Reasons to Challenge Digital Evidence and Electronic Photography
by Michael Cherry
Originally written for the NACDL Champion; reprinted here with permission of the author.

Scientific Principles of Friction Ridge Analysis
& Applying Daubert to Latent Fingerprint Identification

Written & Compiled By: Thomas J. Ferriola

Identification Technician

Sebastian Police Department, Florida

Is The Study of Fingerprints a Science?

In spite of the fact that the early pioneers clearly considered fingerprint identification a science, an attitude has developed during the last century in some (but not all) regions of the world that fingerprint identification is not science.

Fingerprint identification is based on two primary factors, uniqueness and permanence. On that, we all agree. But in order to truly understand these factors and not just simply parrot some dogmatic explanation, one must understand both human fetal development of friction skin, in that fingerprints form in an embryo during the third and forth months of fetal life. Although skin covers the entire body, only the fingers and palms of the hands, and the toes and soles of the feet are ridged and called friction skin. Friction skin will remain on the fingers, palms, toes and soles until the skin decomposes after death (the foundation of uniqueness) and in addition understand the subsurface structure of human friction skin (the basis for permanence). This requires some fundamental study of human biological sciences. Thus, the basis for fingerprint identification is firmly rooted in science.

Clearly, however, fingerprint identification can not be considered an “exact” science in the same way as, say, mathematics, in which exact numbers or measurements are used to express results. Further, fingerprints can not be considered a “descriptive” science such as, say, ornithology, which identifies a particular species of bird, but not an individual within that species.

Rather, fingerprint identification falls into a category we call applied science. That is, we apply scientific knowledge and principles to real--life problems to arrive at conclusions. This application gives scientific validity to the conclusions. The powerful evidential value of fingerprint identification has its foundation in this scientific validity.  Without it, no fingerprint identification is anything more than the rendering of an educated guess.

Fingerprint identification is also frequently referred to as a forensic science. The word “forensic” simply denotes the use of the discipline in court proceedings. Since fingerprint identification is employed primarily for use in legal situations, it is correctly designated as a forensic science.

Description of fingerprint identification as a “forensic science” or an “applied science” in no way implies that it is not a reliable science. It is an understanding of all of the related scientific principles and their correct application that yield accurate, valid results in any fingerprint comparison. Fingerprint identification, correctly understood and applied, is just as scientifically valid and reliable as any other science and, indeed, more accurate than many.

A characteristic of any field of science is that of allowing the practitioner to make precise statements within the discipline that may be checked or verified by other qualified persons.(1)  This is true in “exact” sciences, “descriptive” sciences, and it is also true in “applied” sciences. The fingerprint expert applies knowledge gained through training and experience to reach a conclusion. From the earliest days of fingerprint identification, verification has been recognized as an important part of the process.

The designation “applied science” extends beyond just the biological foundation of identification, explained as uniqueness and permanence. In order for any identification to be scientifically valid, the entire process of making the identification from start to finish must meet the tests of science. If any element fails to meet scientific standards, then the validity of the identification falls into question.

The concept of “Ridgeology” was sparked originally from the realization that most fingerprint examiners have had only disjointed training in both the scientific foundation and the scientific application of identification principles.(3)  Ridgeology is not, as some people mistakenly believe, making risky identifications based on poroscopy and edgeoscopy. Rather, the term “ridgeology” should be thought of as an umbrella that covers every conceivable related science and concept to the extent that each has application in fingerprint identification.

That said, both poroscopy (Edmund Locard, 1912)(4) and edgeoscopy (Salil Kumar Chatterjee, 1962),(5) are topics studied by serious students of ridgeology. The shapes and relative positions of sweat pores and the shapes of the edges of the ridges have their origin in fetal development and their physical roots deep in the subsurface structure of the skin. Through study of these features, their formation on the fetus, and their foundation in the dermis and the basal layer of the epidermis, it has been learned that they, like traditional minutiae points, are permanent and unique. And when understood, like minutiae points, they add weight to the conclusion of identification.

To ignore sweat pores and edge shapes when they are present is to ignore part of the valid information in the total image. This is by no means to suggest that an expert should ignore the minutiae points and concentrate on the pores and edge shapes. It is simply to say that one must consider all of the information present in both the latent print (or mark) and the inked print. Traditional minutiae points are still the backbone of most comparisons.

In a truly scientific comparison, however, one accepts the idea that not all features in a fingerprint are exactly equal in the weight they contribute to the identification. Some features contribute more to the conclusion, others less. Some features may weigh as a grain of sand when tested on the scale, others may weigh as a cobblestone. In ridgeology, it is up to the expert doing the comparison to determine the relative weight of each feature. The expert makes that determination based upon training and experience.

Clearly, then, one can never have too much training. Study should be an ongoing endeavor of the serious, professional expert. Likewise, one's judgment improves with experience in the comparison of fingerprints.

But no expert should ever extend an opinion beyond scientific understanding and justification. It is up to the expert doing the comparison to determine what may be used and what may not, and further, to determine what relative weight to give each feature represented in each image. Therefore, if the expert does not have a basis for understanding the permanence and uniqueness of a feature or if the expert cannot account for a feature, then the expert cannot give any consideration to that feature in making an identification. No expert should ever give weight to any feature he or she does not understand or is not able to defend in court.

This whole idea of ridgeology, that is, a scientific examination accompanied by accountability on the part of the examiner, may be frightening to some. It means that it is not sufficient to simply count to some magic number and hide behind dogma in making an identification. In ridgeology, the expert must actually understand the basis for identification and be able to account completely for each identification.

The much simpler, much easier, but less valid idea of a threshold limit for identification began with Sir Francis Galton. In his book, Finger Prints, in 1892
(6) Galton proposed a statistical model that divided an entire inked fingerprint into a grid of 35 squares. Galton calculated probabilities based on the presence or absence of minutiae points in each grid area and concluded that the odds of two people having points in the same squares when all 35 are considered is one in 2 to the 47th power.

Galton's model overlooked any consideration of the direction of ridge flow in any of the 35 grid areas and took into account only whether or not a minutiae point was present in any given square. Obviously, Galton's model completely ignored not only ridge flow, but also the shapes of the ridges, the presence of prominent sweat pores, scars, creases or wrinkles, incipient ridges, etc
(7). (Yes, scars, creases and wrinkles,(8) incipient ridges,(9) etc. also have a foundation in biology for permanence and uniqueness.) Thus, Galton's model was sorely lacking in many respects.

Since Galton's time, numerous researchers, both fingerprint examiners and statisticians alike, have proposed new models and refined previous models in an attempt to arrive at a reliable “point” threshold for identification. Ultimately, however, all have failed to arrive at a model accurate in all respects. This is because the minute variations of shape within friction skin are infinite. No model can completely capture all of the possible shapes and features present in an area of friction skin.

Counter to the idea of statistical modeling as the definitive tool of identification, many prominent scientists during the Twentieth Century have added to our understanding of biological uniqueness. Most prominent among these are Wentworth & Wilder in 1918
(10), Cummins and Midlo in 1943,(11) Hale in 1952,(12)  Holt in 1968,(13)  and Montagna & Parakhal in 1974.(14)  Most recently, Dr. William Babler has added significantly to our understanding of the growth of friction ridge skin on the developing fetus.(15)  The work of all of these scientists and many others belongs under the umbrella of ridgeology.

The history of  friction ridge and Scientific Researchers about fingerprint history, is of far more importance for it is here that science makes itself known in the scheme of friction ridge identification. Here we learn that the ridges are unique and are so through differential growth. To mention four important researchers, Whipple (although much of her work has been superseded), Wilder, Cummins, and Hale.

In addition other things, Dr. Inez Whipple found that all mammals have the same morphological arrangements on the hands and feet. She further explains the evolutionary process of friction ridges and explained the growth of ridge units, that patterns were affected by external forces and pressure from neighboring developing ridges. She found that ridges form at right angles to the possible direction of a contact surface and its shape. From Whipple's work, we are taken to Harris Hawthorne Wilder who found the relationship between friction ridges and the volar pads. He describes the ridge units which are subjected to differential growth and as a result, are unique.

Harold Cummins was a Professor of Anatomy at Tulane University, USA. He discovered that volar pad regression takes place at the same time as ridge formation and that disease or birth defects may interfere with pad development, and may also affect friction ridges. Cummins stated, “...the alignments of these ridges are as responsive to stresses in growth as are the alignments of sand to sweeping by wind or wave.”

Alfred Hale was an associate of Cummins and wrote an important paper “Morphogenesis of Volar Skin in the Human Fetus” in which he explains differential growth, the stresses of which condition the alignment and fusion of the ridge units, thereby establishing the primary ridge which also appears as a genetically controlled phenomenon; ridges grow in a totally random fashion.

Add to this research, papers by Okajima and others, and more recently by Karen Holbrook, and we come into the realms of why science plays such an important part in our identification process; this is knowledge that every examiner should know and have access to in order to strengthen their expertise -- especially when giving evidence. There is an abundance of scientific research on epidermal skin which has been neglected by the fingerprint service most likely because identification techniques and science have never before met. The issue regarding uniqueness does not come any clearer than from these scientific researchers.

Standard training lessons on fingerprint history

Pre-historic picture writing of a hand with ridge patterns was discovered in Nova Scotia. In ancient Babylon, fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions. In ancient China, thumb prints were found on clay seals.

In 14th century Persia, various official government papers had fingerprints (impressions), and one government official, a doctor, observed that no two fingerprints were exactly alike.

Marcello Malpighi - 1686

In 1686, Marcello Malpighi, a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, noted in his treatise; ridges, spirals and loops in fingerprints. He made no mention of their value as a tool for individual identification. A layer of skin was named after him; "Malpighi" layer, which is approximately 1.8mm thick.

John Evangelist Purkinji - 1823

In 1823, John Evangelist Purkinji, a professor of anatomy at the University of Breslau, published his thesis discussing 9 fingerprint patterns, but he too made no mention of the value of fingerprints for personal identification. 

Sir William Hershel - 1856

The English first began using fingerprints in July of 1858, when Sir William Herschel, Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, first used fingerprints on native contracts. On a whim, and with no thought toward personal identification, Herschel had Rajyadhar Konai, a local businessman, impress his hand print on the back of a contract.

The idea was merely ". . . to frighten [him] out of all thought of repudiating his signature." The native was suitably impressed, and Herschel made a habit of requiring palm prints--and later, simply the prints of the right Index and Middle fingers--on every contract made with the locals. Personal contact with the document, they believed, made the contract more binding than if they simply signed it. Thus, the first wide-scale, modern-day use of fingerprints was predicated, not upon scientific evidence, but upon superstitious beliefs.

As his fingerprint collection grew, however, Herschel began to note that the inked impressions could, indeed, prove or disprove identity. While his experience with fingerprinting was admittedly limited, Sir Herschel's private conviction that all fingerprints were unique to the individual, as well as permanent throughout that individual's life, inspired him to expand their use. 

Dr. Henry Faulds - 1880

During the 1870's, Dr. Henry Faulds, the British Surgeon-Superintendent of Tsukiji Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, took up the study of "skin-furrows" after noticing finger marks on specimens of "prehistoric" pottery. A learned and industrious man, Dr. Faulds not only recognized the importance of fingerprints as a means of identification, but devised a method of classification as well.

In 1880, Faulds forwarded an explanation of his classification system and a sample of the forms he had designed for recording inked impressions, to Sir Charles Darwin. Darwin, in advanced age and ill health, informed Dr. Faulds that he could be of no assistance to him, but promised to pass the materials on to his cousin, Francis Galton.

Also in 1880, Dr. Faulds published an article in the Scientific Journal, "Nautre" (nature). He discussed fingerprints as a means of personal identification, and the use of printers ink as a method for obtaining such fingerprints. He is also credited with the first fingerprint identification of a greasy fingerprint left on an alcohol bottle.

Gilbert Thompson - 1882

In 1882, Gilbert Thompson of the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, used his own fingerprints on a document to prevent forgery. This is the first known use of fingerprints in the United States. 

Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) - 1883

In Mark Twain's book, "Life on the Mississippi", a murderer was identified by the use of fingerprint identification. In a later book by Mark Twain, "Pudd'n Head Wilson", there was a dramatic court trial on fingerprint identification. A more recent movie was made from this book.

Sir Francis Galton - 1888

Sir Francis Galton, a British anthropologist and a cousin of Charles Darwin, began his observations of fingerprints as a means of identification in the 1880's. In 1892, he published his book, "Fingerprints", establishing the individuality and permanence of fingerprints. The book included the first classification system for fingerprints.

Galton's primary interest in fingerprints was as an aid in determining heredity and racial background. While he soon discovered that fingerprints offered no firm clues to an individual's intelligence or genetic history, he was able to scientifically prove what Herschel and Faulds already suspected: that fingerprints do not change over the course of an individual's lifetime, and that no two fingerprints are exactly the same. According to his calculations, the odds of two individual fingerprints being the same were 1 in 64 billion.

Galton identified the characteristics by which fingerprints can be identified. These same characteristics (minutia) are basically still in use today, and are often referred to as Galton's Details.

Juan Vucetich

In 1891, Juan Vucetich, an Argentine Police Official, began the first fingerprint files based on Galton pattern types. At first, Vucetich included the Bertillon System with the files. (see Bertillon below)

In 1892, Juan Vucetich made the first criminal fingerprint identification. He was able to identify a woman by the name of Rojas, who had murdered her two sons, and cut her own throat in an attempt to place blame on another.

Her bloody print was left on a door post, proving her identity as the murderer. 


Introduction of fingerprints for criminal identification in England and Wales, using Galton's observations and revised by Sir Edward Richard Henry. Thus began the Henry Classification System, used even today in all English speaking countries.


First systematic use of fingerprints in the U.S. by the New York Civil Service Commission for testing. Dr. Henry P. DeForrest pioneers U.S. fingerprinting. 


The New York State Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints in U.S. for criminals. 


The use of fingerprints began in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas, and the St. Louis Police Department. They were assisted by a Sergeant from Scotland Yard who had been on duty at the St. Louis Exposition guarding the British Display. 


1905 saw the use of fingerprints for the U.S. Army. Two years later the U.S. Navy started, and was joined the next year by the Marine Corp. During the next 25 years more and more law enforcement agencies join in the use of fingerprints as a means of personal identification. Many of these agencies began sending copies of their fingerprint cards to the National Bureau of Criminal Identification, which was established by the International Association of Police Chiefs.

It was in 1918 when Edmond Locard wrote that if 12 points (Galton's Details) were the same between two fingerprints, it would suffice as a positive identification. This is where the often quoted (12 points) originated. Be aware though, there is "NO" required number of points necessary for an identification. Some countries have set their own standards which do include a minimum number of points, but not in the United States.


In 1924, an act of congress established the Identification Division of the F.B.I.. The National Bureau and Leavenworth consolidated to form the nucleus of the F.B.I. fingerprint files.

By 1946, the F.B.I. had processed 100 million fingerprint cards in manually maintained files; and by 1971, 200 million cards.

With the introduction of AFIS technology, the files were split into computerized criminal files and manually maintained civil files.  Many of the manual files were duplicates though, the records actually represented somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 million criminals, and an unknown number of individuals in the civil files.

In 1999, the FBI plans to stop using paper fingerprint cards (at least for the newly arriving civil fingerprints) inside their new Integrated AFIS (IAFIS) site at Clarksburg, WV.  IAFIS will initially have individual computerized fingerprint records for approximately 33 million criminals.  Old paper fingerprint cards for the civil files are still manually maintained in a warehouse facility (rented shopping center space) in Fairmont, WV.  Since the Gulf War, most military fingerprint enlistment cards received have been filed only alphabetically by name... the FBI hopes to someday classify and file these cards so they can be of value for unknown casualty (or amnesiac) identification (when no passenger/victim list from a flight, etc., is known).

Why Fingerprint Identification?

Fingerprints offer an infallible means of personal identification. That is the essential explanation for their having supplanted other methods of establishing the identities of criminals reluctant to admit previous arrests. Other personal characteristics change - fingerprints do not.

In earlier civilizations, branding and even maiming were used to mark the criminal for what he was. The thief was deprived of the hand which committed the thievery. The Romans employed the tattoo needle to identify and prevent desertion of mercenary soldiers.

More recently, law enforcement officers with extraordinary visual memories, so-called "camera eyes," identified old offenders by sight. Photography lessened the burden on memory but was not the answer to the criminal identification problem. Personal appearances change.

Around 1870 a French anthropologist devised a system to measure and record the dimensions of certain bony parts of the body. These measurements were reduced to a formula which, theoretically, would apply only to one person and would not change during his/her adult life.

This Bertillon System, named after its inventor, Alphonse Bertillon, was generally accepted for thirty years. But it never recovered from the events of 1903, when a man named Will West was sentenced to the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. You see, there was already a prisoner at the penitentiary at the time, whose Bertillon measurements were nearly exact, and his name was William West.

Upon an investigation, there were indeed two men. They looked exactly alike, but were allegedly not related. Their names were Will and William West respectively. Their Bertillon measurements were close enough to identify them as the same person. However, a fingerprint comparison quickly and correctly identified them as two different people. The West men were apparently identical twin brothers per indications in later discovered prison records citing correspondence from the same immediate family relatives.

The fact is that human friction ridge skin is unique. One empirical way of grasping this concept is to start with the premise that the friction ridge skin on a whole fingertip is unique. That is to say, no two people now living, or who ever have lived, or who ever will live, can have exactly the same minute details of the friction ridge skin across the whole surface of a fingertip. If that fact is accepted, then one must accept that, if a fingertip were cut in half, each half would still be unique; half of unique must still be unique. Slice again the remaining half a finger, and still there is uniqueness; one--fourth of unique is still unique. At no point in the division process does some small fraction of uniqueness cease to be unique. Our ability to discern that uniqueness will undoubtedly falter at some point, but the skin itself, even in a very small area, remains unique. \

The shapes and features present on any area of friction skin are impossible to completely quantify. Probabilities cannot be accurately calculated. Any predetermined point threshold fails to provide for a reliable basis of identification unless the number is set so high that a substantial percentage of valid identifications go unclaimed by virtue of failing to meet the threshold.

Another problem with establishing a threshold limit for identification is the fact that a latent print or mark results from friction ridge skin touching and depositing some contaminant on a surface. No touch of a surface can be completely free of distorting influences. We do not compare skin to skin to establish identity; rather, we compare image to image to determine if the two images originated with the same source, i.e., the same area of friction skin. Each image, usually one a latent print and the other an inked print, is subject to numerous sources of distortion affecting interpretation of the image. The consequence of distortion is that no two touches can have, in all regards, exactly the same distorting factors affecting the prints or images that are being compared.

Therefore, the degree of clarity in the resulting print is a factor in its potential value for identification. As the clarity of a print decreases, the actual physical area or number of features required for making an identification increases.(17)  Most examiners would agree that, in general, fewer matching “points” are necessary to form an opinion with a very clear print than with a badly smudged print. That is because, even subconsciously, the human brain uses the finer detail, i.e., the shapes, in reaching a conclusion.

Along with the consideration of clarity comes the concept of tolerance. The greater the clarity of an image, the lower the level of tolerance one can allow for differences in appearance between the latent and inked prints. Conversely, the less clarity, the greater the tolerance one would have to allow. But at the same time, as clarity goes down and tolerance goes up, so must the physical size of the print or the number of features to conclude a positive identification.(18)

International bodies of experts have studied the subject of point standards and issued consensus reports to the effect that no valid threshold limit exists. In 1973, the report of the Standardization Committee of the International Association for Identification resulted in the adoption by the IAI of Resolution VII, which stated:

The International Association for Identification assembled in its 58th Annual Conference at Jackson, Wyoming, this First Day of August, 1973, based upon a three--year study by its Standardization Committee, hereby states that no valid basis exists at this time for requiring that a pre--determined minimum number of friction ridge characteristics must be present in two impressions in order to establish positive identification. The foregoing reference to friction ridge characteristics applies equally to fingerprints, palm prints, toe prints and sole prints of the human body.(19)  

More recently, at a symposium attended by approximately one hundred recognized fingerprint experts from around the world and hosted by the Israel National Police in 1995, the “Ne'urim Declaration” was adopted by the fingerprint examiners assembled, stating: No scientific basis exists for requiring that a pre--determined minimum number of friction ridge features must be present in two impressions in order to establish a positive identification


Comparison of fingerprints for purposes of identification focuses on three different levels of details.

Level One  ( Ridge Flow & Class Characteristics)
is the largest scale of information, such as the general type of the central area of the fingerprint, such as an arch, whorl, or loop. Other level one details may include such matters as the overall ridge count, focal areas of the print, such as "delta regions" (roughly triangular shaped areas where ridges flowing in different directions meet), and the orientation of the print. Showing that level one details are identical is not enough to make an identification of the finger that is the source of a latent print.

Level Two   (Ridge Characteristics or Points)
  detail focuses on the characteristics of ridge paths, such as places where ridges bifurcate or end or create dots or islands. These features provide a great deal of detail. Each feature can be identified in terms of the type of feature (end, bifurcation, etc.), its direction, and its location with respect to other identifiable features in the print. Level two detail can be used to identify one individual finger from among the entire human population as the source of the latent print.

Level Three     (  Ridge Structure )
  detail can be described as "ridge detail," with such tiny features as pores on a ridge and the width and shape of the ridge itself and its edges. These level three details are the most vulnerable to problems with the quality of the latent print. They are so small that a clear, high quality image is needed to make accurate comparisons. When the latent print is sufficiently clear, level three detail can contribute to the identification of the source of a latent print.

The Justice Department, FBI uses and has adopted a standard method a
fingerprint examiner goes through. It is a four-step process with the acronym "ACE-V," for analysis, comparison, evaluation, and verification, and focusing on Level one, Level two and Level three details
The first phase is analysis. Analysis is a thorough examination of the unknown. In the case of fingerprints, the latent print would be examined to determine the ridge formations that exist at three levels of detail. “Level one detail” refers to the first appearance of the print noticed at the beginning of an examination. Generally, “Level one” refers to the overall pattern or ridge flow tendencies of the print. “Level two detail” refers to the next features observed, generally those with a physical dimension on the order of magnitude of a ridge width. The so--called “Minutiae” or “points,” are level two detail. “Level three detail” refers to smaller features generally observed under magnification. Level three features are normally contained within a single ridge, such as shapes and positions of sweat pores (poroscopy) or distinctive shapes on the edge of a ridge (edgeoscopy). Incipient ridge shapes are also usually considered level three details, but the presence of incipient ridges in general would be a level one consideration. A large scar might be considered as level one detail, whereas a small scar might only be observed at level two. Within a scar there may be valuable level three detail. A thorough analysis of the unknown consists of far more than simply looking at the minutiae points.

Another part of the analysis of a latent print is the assessment of all of the various causes of distortion and their effect upon the print. Distortion could result from a number of sources, including the matrix, or residue, which comprises the print; the substrate, or surface, on which the print was left; the direction of touch; the pressure of the touch; reaction of the matrix with the development medium; and so on. All of these factors should be assessed during the analysis of the latent print.

Analysis also takes into consideration the clarity of the print. Clarity differences result from distortion. A latent print lacking level three detail as a result of pressure distortion, for example, might be described as having a low degree of clarity, whereas a print showing good pore and edge structure and having minimal distortion might be characterized as having a high degree of clarity.

Inherent in the analysis of the latent print is the selection of a suitable target to be memorized and used when searching the inked prints. Such a target is usually an easily recognizable cluster of minutiae points. On the other hand, it might be a distinctive scar, a prominent crease or wrinkle pattern, or any other significant and easily recognizable formation that results from features in the area of friction skin that left the print. The target will be the starting point for the second and third phases of the identification process, therefore it should be both an easily recognizable feature in the unknown print and potentially the easiest to find in the known prints.

A thorough analysis should be accompanied by the taking of detailed notes describing the latent print. Notes should make reference to all observed distortion factors. Notes may also include reference to the level of clarity present in the print. One might actually draw the target, both as an aid in its memorization and as a part of the description of the latent. On occasion, one may even choose to physically follow or trace the ridges completely throughout the print and draw a representation of the entire latent in the notes. This type of demonstrable analysis lends credence to any subsequent identification.

Once a thorough analysis of the latent print has been completed, the second phase of the identification process is comparison. Whereas, during analysis the examiner focuses exclusively on the unknown print, during the comparison phase the examiner concentrates primarily on the known, or inked, prints. The examiner searches each inked print in turn, observing all three levels of detail in a search for an image that is consistent with the detail found in the latent print during its analysis, and that has the target selected for the search.

Once a known print is located that is consistent in appearance with the unknown and contains the target, the examiner enters the third phase of the identification process, evaluation. In this phase, the two prints are examined together, side by side. The examiner finds features first in the unknown print, then in the known print, then evaluates the corresponding features to determine if they are within tolerance for the level of clarity that exists in the images. In this manner, the examiner goes back and forth between the two prints, finding features first in the unknown, then evaluating their appearance in the known print.

The reason for working from the unknown image to the known has its foundation in human psychology. When dealing with a less clear image, usually the latent or unknown print, the brain is subject to influence by “mind--set.” If a feature is first observed in a clear image, the brain may form an expectation and be tricked into “seeing” the same feature in an unclear image even though it does not actually exist there. Take, for example, in the case of a faint ninhydrin print ( a chemical used in latent print development ) in which the ridges appear primarily as a series of light dots. If the examiner concentrates on first finding points in a clear, high contrast inked print, then tries to find the same points in the poorly defined latent, mind--set might easily lead the examiner to “see” points that do not exist. To avoid this possibility, a cautious examiner always finds the features in the unknown print first, free from mind--set, then locates and evaluates the corresponding features in the known print.   

During the evaluation phase of the identification process, the examiner must consider all of the differences in appearance between the two images. It is an accepted tenant of fingerprint science that no two prints will ever be exactly the same in all respects. First, any touch is a contact between a complex curved surface (the skin) and, usually, a flat surface. This touch must necessarily be accompanied by distortion of the skin itself. Second, the amount and type of matrix (residue left behind) will differ. Third, the angle and pressure of the contact will change from one touch to the next. Fourth, the size of the area of skin coming into contact with the surface will vary. Any number of other factors may also contribute to differences, some subtle and some extreme, in the appearance of two prints that result from two touches by the same region of friction skin. It is not sufficient to look only for similarities and ignore the differences, nor is it proper to look at only some features and ignore others. The true expert must consider everything appearing in each image.

It is at this point that tolerance enters the equation. Based on an understanding of distortion and its sources, some differences in appearance fall within acceptable limits of tolerance. For example, it is an easy task to understand and to account for the differences in appearance between a print resulting from a light touch and a print resulting from a heavy touch. The differences in appearance between a fully rolled inked print and a crime scene mark are also easy to understand and easy to account for. These differences would be said to be within tolerance.

On the other hand, for example, a clear crime scene mark with a whorl pattern having an outer tracing, when compared to an inked print having a whorl pattern with an inner tracing, would be considered out of tolerance, even at level one. A ridge ending or bifurcation in one print where an open field of ridges exists in the other print would be out of tolerance at level two. Two bifurcations opening in the same direction, whose shoulders are essentially even in a crime scene mark with high clarity, would also be out of tolerance when evaluated with two bifurcations opening in the same direction in the inked print in which the shoulders were offset.

Analysis, comparison, and evaluation – ACE – takes into consideration much more than simply looking at the points in a crime scene mark, checking the inked print, and counting until a threshold number is reached. It is the evaluation, that is, the determination that all features are within tolerance as determined by the clarity of the two images, that sets the scientific process apart from the simpler idea of counting points. For that reason, this methodology is sometimes referred to as the “evaluative process.”

The final step in the process is verification the general rule is that all positive identification opinions must be verified by a second qualified expert. The second expert may repeat the entire process, but the comparison may not be blind. That is, the second expert may know from the outset that another examiner has already made the positive identification.(21)

Some organizations do not tell the latent print examiner conducting the verification the results of their examination.

Technically speaking, verification is not a part of the identification process. The identification itself takes place in the mind of the examiner making the comparison. Verification is the identification process repeated in someone else's mind.

Independent verification, however, is a crucial part of the scientific process. Without such verification, identification has not been proven to the level required by science. No report should be made of an identification until a second qualified expert has made that verification independently of influence or pressure from any source.

Of course, the most important practical reason for having verification performed is that it reduces the risk of an erroneous identification being reported. In any field of human endeavor, there exists the potential for human error. When an erroneous identification is formally reported, almost certainly an innocent person will suffer. A conscientious program of independent verification, followed without exception, should catch erroneous identifications and prevent them from being acted upon.  

Erroneous identifications among cautious, competent examiners, thankfully, are exceedingly rare; some might say, “impossible.” Clerical errors, however, are not uncommon. Writing down the wrong finger, or worse, writing down the wrong name, occurs far more frequently than a true erroneous identification. If the most important practical function of verification is to prevent the reporting of erroneous identifications, the more frequent benefit of verification is the avoidance of embarrassment, or worse, false arrest resulting from clerical errors. A true clerical error should not be considered an erroneous identification, but department policies and procedures should be written to ensure the prevention of clerical errors
(22) (23).

Other well qualified  certified latent print experts have stated (24)  the results of a fingerprint comparison are far more than just the subjective opinion of the examiner.  In the legal arena, expert witness testimony is presented as opinion testimony, not because the conclusion is someone's personal opinion, but because it is a conclusion that the lay person is incapable of forming.(25)  The conclusion reached by the latent print examiner is an “interpretation or conclusion by trained individuals after conducting an examination employing scientific principles, that are reproducible (26)  Regardless of the scientific or technical discipline, the purpose of the expert witness in the legal system is to interpret information and form a conclusion that a jury of lay persons would be incapable of doing.  If a person without any training in the area of fingerprint identification would provide an opinion as to an identification, that opinion would be subjective and based on personal feelings, rather than skill, and would sound something like “it looks the same to me.”  A fingerprint examiner's conclusion is not based upon a personal opinion, but rather on an evaluation of the detail present using knowledge and skills acquired through training, education, and experience.  

Very few forms of scientific evidence could be better described as objective than the identification of a latent print by a skilled examiner.  This was noted in the written opinion of the Honorable  David Hamilton for the Daubert Hearing in U.S. v. Havvard,(27) when Judge Hamilton stated:

“... latent print identification easily satisfies the standards of reliability .... In fact, after going through this analysis, the court believes that latent print identification is the very archetype of reliable expert testimony under those [Daubert] standards.”

Some of the Daubert Hearings into fingerprint identification are the result of fingerprint examiners incorrectly stating that the identification process or its results are subjective.  One noted fingerprint examiner, David Ashbaugh, (28) states that the conclusion reached by a fingerprint examiner is subjective because it is “based on the knowledge and ability of the examiner.  This is not a correct interpretation of the word subjective, but closely resembles the legal definition of an expert witness. Training, education, and experience are the tangible assets that form the foundation of an examiner's expertise and are not created in the examiner's mind.  A fingerprint examiner's knowledge and ability can be and is tested, is documented and can be verified, and is evaluated by the courts and juries every time the examiner takes the witness stand.

A fingerprint identification is the result of a comparison of the unique features present in the two prints being compared.  The comparison process is done in a methodical way using the scientific methodology now commonly referred to above as ACE/V (Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, and Verification).  The detail or features present are analyzed. The detail present in the two prints is compared, and an evaluation of that detail takes place to determine if both prints came from the same source.  After an identification is made, the process is repeated during the verification process by another examiner.   Something subjective is not based on the attributes of the object being examined, such as the features of a fingerprint, but rather on the feelings of the examiner, and feelings are not verifiable.  

One of the cornerstone principles of scientific evidence and its examination  is that it is not influenced by the mood, emotions, or the personal prejudices of the examiner.   Subjectiveness is based solely on personal feelings.

It has been argued that the only true science is mathematics.  Fingerprint identification shares many things in common with mathematics.  One is that there is only one correct answer to every problem.  In fingerprint identification every impression could  have come from only one source and therefore there is only one correct conclusion to every comparison.  The ability to arrive at the correct conclusion is affected by the quality of the impressions being compared and the skill of the examiner (29).  In mathematics, the ability to come to a correct conclusion is based on the complexity of the problem and the skill of the mathematician.  Skill is not subjective.

The  argument that there is no objective standard for identifications is also incorrect.  This argument is based solely on the fact that some would prefer a preconceived arbitrary numerical standard.  This type of standard would not apply to a unique event and therefore would not be founded in science.  This type of simpler standard was the norm in the early 1900's.  The research into the complex formation of friction skin and over 100 years of empirical knowledge, validation, and testing have allowed us to abandon this simpler way of thinking.   A numerical standard reflects a lack of knowledge of the complexity and uniqueness of what is being compared and satisfies only the uninformed or simpleminded.   

Currently, there are, in fact, many objective standards in place for friction skin identification.  By using the tenet that acknowledges that every area of friction skin is unique and that the dynamics of every comparison is, in itself, unique and is influenced by the quality and quantity of the features present is in itself a standard based on the scientific research into the formation of friction skin.  This standard has been acknowledged and accepted by the courts.  The fact that latent print examiners avoid probable or possible identifications which lack any scientific foundation is a standard.   Verification is also a standard.  The requirement that another examiner independently examine and verify identifications prior to reporting is, in fact, a very high objective standard that has been acknowledged by several courts during Daubert challenges.(30)

 The importance and impact of positive print identifications is well documented and needs no further explanation. Yet there is another significant area of print comparison that is often totally disregarded and considered taboo by many in the latent print community. This is offering opinions on prints that lack the criteria for a positive identification.

Although every other discipline in forensic sciences commonly offers opinions that are less than positive, there is a hysterical reluctance among many latent print examiners to state any opinion other than the print is either a positive identification or it is of no value. One argument I've heard against offering a less than positive opinion in print identification is that the discipline should remain "pure". This would be the simple approach, to convince yourself that everything is either black or white but this philosophy is not in step with reality and that gray area in between is often too important to ignore.   

Let's talk about the criteria for making print identification. The biology of fingerprints is a science because of the accepted facts that friction ridges are formed prior to birth; they remain constant throughout life (barring injury etc.) and the arrangement of the ridge characteristics in any given area of friction skin is never duplicated. The comparison and identification of prints is more of an imprecise art or skill, with the expertise to interpret the marks left by the friction ridges being attained through training and experience. What constitutes an identification varies greatly between agencies and even between examiners in the same department. 

Take the case where a latent print that possesses 8 matching points with a subject's inked print is compared by different examiners. The first examiner's criteria for identification is 9 points, so he makes a positive identification. The second examiner's criteria is 7 points, therefore he is unable to make a positive identification. Is it wrong for the second examiner to report his findings either verbally or in writing? Many examiners are adamant that the second examiner should report that since he did not make a positive identification, the print is of no value. I would argue that the facts of his examination, that he didn't make a positive identification, yet he found a significant number of matching points should be presented as evidence in both the investigation and prosecution of the case. Let the investigators, judges, and juries weigh the value of the evidence. How can we expect the courts to take us seriously when one examiner identifies a print and another reports the print is of no value?

Although discouraged, the Amended Resolution VII/V of the International Association for Identification allows for possible, probable or likely testimony with qualifiers. Wouldn't it be better practice to state the facts of a comparison (that the print lacked the criteria for a 100% positive identification, however, 6 (or 7) points match and there is a degree of probability the print was made by a particular person), rather than totally disregard the print or worse yet identify the print by lessening the criteria for an identification.

Those who insist on the fallacy that a print is either a positive identification or it is on no value, are encouraging practices that can lead to the worst possible scenario, the wrongful identification. Because many examiners feel pressured into positively identifying a print, misidentifications are made. Because wrongful identifications are usually not publicly documented, most people think bum identifications are a rare occurrence.  Unfortunately, too many prints are erroneously identified because examiners fee they had no option and they tried too hard to make an identification they could report.

In debates over this subject, the following hypothetical case has been used to point out the potential value of prints that lack the criteria for a positive identification. A print found at a murder scene has 6 clear characteristics and the ridge flow is discernable. There are several potential suspects and the matching of this print with any of the suspects would be crucial to the investigation and prosecution of the case. The six ridge characteristics, their unit relationship and ridge flow all correspond with one of the suspects and virtually nothing matches with the other suspects. Could you, with a clear conscience, testify this is of no value? To ignore this or simply state the print can be neither identified or eliminated is disregarding the facts and strong evidence in determining the guilt and innocence of the persons involved.

There's no question this is often difficult testimony. However, when this type of testimony is elicited, it is because it is usually crucial to the case. As long as you are objective about the facts, your professional opinion as an expert is highly regarded by the courts. 


The statement is often made that there are only two possible results of a fingerprint vs. fingerprint or latent print vs. fingerprint comparison, the two prints either were or were not made by the same person. That might be the case, if both the known and the questioned prints always represented the same area of the finger or palm print; if both impressions were identifiable; if the ridge detail in each impression was of sufficient clarity; and if all examiners were of the same skill level.

Absent one or more of the above factors, the findings that a skilled examiner can make based upon a comparison in order to provide a full and complete statement of fact should go well beyond two possible outcomes. Following are some of the conclusions or findings that can be reached as a result of a comparison of an unknown impression (latent or inked) with a know impression:

A. Unidentifiable Unknown Impressions:

1. The unknown impression is of no value for identification or elimination purposes.
2. The unknown impression is of no identification value, however, subject X can be eliminated from having made the impression.
3. The unknown impression does not contain a sufficient number of ridge characteristics to be utilized for identification purposes. However all of the minutiae present in the unknown impression correspond with minutiae in the same area of the known impression of subject X, therefore subject X can neither be identified nor eliminated from having made the unknown impression.

B. Identifiable Impression:

1. The unknown impression was not made by subject X
2. The unknown impression was made by subject X
3. The unknown impression is identifiable, however, due to the poor quality of the known impressions, subject X can neither be eliminated nor identified as having made the unknown impression.
4. The unknown impression is identifiable, and although all of the minutiae that are visible in the area common to the two impressions match and no differing minutiae are present. An identification cannot be established due to the fact that a portion of the pertinent area of the known impression is not properly recorded (smudged, smeared, superimposed, or not recorded).

On previously listed section A-3, I might want to go a step further and be specific about the number of minutiae that match between the known and the unknown impressions. Section B-4 would be beneficial to investigators, because they could then take appropriate steps to obtain better sets of know prints for comparison. It would also be extremely helpful if the examiner indicated what area of the print the similarities were found.

There could be cases where expert latent print testimony on non-identifiable prints help the jury in making a more intelligent decision, however the hypothetical cases given this paper should suffice in pointing out the value that can be gained by locating several points of similarity on a particular subject's prints. Usually when testimony is given on prints that are not identifiable, the examiner testifies to the number of matching points that are found and the prosecutor attempts to determine how high of a probability exists that the prints was made by a particular individual. 
Martin W. "Marty" Collins stated the results of one case that was somewhat different. A print on the alleged murder weapon possessed several ridge characteristics. One examiner testified that the print was not identifiable, therefore under Resolution V of the IAI it was of no value. Another examiner compared the latent print with all areas of the major case prints of the suspect and determined the print was not made by the arrested subject. This case illustrates the value non-identifiable prints have to help eliminate subjects as well as pointing the investigation in their direction. Many of those familiar with cases of this nature consider this an example of good forensic practices by the examiner who eliminated the subject and question the ethics or ability of the examiner who testified the print was of no value. Yet others would criticize the examiner who eliminated the subject for giving his opinion and would suggest he should have been reprimanded by I.A.I. Needless to say, emotions run high on this subject.

Constraints of time and manpower will not allow us to attempt to eliminate or find some similarities in every print we examine. However, every once in a while a crucial print that cannot be identified could be the deciding factor in determining guilt or innocence.

Displaying analytical judgment raises our discipline to a higher degree of professionalism. Other disciplines in Forensics testify to the degrees of probability in their respective fields. Why should the expert opinion of a Latent Print Examiner be limited or given any less consideration than an expert in serology, ballistics, trace evidence, impression evidence (tire and tool marks) or handwriting?

Applying Daubert to Latent print Identification
The Background

In 1993, as a result of the proceedings of a civil case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S.579, 113 S.Ct.2786,125 L.Ed. 2d. 469 (1993), Supreme Court ruled that admissibility of scientific evidence would be based on an independent judicial assessment of reliability rather than "general acceptance" by the scientific community.

In order to determine the reliability of scientific evidence,  the court came up with the following list of inquiries to be used by judges (the process now referred to as a 'Daubert' hearing): 

1)      Has the scientific theory or technique been empirically

            (originating in or based on observation or experience) tested?

2)  Has the scientific theory or technique been subjected to peer review and  publication?

3)  What is the known or potential rate of error?

4)      Do standards for controlling the use of the scientific technique exist and are they


      5)  Is there general acceptance of the technique by the scientific community?

United States of America vs Byron Mitchell
The Challenge………..1999

The first challenge to fingerprint evidence under the Daubert guidelines occurred in Philadelphia.  The case was United States vs Byron Mitchell and involved fingerprints found on the gearshift and door of a getaway car used in a robbery

The defense petitioned the courts for a 'Daubert' hearing to determine the admissibility of the fingerprint identification as 'scientific' evidence on the grounds that...

1.      It has not been properly tested;

2.      There is no known error rate for latent fingerprint examiners;

3.      Fingerprint examiners do not possess uniform objective                                       standards to guide them in their comparisons;

4.      There is not a general consensus that fingerprint examiners can reliably make identifications on the basis of only nine matching characteristics;

5.      The professional literature of the fingerprint community                                         confirms the scientific bankruptcy of the field;

6.      Latent fingerprint identifications are analogous to other                                          techniques, such as handwriting analysis and hair fiber                                        comparisons, that federal courts, in the wake of Daubert,
 have found to be scientifically unreliable;

7.      Latent fingerprint identifications do not have any non-judicial                                applications.

The defense asked the question, "Is there a scientific basis for a fingerprint examiner to make an identification, of absolute certainty, from a small distorted latent fingerprint fragment, revealing only a small number of basic ridge characteristics such as the nine characteristics identified by the FBI examiner at Mr. Mitchell's first trial?"...

The Results -
News Release, September 22, 1999

The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced today that the Honorable J. Curtis Joyner of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, today upheld the admissibility of fingerprint evidence and rejected a challenge by the defense attorney to exclude that evidence in the case of United States v. Byron C. Mitchell, Criminal No. 96-00407.

Judge Joyner ruled that the government can present expert testimony as to the fingerprint identification made of latent thumb prints found on the outside door handle and on the gear shift knob of the getaway car used in an armored truck robbery.

In particular, the Court found that fingerprint evidence is admissible under Rule 702 of the Rules of Evidence and the Supreme Court's decisions in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and Kumho Tire Company, Ltd. v. Patrick Carmichael, 119 S. Ct. 1167 (1999). The Court also agreed to take judicial notice in the case that : 1) Human Friction Ridges are Unique and Permanent throughout the area of the friction ridge skin including small friction ridge areas, and 2) Human Friction Ridge Skin Arrangements are Unique and Permanent. The Court granted the government's request to exclude the testimony of the defendant's experts James E. Starrs, a Professor at George Washington University Law School, David A. Stoney, Ph.D. of the McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, and
Simon A. Cole, Ph.D. Those witnesses testified that fingerprint evidence and comparisons are not scientific evidence under Daubert. 

Byron Mitchell was convicted. 

 As of June 1st, 2002 thirty-seven challenges have been filed and ALL have been unsuccessful in preventing the admission of fingerprint evidence. (31). 

United States v. Havvard, 117 F. Supp.2d 848 (D.C. Ind., 2000).
Defendant Wade Havvard was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Before trial, Havvard filed a motion in limine seeking to bar the government from offering an expert opinion on whether a latent fingerprint recovered from one of the firearms in question matched Havvard's left index finger. Havvard contends that opinion evidence on latent fingerprint identification does not meet the standards of reliability for admissible expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999).

The court has adapted the Daubert reliability factors to this case, and those factors strongly support the reliability of latent print identification despite the absence of a single quantifiable threshold.

First, the methods of latent print identification can be and have been tested. They have been tested for roughly 100 years. They have been tested in adversarial proceedings with the highest possible stakes--liberty and sometimes life. The defense has offered no evidence in this case undermining the reliability of the methods in general. The government points out correctly that if anyone were to come across a case in which two different fingers had identical fingerprints, that news would flash around the legal world at the speed of light. It has not happened in 100 years.

Further, the methods can be tested in any individual case. Any identification opinion must be based on objective information--the latent image and the known exemplar--that is equally available to any qualified examiner for comparison and possible disagreement. A single unexplained discrepancy between a latent print and a known exemplar is enough to falsify an opinion of identification.

Next, the methods of identification are subject to peer review. As just stated, any other qualified examiner can compare the objective information upon which the opinion is based and may render a different opinion if warranted. In fact, peer review is the standard operating procedure among latent print examiners.

Daubert refers to publication after peer review, which is important in evaluating scientific evidence because it shows that others qualified in a field have evaluated the method or theory outside the context of litigation and have found it worthy of publication. The factor does not fit well with fingerprint identification because it is a field that has developed primarily for forensic purposes. The purpose of the publication factor is easily satisfied here, however, because latent fingerprint identification has been subject to adversarial testing for roughly 100 years, again in cases with the highest stakes possible. That track record provides far greater assurance of reliability than, for example, publication of one peer-reviewed article describing a novel theory about the cause of a particular disease at issue in a civil lawsuit.

Another Daubert factor is whether there are standards for controlling the technique. There are such standards through professional training, peer review, criticism, and presentation of conflicting evidence.

Another Daubert factor is whether there is a high known or potential error rate. There is not. The defense has presented no evidence of error rates, or even of any errors. The government claims the error rate for the method is zero. The claim is breathtaking, but it is qualified by the reasonable concession that an individual examiner can of course make an error in a particular case. See Moenssens, et al., Scientific Evidence in Civil and Criminal Cases at 516 ("in a great number of criminal cases" defense experts have undermined prosecution by showing faulty procedures or human errors in use of fingerprint evidence). Most important, an individual examiner's opinion can be tested and challenged for error by having another qualified examiner compare exactly the same images the first one compared. See also Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596, 113 S.Ct. 2786 ("Vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.").

Even allowing for the possibility of individual error, the error rate with latent print identification is vanishingly small when it is subject to fair adversarial testing and challenge. It is certainly far lower than the error rate for other types of opinions that courts routinely allow, such as opinions about the diagnosis of a disease, the cause of an accident or disease, whether a fire was accidental or deliberate in origin, or whether a particular industrial facility was the likely source of a contaminant in groundwater. As these examples indicate, the fact that some professional judgment and experience is required also does not mean that expert testimony is inadmissible. It is instead the hallmark of expert testimony, so long as it can otherwise meet the standards of reliability set forth in Daubert and Kumho Tire.

In sum, despite the absence of a single quantifiable standard for measuring the sufficiency of any latent print for purposes of identification, the court is satisfied that latent print identification easily satisfies the standards of reliability in Daubert and Kumho Tire. In fact, after going through this analysis, the court believes that latent print identification is the very archetype of reliable expert testimony under those standards. At the request of the government, the court has prepared this written opinion so that other courts might avoid unnecessarily replicating the process of establishing these points as they try to ensure they comply with the Supreme Court's directive to ensure that all types of expert testimony are subject to screening for reliability.

For the foregoing reasons, defendant Havvard's motion to exclude the government's proffered opinion testimony on the source of the latent fingerprint on one of the firearms in this case was denied. The defendant had his own consulting expert on fingerprint issues. He also had the opportunity at trial to call his own witness to offer a different opinion or to show the jury if there was any discrepancy between the latent print on the firearm and the known print of the defendant's index finger. He did not do so


Legal Challenges  to 


                                  FINGERPRINT CHALLENGE RULINGS  

Updates courtesy of AUSA Paul Sarmousakis and FBI Fingerprint Specialist Stephen Meagher

  1. US v. Byron Mitchell; July 7-13, 1999; US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania 
  2. (Civil matter) Anthony Golden v. County of Los Angeles, September 24, 1999; Los Angeles, CA


  1. US v. Hilerdieu Alteme; April 3-6, 2000; Ft. Lauderdale, FL


  1. People v. Torres; May, 2000; Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles


  1. US v. Stanley Leon Obanion Jr. and Joseph Brooks Robinson; June, 2000; Beltsville, MD


  1. US v. Williams; July 7, 2000; Western District of Washington, Tacoma Division


  1. US v. Wade Havvard (note two "v's", not "w" in Havvard); September 11, 2000; Indianapolis, IN


  1. State of California v. Robert Nawi; October 10, 2000; San Francisco, CA 


  1. State of Georgia vs. Jeffrey Vincent McGee; October 27, 2000; Carrollton, GA


  1. US v. William Baker, et al; November 13, 2000; Washington D.C.


  1. US v. Graham Rogers; December 6-7, 2000; Richmond, North Carolina


  1. US v. Martinez-Cintron, March 21, 2001 Puerto Rico


  1. US v. Ahmed Ressam, Western District of Washington


  1. State of Arizona v. Toribio Rodriquez; April 24 - May 7, 2001, Tucson, Arizona


  1. State of California v. David Ake;  May 7, 2001; Butte County, CA


  1. US v. Sydney Joseph, May 14, 2001, US District Court, Eastern District of LA


  1. US v. Deago Lance Cheshier, June 1, 2001; Indianapolis, IN


  1. US v. Justin Gabriel Hernandez, July 24, 2001, US District Court for the District of Nebraska


  1. US v. Donald REAUX, September 21, 2001 Eastern District of Louisiana


  1. U.S. v. Alberto Martinez-Lopez, October 4, 2001, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California


  1. State of New York .v Hyatt, October 10, 2001, Supreme Court of the State of NY, County of Kings


  1. US v. Gary Ramsey, October 15-16, 2001, US District Court, Eastern District of PA


  1. PA v. Andrew J. Vikara, III, October 22, 2001, Lackawanna County, PA


  1. US v. Navarro, October 24, 2001, US Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit, on Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands


  1. US v. Ahmed K. Henry, November 20, 2001, Western District of Louisiana


  1. US v. Dennis Mooney, December 5, 2001, District of Maine


  1. US v. Harry Ralph Neal, January 2, 2002, US District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania 


  1. US v. Llera Plaza, January 7, 2002, US District Court, Eastern District of PA 


  1. US v. Llera Plaza, February 25-27, 2002, US District Court, Eastern District of PA
  2. People of the State of Colorado v. Billy Joe McGhee, February 4, 2002, Colorado Springs, CO


  1. US v. Kenneth L. Coleman, February 5, 2002, US District Court, Eastern District of Missouri


  1. US v. Brent Merritt, February 19, 2002, US District Court, Southern District of Indiana


  1. US v. Salim,  March 11, 2002, US District Court for the Southern District of New York


  1. US v. Aaron London, March 12, 2002, US District Court for the District of New Jersey


  1. US v. Jerome Washington, March 14, 2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan


  1. U.S. v. James M. Broten, et al., March 25, 2002, US District Court for the Northern District of New York


  1.  Not evadible at this time.




  1. McGraw--Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 7th Edition, McGraw--Hill, Inc., V 16, p.114, 1992

2.       Scientific Comparison and Identification of Fingerprint Evidence
By PAT A. WERTHEIM, C.L.P.E. (This paper was given as a lecture, at The Fingerprint Society Lectures, Liverpool; 17--19th March 2000 and printed in the July 2000 issue of Fingerprint Whorld.)

3.       Ashbaugh, David R, “Ridgeology,” Journal of Forensic Identification, 41(1), 1991.

4.       Locard, Edmund, “Les Pores et l'identification des criminels,” Biologica, Vol. 2, 1912.

5.       Chatterjee, Salil Kumar, “Edgeoscopy,” Finger Print and Identification Magazine, 44(3), 1962

6.        Galton, Frances, Fingerprints, McaMillan and Co., London, 1892

7.       Ashbaugh, ibid.

8.       -----, “Palmar Flexion Crease Identification,” Journal of Forensic Identification, 41(4), 1991.

9.       -----, “Incipient Ridges and the Clarity Spectrum,” Journal of Forensic Identification, 42(2), 1992.

10.   Wilder, Harris Hawthorne, and Bert Wentworth, Personal Identification, The Gorham Press, Boston, 1918.

11.   Cummins, Harold, and Charles Midlo, Finger Prints, Palms and Soles – An Introduction to Dermatoglyphics, The Blakiston Company, Philadelphia, 1943.

12.   Hale, Alfred R., “Morphogenesis of Volar Skin in the Human Fetus,” American Journal of Anatomy, 91(1), 1952.

13.   Holt, Sarah B., The Genetics of Dermal Ridges, Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, Springfield, Illinois, 1968.

14.   Montagna, William, and Paul F. Parakkal, The Structure and Function of Skin, Third Addition, Academic Press, Orlando, 1974.

15.   Babler, William J., Testimony regarding the development of friction ridge skin on the human fetus, “Daubert Hearing” on fingerprints in the case of United States v. Byron C. Mitchell, Criminal No. 96--00407, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Honorable J. Curtis Joyner presiding, July 7, 1999.

16.     Latent Print Examination (

17.   Vanderkolk, John R., “Forensic Individualization of Images Using Quality and Quantity of Information,” Journal of Forensic Identification, 49(3), 1999.

18.   Ashbaugh, David R., “The Premises of Friction Ridge Identification, Clarity and the Identification Process,” Journal of Forensic Identification, 44(5), 1994.

19.   “Report of the Standardization Committee of the International Association for Identification – August 1, 1973,” Identification News, 23(8), 1973.

20.   “Fingerprint Identification Breakout Meeting `Ne'urim Declaration,'” Proceedings of the International Symposium on Fingerprint Detection and Identification, Israel     National Police, 1996.

21.    ENTRY ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO EXCLUDE OPINION TESTIMONY ON FINGERPRINT IDENTIFICATION / HAMILTON, District Judge, Defendant Wade Havvard was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).  Testimony by Stephen Meagher of the FBI, Chief of latent print unit.

22.   Scientific Comparison and  Identification of Fingerprint Evidence
By PAT A. WERTHEIM, C.L.P.E.(This paper was given as a lecture, at The Fingerprint Society Lectures, Liverpool; 17--19th March 2000 and printed in the July 2000 issue of Fingerprint Whorld.)

23.   Ashbaugh, David, Quantitative--Qualitative Friction Ridge Analysis (Boca Raton, Florida:  CRC Press, 1999)

24.   Fingerprint Identification Objective Science or Subjective Opinion?
 (The following original article was submitted by the author.) By WILLIAM F. LEO, B.S., C.L.P.E.  Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Scientific Services Bureau -- Latent Print Section

25.   Jones, Tom, “Opinion vs. Conclusion,” The Print, 14(1) January/February 1998, p 9. [Available online at ]

26.   Plumtree, Wayne, “Expert Opinion – Fact or Fiction? Responsibilities of the Expert Witness,” The Print, 10(2), February 1994, pp 3--6. [Available online at ]

27.   United States v. Wade Havvard, Criminal Case No. IP 00--43--CR--01 H/F, October 5, 2000, United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana. [Available online]

28.   Ashbaugh, David, Quantitative--Qualitative Friction Ridge Analysis (Boca Raton, Florida:  CRC Press, 1999)

29.   Vanderkolk, John R., “Forensic Individualization of Images Using Quality and Quantity of Information,” Journal of Forensic Identification, vol 49 #3 (1999): pp 246--256.

30.   Realizing the Full Value of Latent Prints By Martin W. "Marty" Collins                         California Identification Digest, March 1992

31. /

32.     Forensic…… HAMILTON, District Judge .Defendant Wade Havvard was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Before trial, Havvard filed a motion in limine seeking to bar the government from offering an expert opinion on whether a latent fingerprint recovered from one of the firearms in question matched Havvard's left index finger. Havvard contends that opinion evidence on latent fingerprint identification does not meet the standards of reliability for admissible expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999).


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