets for improvement that must be achieved for forensic science to become more scientific, the most significant change that must occur is for forensic science to become more science-like. Achieving goals that are directed solely at what occurs in the labs without efforts to reform what occurs in the courts will do little to further the overriding goal of ensuring that only reliable, validated scientific evidence is admitted in criminal trials. Consequently, while the recommendations made by the National Academy of Science must be implemented, it is critical that defense attorneys have the resources to uncover invalid science when it is offered against criminal defendants. This includes providing funding for experts and training as well as requiring government officials to provide information that is necessary to assess the scientific results being presented. There is a significant need for government-operated crime labs to be more transparent.

Transparency is a hallmark of good science. As one researcher put it, "Science and secrecy do not sit comfortably together." Efforts by labs to keep information confidential are contrary to basic tenets of science-objectivity and openness. Yet crime labs persist in failing to turn over information to defense attorneys, the courts and even prosecutors. Consequently the ability of attorneys to effectively investigate and cross-examine scientific evidence that is presented at trial is severely hampered and invalid scientific testimony often goes unchallenged.

In a recent study by Garrett and Neufeld, the authors analyzed testimony of prosecution forensic scientists in cases in which individuals had been wrongly convicted. In analyzing these data, the authors found that there were two types of invalid testimony presented to courts and jurors: testimony in which the expert misused population data, and testimony in which experts drew conclusions that were not supported by empirical data. The authors concluded that the adversarial system failed to adequately police this expert testimony. The authors attribute this failure largely to the failure of defense attorneys to meaningfully cross-examine the experts, as well as defense attorneys' failure to obtain expert assistance. It appears however, that there is an additional explanation for the admission of this invalid forensic evidence, namely, that defense attorneys were not provided sufficient information or discovery pertinent to the forensic analysis to be able to adequately assess the reported results and the testimony offered.

Some government labs have gone to great lengths to prevent disclosure of information pertinent to the operations of the labs and observed quality control problems within the labs. Certainly defense attorneys are at fault for not aggressively seeking such information. However, much of this information should have been disclosed without the necessity of a specific request. Lab reports provided to the defense rarely give the underlying basis for the opinions expressed including population data to support conclusions drawn regarding the strength of the evidence. It is certainly arguable that because these laboratories are public government-run labs, information regarding quality assurance, use of particular protocols and qualifications of those who work in the lab should be in the public domain. It also appears that many public labs aggressively fight discovery requests made by defense attorneys and intentionally fail to turn over information that may be construed as damaging to the lab.

In Los Angeles, an internal audit of the Los Angeles Police Dept. Fingerprint Unit that described significant deficiencies in the unit and documented two erroneous identifications made by members of that unit was never disclosed to any defense attorney. In fact, it does not appear that anyone outside of the Los Angeles Police Dept. knew of the existence of the report until the Los Angeles Times obtained a copy of it in October 2008. The audit disclosed that on at least two occasions members of the fingerprint unit had erroneously matched a latent print to a suspect. Six latent print examiners were involved in the erroneous identifications. In each case, a latent print examiner determined that the latent print matched a suspect. Each erroneous identification had been peer reviewed by two additional examiners who made the same error. These erroneous identifications had apparently been discovered by defense attorneys, who had hired independent examiners. The examiners involved in the erroneous identifications had conducted latent print examinations in numerous other cases. Nevertheless, this information was not disclosed to defense attorneys who represented defendants in the cases in which these print examiners had made identifications. It was not until the Los Angeles Times reported this incident that it was brought to the attention of prosecutors and defense attorneys in Los Angeles County. The audit that was prepared also outlined a number of deficiencies that exist in the Los Angeles Police Dept. Latent Print Unit, including findings that existing quality assurance processes are inadequate. The report also noted that one of the files associated with one of the erroneous identifications disappeared shortly after the error was discovered. Requiring greater transparency from government labs is essential to any effort to reform forensic science. The reality is that even if the science itself improves and research is conducted that demonstrates the validity or invalidity of certain forensics methods, without greater access to information about the labs and requirements that forensic reports include all data relied on, all assumptions made and all limitations of opinions rendered, defendants will be denied fair trials and wrongful convictions will continue to occur.

Jennifer Friedman
 is a Los Angeles County Public Defender and the Office's Forensic Science Coordinator. The author's views are hers and not of any other entity.


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

Have a GREAT week!

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