T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, January 6, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
Sentenced to Death for Kidnapping and Killing Girl
- NEW YORK TIMES - Jan. 3,
keeping with the jury's recommendation, Judge William Mudd of Superior
Court sentenced Mr. Westerfield to death for first-degree murder committed
with the special circumstance of kidnapping... in the Danielle Van Dam
Cuts Threaten Oregon's Crime Labs
JOURNAL - Dec. 24, 2002
a successful tax vote or government action, the number of laboratory
workers will drop from 135 to 50...
At Banks Causing Controversy - NEWNET5.COM
- Dec. 26, 2002 ...when
fingerprints are required, banks cut fraud by nearly 60 percent...
Testing New Fingerprint Checkout Technology - WKRN.COM
- Dec. 26, 2002 ...a
scanner reads your index print and automatically bills your account...
Fe Sculptors Solve Forensic Art Caper - ALBUQUERQUE
TRIBUNE - Dec. 27, 2002
sculpture's 8-foot-wide lens will cast a slowly moving shadow of a
fingerprint on the south face of the building....
Scenes, Minus the Script -
THE EDMONTON JOURNAL - Dec. 29, 2002 ...a
window was smashed, a screen mangled, bedrooms ransacked, and a pleasant
young family left on edge...
Is Me, I'm Not Dead' - CTNOW.COM
- Dec. 31, 2002 ...Hartford,
CT. police told Mark Denison's family he was dead. Not only was he alive,
Denison had to prove it to police...
Plan in Doubt - LONG BEACH
PRESS-TELEGRAPH - Jan. 3, 2003 ...California:
Fraud system may cost more than it will save, auditors say...
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.
I hope everyone had an excellent holiday season and is ready to return to work
with a renewed passion toward a productive new year.
This week, many of us learned of the tragic and untimely death of fellow friend
and colleague, Scott Spjut. There are several news articles that provide
more information about the circumstances surrounding Scott's passing:
As the shock of this news ripples through the fingerprint community, I receive numerous e-mails
and posts from mutual friends
expressing the impact Scott has had in our lives and on our science. Those
of us involved with the IAI know Scott as a passionate lecturer and instructor
and the newest Chairperson of the Latent Print Certification Board. If you
never had the opportunity to meet Scott, I hope the following comments will
offer a glimpse of the professionalism and dedication we should all strive to
"There are those people in life that you
meet and instantly know that you have found a friend for life. Scott was one of
those people for me, not because he was a great forensic analyst, but because he
was a great person. We shared many laughs and discussions via email and instant
message. He always had time to talk to you. Everyone will remember him for his
contributions (too many to count) to Forensics for years to come. He was an
amazing individual who had a true love for Forensics. His presence will be
greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family." Jason
Pressly, Meridian, Mississippi
"He was more than a boss, he was a teacher and a best
friend. He taught all of us much of what we know. He was my
inspiration to continue in the forensics field." Holly Plotnick,
"It was my pleasure and honor to have known Scott for a number of years,
and count him as a friend. He was passionate about his chosen vocation, and
exhibited an enviable quest for knowledge. His willingness to share his own
acquired knowledge was but one of his many fine qualities. He will be greatly
missed, yet his memory will endure, not only for his professional contributions,
but also for the kind of person he was. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his
family and colleagues at this time of tragic loss." Robert Tavernero,
"His faith, his family and his career meant the world to him and in that
order. Scott was a peer, a father, a husband and my friend. May we all remember
him the way he was." Dwane Hilderbrand, Scottsdale AZ
"Scott excelled as a supervisor because of the concern he had for the
quality of work which we did and the amount of constant training that was made
available to us. He was also a very good listener and had an open door policy. We exist as a unit today because of his organization and
innovation. He was probably the most respected forensic investigator,
clearly in the state of Utah and was known and respected across the nation for
his work not only here in Utah but with the IAI (International Association for
Identification), the largest forensics organization in the world. He was
chairman of the certification committee of the latent fingerprint certification
board for the IAI." Kent Timothy, forensic investigator.
"He was considered to be one of the best in his field and, more
importantly, a fine Christian man. He will be sincerely missed by
all." Jamie Bush, Meridian, Mississippi
"Scott was a friend to everybody. He would do anything for anyone who
asked him, whether he had the time or not. No matter who asked, he would
say, 'Sure, I'll do that for you.' He would literally give you the shirt
off his back. He's an inspiration to all forensic investigators across the
world. He inspired myself and Jason to leave law enforcement and pursue
careers in criminalistics." James May, forensic investigator.
"Such a loss is so hard to fathom by friends, family and colleagues and
those of us having a common thread." Ernie Hamm, Jacksonville, Florida.
"He gave so freely of all of his time and talents, not only to us as his
employees, but to agencies nationwide." Jason Cole, forensic
"Scott was one of a handful of rising stars in our profession whose
influence will help shape our science in decades to come. We will all be poorer
for the greater promise that will remain unfulfilled due to his early passing.
My heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends." Pat Wertheim,
You may visit the web site of the funeral home and sign a guest book to leave a
thought for the family.
All emails will be printed on parchment and presented to the family. Unfortunately, due to the volume of inquiries, telephone
contact with his family is difficult. You may send flowers directly to the
funeral home. Cards and letters may be sent to the Spjut household.
Donations for a trust fund set up for the children may be sent to Deseret First
Credit Union, 390 South Main, Bountiful, Utah.
Comments about the 60 minutes fingerprint program on Sunday reflect a fair,
unbiased representation of our field. Some perceived it as negative, some
as positive, on average neutral. Pat Wertheim brings a short commentary on
The 60 Minutes segment of fingerprints could have been better, or it could have
been worse. I believe it was a fairly well-balanced program. The bottom line is
this: THE SYSTEM WORKS! It is true that a man was convicted by a single
erroneous fingerprint identification and served two years in prison. It is also
true that the defense attorney hired defense experts, which led to the reversal
of the conviction. The man wrongly convicted of murder, although he served two
years in prison, will doubtless be well compensated by the time the civil
lawsuits are settled. But, as Stephen Meagher also pointed out in the program,
every single Daubert challenge to the science has held fingerprint
identification to be reliable. So the 60 Minutes segment said basically two
things: Science is accurate, but people make mistakes. Have you ever been unable
to balance your checkbook? (I suspect the Yes's far outnumber the No's.) Does
failure to balance a checkbook mean the science of mathematics has failed? Of
course not! Does an erroneous fingerprint identification on the part of an unqualified
latent print examiner mean the science of fingerprints has failed? Of course
not! Competent, qualified fingerprint examiners seldom if ever, make an
erroneous identification. But should they, the system allows the defense to hire
their own expert, and this 60 Minutes program proves the value of a competent,
ethical defense expert. THE SYSTEM WORKS! Let us not be afraid of television
programs nor of defense experts. Our science, correctly applied, is valid and
our evidence, when correct, easily defensible.
If anyone taped the broadcast and could convert it to a format I could place on
my website, please let me know. I have heard from several examiners who
missed the show. Size would probably prevent an video file, but a .mp3
file would probably suffice. Or typed transcripts.
There have been some
excellent posts on the website. To discuss fingerprint
related topics, visit the informal CLPEX.com
As usual, the onin.com forum
(http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent
CLPEX.com this week...
Updated the newzroom
Updated the Detail Archives
Feel free to pass The Detail along to other examiners. This is
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!