T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, January 13, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
the Identification Protocol - SYDNEY,
AUSTRALIA - November 26 - 28,
conference to celebrate 100 years of fingerprinting in Australia.
Australian and international police and forensic practitioners are invited
to attend the centenary celebration...
Links Sniper Suspect to Slaying - CHICAGO
SUN-TIMES - Jan 5, 2003
on a recovered street map found where one victim was killed belonged to
of Prints - CHRONICLE TRIBUNE,
IN - Jan. 6, 2003 ...
for Andre Moenssens, fingerprints have been his obsession for more than
half a century...
Adopt Fingerprint Scans - THE
DETROIT NEWS - Jan. 6, 2003
growing number of companies are checking its employees' fingerprints --
and raising privacy concerns in the process...
Kids: A Smear on Privacy? - THE
HERALD NEWS, NJ - Jan. 8, 2003 ...despite
misgivings civil liberties experts have about fingerprinting, most parents
agree to the procedure...
Scanner Provides Instant Identification -
BETTERHUMANS - Jan. 10, 2003 ...wireless
fingerprint scanner could soon be helping law enforcement agencies...
The Criminals - THE
ENGINEER, UK - Jan. 10, 2003
experts in Japan claim to have succeeded in developing a method for
obtaining fingerprints left on human skin... (*note from the webmaster: if
anyone has more information on this technique, I would love to publish
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.
Dave Charlton says, "A new year... A new website... Bigger and better than
ever before!" Check out the updated site, A RIDGE TOO FAR at http://www.david.charlton97.btinternet.co.uk/
The Pacific Northwest Division IAI will be hosting a workshop on the Recovery of
Fingerprints from Human Skin. Instructed by William C. Sampson, this class
has been scheduled for March 3 - 5th, 2003 in Kent, Washington. Cost is
$250.00. For additional information, please contact Lori Moore at the King
County Sheriff's Office: (206) 296-7446, Lorene.Moore@metrokc.gov
From Joe Polski's Jan2003 Monthly Update:
Committee Survey - Request for Information
The AFIS Committee has undertaken a survey to estimate the number of latent
fingerprints left at crime scenes. These latent prints could be searched
electronically against a Tenprint database. There is a general feeling that many
latent prints are not searched on Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS),
even though such systems are available to all law enforcement agencies.
The questionnaire is located on Ed German's ONIN website (www.onin.com) and will
take only a few minutes to complete. The survey is not intended to be a
scientific treatise on the number of non-searched prints. Rather, the survey
will provide basic information as to the potential number of latent prints that
could be searched on local, state or federal AFIS systems. This information has
implications to both the law enforcement and vendor community as we face reduced
budgets and increasing demands for identification services.
The results of the survey are expected to be reported at the 88th Conference in
One last and final announcement before we get to this week's Detail: Ski needs
your help!! Here is his plea to YOU:
scoop. I have been tasked by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to
put together a training program on digital imaging that can be presented across
the United States and in Canada. They want this program to feature a
"more broad spectrum" (AKA a wide range) of disciplines, including,
but not limited to digital images of blood spatter, crime scene photos
(homicides, burglary, etc.), domestic violence (bite marks, bruising, etc.),
explosives, guns, fingerprint, palm prints, shoe prints, mug shots, video
frames, questioned documents, etc., etc., etc.
I have been working on this program with the NIJ for several months now, and I
am to the point that I need to get photos that can be used to demonstrate the
many uses, features and functions of digital imaging technologies. That's
where you come in!
As you know, I have some images that I currently use in my training programs,
but I do not have the depth of images that I need to make this a truly
successful training program. Therefore, I would GREATLY appreciate your
assistance if you would review your files for any photos that could release to
me for use in this training program. Like I said, I am really desperate
for your help!!!
If you do have any images, which I pray you do, would you please provide either:
-- a copy of the original digital image (it can be an exported MORE HITS case or
it can be any other high resolution image, preferably a TIF, but copies of the
original JPGs are welcome too!)
-- if it is a negative, please either scan and save the image at the highest
possible resolution or, if possible, please send me the negative and I will scan
-- if it is a photograph, please either scan and save the image at the highest
possible resolution (based upon the size of the photograph) or, if possible,
please send me the original photograph and I will scan it
If you are providing electronic copies of these images, please burn the images
onto a CD (again, having images that are captured with the highest possible
resolution is a key element here) and mail the CD or the original negatives and
photographs to me at:
7402 Custer Road West, Suite 102
Lakewood, WA 98499
If you are sending negatives or photographs, I will return them immediately
after they are scanned.
If at all possible, I would like to have these items by no later than Monday, 3
February 2003 for submittal along with the lesson plan. Of course I will
always accept images even after that date!!!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on my electronic
leash (AKA cell phone). That number is 612-810-9857.
Once again, your assistance will be GREATLY appreciated! And who knows,
you just may receive a special gift for helping out with this program!!!!!!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
David "Ski" Witzke
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
complete forensic image processing solution
Toll Free: 1-888-849-6688
This week, we take a look at a new player in the "critics"
arena. The name "Dr. Ralph Norman Haber" has surfaced a few
times during recent challenges. Most of you probably remember the name
from his testimony in the Plaza case, where he criticized the FBI proficiency
tests, stating that the extremely high success rate raised "red
flags." He also testified that “V” for verification in
ACE-V did not accurately reflect what was truly taking place, and that
“Ratification” would be a more appropriate term for a second examiner
repeating the ACE process for an identification known to have already been
effected by the previous examiner. I
next heard of Dr. Haber from a friend and colleague, Jim Nursall.
Jim had a Daubert-related challenge in San Bernardino (which subsequently ended
in a plea-bargain), but Dr. Haber's name appeared as a defense witness.
Naturally, Jim spent some time researching who Dr. Haber was. The third
recent appearance of Dr. Haber you may remember quite well... just last week on
the 60 minutes segment. (which, by the way, if you have not heard it yet, you
may listen to the 12 minute segment as an MP3 file here.) You would most
likely remember him as the elderly "scientist" gentleman with the
white beard. I think it is most appropriate to let Jim Nursall introduce
you further to Dr. Haber and Haber's most recent publication. Thank you,
Jim, for bringing us this week's Detail:
is Ralph Norman Haber?
Mr. Haber appeared on 60 Minutes January
5, 2003 in a story concerning the fallibility of latent fingerprint
identification. He was introduced as a Forensic Scientist. During his interview
with the reporter he stated that the failure rate of latent print examiners
taking the IAI Certification test was 50%. He then stated that examiners taking
the test are given 15 items and are allowed to make no more than 3 mistakes.
Later in the story he stated that one of the reasons that judges aren’t
willing to suppress latent print evidence is that the first judge to do so would
be flooded with appeals by defendants convicted as a result of latent print
evidence. His comment regarding the number of mistakes allowed is misleading at
best, given the lack of distinction between an erroneous identification and an
incorrect non-identification. When
coupled with his comment regarding the 50% failure rate, the show conveyed to
the viewers that 50% of examiners taking the test make 4 or more errors. The
inaccuracy of this portrayal of latent print examiner proficiency is fully
realized when we look at only erroneous identifications in recent proficiency
tests. A recent Collaborative
Testing Services (CTS) proficiency test data review by Ken Smith conducted for
the Plaza trial reveals a true erroneous identification rate of less than one
(1) percent for the entire 2001 calendar year.
Haber’s insinuation that judges would allow unreliable scientific
evidence in order to avoid appeals is an insult to the integrity of judges
According to Dr. Haber’s website, www.humanfactorsconsultants.com,
he is a highly educated psychologist and holds a Ph.D. in experimental
psychology. His credentials in the field of psychology are very impressive. His
wife, Lyn Haber, is also a highly educated psychologist and has earned a Ph.D.
in experimental linguistics. Together, they wrote a draft entitled “Error
Rates for Human Latent Fingerprint Examiners”. The draft is dated
currently available on his website,
or by following this link: http://www.humanfactorsconsultants.com/errorrates.doc
A thorough review of the draft reveals several interesting facts.
Four times in the draft, Dr. Haber
states that latent print identifications have not been challenged in court until
very recently. I suppose voir dire, cross-examination, discovery, and the hiring
of defense experts to examine evidence are all recently developed legal tools
available to defense attorneys.
Dr. Haber states that in US v. Mitchell, the defendant challenged the accuracy
of fingerprint evidence. This is inaccurate. Mitchell’s attorney, Robert
Epstein challenged the admissibility of fingerprint evidence based on Daubert
criteria. The court ruled that the fingerprint evidence would be allowed, but
the defense did have the right to have their own expert, David Stoney, challenge
the identification. Stoney did not testify.
The draft devotes 3 pages to show how the legal system makes erroneous
identifications undiscoverable. One example given is that an innocent defendant
may plead guilty to a lesser crime, thus preventing an erroneous identification
from being discovered. The draft doesn’t include Mr. Haber’s peer reviewed
scientific research data, including any statistical analysis and known error
rate, to support this theory.
The draft then switches gears to point out the substantial number of court cases
in which these supposedly undiscoverable identification errors have been
exposed. The draft appears to use the term “undiscoverable” in a subjective
manner. The Shirley McKie case is cited to demonstrate the fallibility of latent
print examiners. The example states that McKie’s prints were matched to a
latent print lifted from the suspects home. This is factually incorrect. Anyone
familiar with the case knows that the latent print erroneous identified to McKie
was lifted from a doorjamb inside the murder scene. An additional erroneous
identification was made between a latent print lifted at the suspect’s home
and the victim’s prints. The draft states that two American experts testified
on behalf of McKie, but fails to report that hundreds of examiners from around
the world have reviewed the 2 impressions and have petitioned the SCRO to admit
that they have allowed 2 erroneous identifications to go uncorrected.
Lastly, the draft challenges the zero error rate for fingerprint identifications
without distinguishing between the separate error rates of the methodology and
the practitioner. The summary claims the data shows high error rates for
examiners, yet can show no statistical data to support this. The draft itself
contains more errors than have been discussed here, yet attempts to define an
error rate for fingerprint examiners based on incomplete or inaccurate
In closing, Dr. Haber does correctly point out that we, as humans are not
infallible. He fails to recognize the fact that groups such as ASCLD, SWGFAST,
and the IAI all exist to ensure that the correct methodology is taught and
employed to prevent erroneous identifications.
As professionals who adhere to these training guidelines and consensus
standards, we should openly welcome challenges to the science of friction ridge
skin identification with honesty, integrity, and knowledge.
From time to time, there are those who are critical of practitioners who
operate in a discipline of which the critic has absolutely no working knowledge.
We must not disregard these challenges, nor should we balk at their
absurdity. In the latent print
discipline, we have done an excellent job of using these attacks to become more
educated and therefore better practitioners.
As long as we expose the critics for who they really are, their attacks
are minimized and their shortcomings become our strongholds.
And after all is said and done, we can always point out, as Pat Wertheim
did last week, what we have known for over a century: that our system
To discuss this issue or
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...
Added a link to the audio of the
recent 60 minutes special, "Fallible
Fingerprints" (12 min. mp3 @ 56KbpsStereo = 4.9Mb)
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!