T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, July 22, 2002
NEWz you can UzE...
Italy's Jews suspend protest over foreigner fingerprinting.
July, 2002, ROME - Italian Jewish leaders have suspended a protest, planned
for Monday, against Italy's new law requiring fingerprints of immigrants from
countries outside the European Union.
Identical Twins with Same Fingerprints?
(sarcastically, of course) August 2002 "Fast
Company" magazine -
would have it, Schneider has an identical twin. So she called her sister, who
lives in San Diego, told her to hop on the next plane to Las Vegas, and hoped
for the best. At the convention, her sister was able to log on to Schneider's
computer, and the presentation was saved.
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, Craig Coppock
brought us an update on the June 24 Daubert hearing in Washington State Federal
court. This week, we continue discussing Daubert issues through a
unique and potentially very useful idea from Steve Scarborough and Ray York: The
The Daubert Card
by Raymond A. York and Steve Scarborough
After the June 2002 ABFDE Daubert conference, two “old time” fingerprint
examiners got together and began comparing notes. We found that we both had
upcoming trials where “Daubert like questioning” may play a part. We thought
that it would be a good idea to come up with a list of questions that we have
been asked and questions that had been raised in recent court hearings and
trials. We could then pass them around the office and through discussion refine
a number of appropriate answers for the questions. We also thought that although
many jurisdictions do not have evidentiary hearings, “Daubert like” questions
that have arisen out of those hearings are being asked by defense attorneys in
The intent is to have the numbered questions on the front of a laminated
card with a set of information, related to each question on the reverse side of
the card. Our thoughts were that it was more important to provide the
background for the answers rather than create specific written answers as every
examiner may answer each question differently. It is essential to have the
facts available in order to be able to answer the questions in an informed
For example, question number 10 relates to recent academic studies of
Fingerprints. The reverse side of the “Daubert Card” includes information
listing last February’s Harvard Cyberposium on biometrics, Sandia labs
fingerprint research in 1997, research by Salil Prabakar at the IBM Research
Center and Anil Jain at Michigan State University, at the Pattern Recognition
and Image Processing Laboratory (for a huge list of recent research references
see this link.
In other words, listing the wide range of worldwide academic research being done
on Fingerprints like that at Information Center at Peking University, IBM
Research Lab, Delhi, India and Biometric Systems Lab at University of Bologna.
Another example would be information to answer question 12. This includes
a list of scientific studies of fingerprints including biological studies done
by Whipple, Wilder, Cummins, and Hale all the way up to Babler. And listings of
permanence and frequency studies that have been done over the years that lead
right up to recent research.
Information that addresses part of question number 13 would include testing
done by Lockheed Martin and the FBI, constant testing by AFIS systems in
continuous operation around the world.
Some questions are obviously interrelated and may use some of the same
research information. A good definition of Science provides background
information for several questions. (There is no mention anywhere of error rates
in the Scientific Methodology or any definition of science that we found.)
Recent biometrics research addresses testing, studies and wide acceptance
beyond the forensic community.
Within the questions there is some re-phrasing of related questions that
are included to comprise the various questions that have been posed by defense
The obvious advantage of the Daubert Card is an all in one preparation card
for any likely questions that may arise in future court proceedings, whether as
an evidence hearing or a typical criminal trial. Additionally, the card would
keep Latent Examiners aware of recent questions about Fingerprints.
An unforeseen consequence of this project has been to debunk many of the
prosperous statements made by “critics” in hearings, books and newspapers
articles. Question 10, for instance. It has been stated that there is no
academic research being done on Fingerprints and our research shows quite the
contrary. We obviously knew the “critics” were wrong, we just didn’t realize
how wrong. The one constant we have found in obtaining research for all of
these questions is that the challenges to the issues have no merit or substance
and the information exists to fully answer every question in support of
Maybe the best advantage of the Daubert Card is the thought provoking
effect and dialog between examiners that is triggered by the discussion of these
1. Is fingerprints a science? Are you a scientist?
2. Isn’t it true that Fingerprints is only a creation of police agencies and
that there are no communities other than forensics that view Fingerprints as a
3. What is the error rate for fingerprints?
4. We haven’t seen all the fingerprints in the world so how can we make the
assumption that fingerprints are unique.
5. Fingerprinting doesn’t have any scientific-type methodology now does it?
6. It is you opinion that this is an identification, could someone else have a
7. There are two groups of fingerprint people, point counters and ridgeologists,
which one are you?
8. There has never been any rigorous scientific testing or validation testing
in fingerprints test it’s reliability, has there?
9. Because the NIJ issued their request for research on the scientific validity
of fingerprints that proves that none exists, doesn’t it?
10. Doesn’t the fact that Fingerprints are not studied in any academic
laboratories prove that it is not a science?
11. You can’t get a degree in fingerprints, so therefore it is not a true
12. What scientific studies, if any, have ever been done to support the science
13. History show us that there has been blind acceptance for Fingerprints and
that Fingerprints have been accepted uncritically, without any real peer review,
or challenge, without any testing such as that done in DNA would you agree to
14. Until recently, fingerprint evidence had never been successfully challenged
in any courtroom, doesn’t that mean it has been blindly accepted?
15. In general there are no standards or controls for fingerprints are there?
16. You say that there is no minimum point standard to make an ID, there are no
real standards for making a fingerprint identification are there?
17. I have a copy of your transcripts from last year and you never once
mentioned ACE-V or anything about science at all. How can you explain that?
18. Even if we accept the premise that no two fingerprints are alike, isn’t it
true that it doesn’t follow that small-distorted fragments can be identified as
there has never been any studies of the reliability of partial fingerprints?
19. In fact, there is really no peer review of scientific method in
fingerprints is there?
20. Some (maybe you) have called fingerprints an applied science, would you be
surprised to know that a law professor said “it makes no sense to divide science
into forensic sub-groups”?
21. Doesn’t the fact that there has been fingerprint comparison mistakes made,
and innocent people have been convicted by fingerprints prove that it is not a
22. You said that
you are 100% certain that this is an identification, but doesn’t that prove that
it is not a science, as no other science is 100% in anything?
In corresponding with Steve on this issue, we thought it best to give these
questions some time to be discussed before posting the "facts." As he
mentioned, we don't want to just give you the answers to the questions... we
want examiners to discuss these questions and share input on the chat board.
I am also preparing for a Daubert talk in Vegas, and in so doing I am
corresponding with the Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the last 10 Daubert hearings
(all in 2002). They are assisting in a thorough understanding of more than
just the issues, but also in how the issues are presented by the defense.
This will help us better prepare to present our position. The conference
will be an excellent place to further discuss this issue with examiners who have
been involved in a Daubert related attack. We will wait until after Vegas
to complete the facts related to this list, so be sure to get your input on the
board in the next few weeks.
board when you are ready to give your input. I will start a "DAUBERT
CARD" discussion for you to reply to with your contribution. Be sure to
re-define your post's subject line if you want to include which question you are
The onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/)
is also available for more formal latent print-related discussions.
CLPEX.com this week...
The CLPEX t-shirts have been boxed up and will be available in Vegas. If
you know someone who wants one, get their $ and take them back a shirt! Or
bring your own $ and take everyone back a souvenir. (or at least your
supervisor. :) They will still be available on the site until our
contest next year.
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!