T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, May 27, 2002
BREAKING NEWz you can
Two More Anti-Fingerprinting
Articles, both referencing Simon Cole
FINGERPRINTS LIE?" The
New Yorker, by Michael Specter 5-27-02 issue (posted on the net on
5-20-02) A long article, but it offers good insight in to issues which may
be raised in the future. A few highlights are offered below:
"The discussion of fingerprinting is only the most visible element in a
much larger debate about how forensic science fits into the legal system."
**** "Although forensic evidence has proved particularly powerful with
juries, it is particularly weak as a science."
**** "'Daubert changed everything... And it is pretty clear when you look
at those criteria that fingerprinting simply doesn't satisfy any of them.'''
**** "Mr. Meagher operates on a sixteenth-century notion—a Francis Bacon
idea—of what science is all about.
**** Judge Pollak: "Other lawyers in fingerprint situations are now almost
duty bound to raise these questions and challenges again. How could they in good
faith act in any other way? This decision is certainly not the end. I think we
can be certain of that."
-"THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS"
Cornell Alumni Magazine, by
Jonathan Miller, May/June, 2002 issue; The article details the $144,000 NSF
Grant for Cole and Lynch. Highlights from the article are below:
**** "Fingerprinting's infallibility may have hastened its decline in the
eyes of the courts and the public."
**** Cole: "There's a growing awareness both in science and among the
public that 'real' science involves uncertainty..." "The claim of
absolute certainty arouses suspicion."
**** "Fingerprinting has been under the judicial microscope for
years." (??) ..."The reason it's been considered scientific up
until now is because the courts have seen it that way."
Walks Free After 3 Years in Prison - The
Jordan Times - May 24-25, 2002 --
The Criminal Court in Amman, in a second hearing on Thursday, acquitted a
26-year-old man of charges of murdering a couple in Amman almost eight years
ago. Ahmad Hasanat was apprehended in 2000 by police and was charged with
murdering businessman Rushdi Halaweh, 46, and his wife Afaf Kassasir, 34, in
their home in the Um Utheinah neighborhood in August 1994. The case was
referred to the higher court, which overturned the acquittal and asked the
Criminal Court to summon experts to verify a fingerprint found at the scene of
the crime and believed to belong to the defendant. “The Criminal Court
declared today that there was human interference (or tampering) with the
fingerprints and decided to acquit my client,” Sharabati told The Jordan Times
ABFDE Daubert Workshop Quickly Approaches - (Las
Vegas, June 21-23)
Andre Moenssens and Dr. Babler are presenting. Also jurists from
Pennsylvania and New York, prosecutors, defense attorneys will all be presenting
with their take on the issues. Registration information can be found on
the "Daubert World"
page off the "upcoming training" page of the ABFDE website.
SWGFAST Website Updated
The SWGFAST site (http://www.swgfast.org) has been updated. I would encourage each of
you to review these guidelines, especially those currently open for comment, and
offer your suggestions, in writing, to the Executive Secretary of SWGFAST:
Margaret Black, Orange County Sheriff-Coroner, Forensic Science Services, 320 N.
Flower, Santa Ana, CA 92703, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good morning via the "Detail," a weekly e-mail newsletter that
greets latent print examiners around the globe every Monday morning. 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.
Last week, we were
updated on the Scotland situation and voted on our favorite CLPEX.com T-shirt
slogan. Are you ready for the results!?!?!
By a very slim margin, the winner is....
NOTHING IN LIFE IS CERTAIN...
except Death, Taxes, and FINGERPRINTS!
Congratulations to Tracy Saur for submitting the winning slogan! She will
receive two free t-shirts and a free year-long subscription (ha ha) to the
Detail. This week, I will be taking the slogan and CLPEX.com artwork to
Designer Graphics here in Meridian, and the shirts should be ready just in time
for BidNow week on Ebay!! If you enjoy the Detail and CLPEX.com, please
help support the cost of the site by purchasing a t-shirt next week. I
will offer the shirts for sale by e-mail for $20, and give you a chance to win a
special, one-of-a-kind, nifty, autographed version of the shirt on Ebay next
week (for those collectors, or those who simply want to make a larger donation
than $20 to the website). T-shirt funds will help with associated costs,
and hopefully there will be enough to explore some additional services to make
your online CLPEX.com experience even better.
The break-down percentages for votes were:
38%: Nothing in Life is Certain... Except Death, Taxes, and FINGERPRINTS!
35%: Absolute Certainty (with a fingerprint / vodka bottle in core)
(this one will definitely be in the running next year)
7%: Fingerprint Examiners DO IT with Great Detail
7%: When you Need a Lift, Call a Latent Print Examiner!
7%: CLPEX.com... Taking Detail to the Next Level
3%: Arches, Loops and Whorls - OH MY!
3%: Latent Print Examiners DO IT at all 3 levels
Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry, and thank you for voting!! I
look forward to presenting a picture of the finished product design next
This week we take a look at the SWGFAST drafts for review. But first, we
see that fingerprint bashing is still alive and well in the media. If you
haven't had a chance to read the two articles in the "Newz" section
above, take a few minutes and see if you can pick out some attacks you haven't
seen before; or a new angle to an old attack. I would hate for you to hear
about these for the first time on the witness stand. A post on the
CLPEX.com chat board by Steve Nowicki was well written and succinctly addresses
one of these articles:
It seems that Dr. Simon Cole just won't give up. In the May/June 2002 issue of
the Cornell Alumni Magazine, there is a length article titled "The Myth of
Fingerprints". Guess who the author chose to interview?
In this article, Dr. Cole gives the same rhetoric that he has been talking about
since the Pollock Decision. He even mentions the Pollock decision and how in
that case the Judge ruled that fingerprint evidence could not be regarded as
Scientific and that fingerprint experts could not claim that a given print was a
match for one found at the crime scene.
I thought it was interesting that Dr. Cole failed to mention that Judge Pollak
I have already started writing a letter to the Editor of the magazine. I hope
you all do the same. What I've mentioned so far is the case of the State of New
York vs. James Hyatt where the Judge, the Honorable Charles Hynes, states that
"Dr. Cole's basic premise that the scientific underpinning for the
acceptance of fingerprint evidence by the court is suspect. Under cross
examination, Dr. Cole conceded he is not a scientist in the traditional sense of
the word but is a historian and a social scientist. He also indicated that he
had not examined the actual fingerprints in this case and was aware a latent
print examiner hired by the defense had examined such prints and found a match.
Dr. Cole testified that he is not qualified to give an opinion of fingerprint
comparisons and that his knowledge as to how latent fingerprints are examined
and compared is minimal and obtained from professional literature. Dr. Cole
conceded that his theories haven't been sufficiently tested to know whether they
could be considered science but rather his opinion is based on scholarly
research. Finally, Dr. Cole admitted that he has never been accepted as an
expert in this area in either the State or Federal Courts and that his views
were not generally accepted in the mainstream scientific community.
After Dr. Cole's testimony the court took judicial notice that fingerprint
identification has long been recognized and accepted by all courts in the United
States and that expert testimony concerning its use is always admissible
provided the proffered witness is indeed qualified as an expert in the
The court went on to say that "even applying the Federal Courts Daubert
Standard, what Dr. Cole has offered here is Junk Science., To take the crown
away from the heavyweight champ you must decisively out score of knock him out.
Going 12 rounds will just not do. What Dr. Cole has offered here is interesting
but too lacking in scientific method to even bloody the field of fingerprint
analysis as a generally accepted scientific discipline".
Ouch! Too bad the author of the Cornell Alumni magazine didn't hear about this
case or the Pollack reversal. Its too bad that people like Dr. Cole can spout
their rhetoric to anybody who will listen. I guess that is a small price to pay
for a "free press". However, because of people like Dr. Cole, its up
to everybody in the field of fingerprints who do an honest days work and to a
honest job in the field to keep people like him in "check".
Next, I throw out a few tidbits from the SWGFAST Drafts for comment for several
reasons: 1) to get you interested in commenting on these excellent
works 2) to spark discussion of these concepts and 3) to keep you thinking
about the science behind what we all do.
1. The Friction
Ridge Examination Methodology draft cites 5 "fundamental
principles." Most examiners, when asked to list the fundamental
principles, recite only the first two. Take some time and think about the
other three principles; discuss them with your co-workers, explore the meaning
behind each, and make comments, if appropriate.
2. The Friction
Ridge Examination Methodology draft defines Analysis as "The assessment
of a friction ridge impression to determine suitability for comparison."
(and goes on to list factors to be included) Is this a complete and accurate
definition of Analysis?
3. The Friction
Ridge Examination Methodology draft states that "All individualizations
(identifications) must be verified." From teaching around the
country, I know of more than just a few departments which employ only one
examiner. I am a strong supporter of verification, and I believe that
those examiners should make every effort to have their work verified. What
are your thoughts? Can you think of any situation where an identification
may be reported without verification?
Glossary - Identification (Supplement) draft makes a distinction between a
ridge characteristic in two impressions A) that do match and B) that don't
match. It defines A) as "Dissimilarity (Apparent) - Different in
appearance; Non-corresponding in appearance". It defines B) as
"Discrepancy - the presence of characteristics, ridges, or marks in one
impression that are lacking in another." Should different terminology
be explored for these definitions? (i.e.. "Distortion" instead
of "Apparent Dissimilarity", etc...)
I have posted a discussion
on the SWGFAST Drafts for Comment at the CLPEX
board (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2) Feel
free to give your opinions on these, or on any other elements in the SWGFAST
And as usual, the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/)
is available for more formal discussion.
In the works for the next few weeks are:
1) A legal brief / case review
of a Florida Supreme Court reversal of a case based on another type of forensic
evidence. The case has a strong message toward the field of forensics as a
2) (hopefully soon) Recommendations from the Forensic Fingerprint Forum
held in Chicago several weeks ago, coordinated by Joe Polski. (being held up in
review by attendees)
3) An interesting case worked by Doede Rijpkema. You would be
hard-pressed to top this bizarre AFIS identification!
If you have an interesting case or an article for publication in the Detail,
attach to an e-mail to email@example.com
CLPEX.com this week...
Updated the McKie page to include a new,
paraphrased version of her story. Working on charted enlargements for this
Added a "Daubert Training"
page to the main training page.
Updated the RSW course home
to include CLASS PICTURES!
(if you were in RSW 2 (Bettendorf,
Iowa) or RSW 3 (Modesto, California)
and have a better class picture than those posted, please send me a copy! RSW
1 and RSW 4: YOU GUYS look
Updated the Detail Archives page
Added a direct link to SWGFAST from the CLPEX.com home page
Feel free to pass the link to The Detail along to other examiners. This is a
free service FOR latent print examiners, BY latent print examiners. There are no
copyrights on The Detail, and the website is open for all to visit.
If you have not yet signed up to receive the
Weekly Detail in YOUR e-mail inbox, go ahead and join
the list now so you don't miss out!
Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!