T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, February 3, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
Put to Test - PHILADELPHIA
INQUIRER - Jan 28, 2003
prints - as defense experts contended at the trial and as the FBI
confirmed in post-trial examination - did not match suspects hands...
Man Cleared of Murder - WPVI-TV,
PA - Jan. 29, 2003
against man were dismissed after a judge ruled that a fingerprint found on
a carton was not proof of the man's guilt...
Free Man Thought to be Suspect in 1987 Murders - THE
FITCHBURG SENTINEL, MA -
Jan.30, 2003 ...after
state police took his fingerprints for a second time, they were forced to
admit that they had arrested the wrong man...
Look Didn't Alter Fingerprints - THE
CINCINNATI POST - Jan. 30, 2003 ...twin
brothers play 'cat & mouse' with police...
45-Year-Old Fingerprint Leads to Arrest in California Police Killings -
LOS ANGELES TIMES - Jan. 30, 2003 ...in
the last two years, two developments - one a fluke, the other a forensic
leap forward - brought the case back to life...
in '57 Killings Shocks Genial Handyman's Friends - LOS
ANGELES TIMES - Jan. 31, 2003
was arrested at his home after LA detectives tied him to the killings
through a chance fingerprint match...
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 received an excellent Submission
on the use of Rain-X to go longer without having to clean our CA tanks.
This week, we continue the excellent string of Weekly Details with the first of
two Details on an issue that will be getting a lot of discussion time in the
next year. In fact, it is an issue that is already being talked about by
examiners around the country, a few of which I have been in correspondence with
on the topic over the last few weeks.
The issue involves several angles and several elements, each of which can be
interpreted differently. I want to use the Detail this week to get you
thinking and talking about the subject, and follow up later with concept
discussions from the SWGFAST meeting next week and some of the posted comments on the topic.
During discussions with several examiners last week, I was presented with the
viewpoint that a latent print is either of value for individualization or it is
not. In the reports of many agencies, the word "comparison" is
substituted for "individualization", so a statement might read
something to the effect of "No latent prints of value for comparison
purposes were developed on the item...". This word change, however, takes on a more
specific meaning (or more generalized meaning, depending on how you look at
it. 'Comparison purposes' tells me that no latent prints were developed that could
either be individualized or excluded as having been made by a particular
source. The issue that has become a 'hot topic' is whether there might be an instance where a latent
print is developed which exhibits features that may be used for exclusion, but
For example, let us create a realistic scenario (that has been brought up in the
past) whereby a latent fingerprint on the murder weapon in the victim's blood
displays a definite whorl pattern, but contains an INSUFFICIENT quality and
quantity of level 2 or 3 detail to be suitable for individualization
purposes. Would you keep that impression as being "of value for
comparison purposes"? If you answered no, what about the following
extension of that scenario....
The only eyewitness to the crime said the prime suspect was seen leaving the
victims residence immediately after a scream, and the suspect was subsequently
identified in a line-up of the 'usual suspects.' It is going to trial in
two weeks, and as you compare the prints in the case you realize that there are
no whorls anywhere on the finger or palm print cards of the victim or the prime
suspect. It appears that another case of a bad eyewitness is about to send
an innocent man to jail. The question is, would you report out 'no latents of value were
developed'? or would you now consider reporting out the exclusion to clear the
incorrect eyewitness identification? If you would now consider reporting an exclusion, there are two
questions... 1) what about the cases you have processed in the past? How
do you know this scenario hasn't existed before? And secondly, what
happens when another suspect comes into the picture, as in the following
extension of that scenario....
Because of your exclusionary report, the investigators concentrate their efforts
on other leads in the case and develop a second 'prime suspect,' who displays a
pattern that can NOT be excluded as being the source of the bloody impression on
the murder weapon. What do you report and testify to? Are you
prepared to defend your conclusions?
Opinions I heard last week include NOT reporting latent prints as being of value
for exclusion but not individualization. In our scenario, the exclusion of
the first suspect would have never been reported. I also heard from some
that had a major problem with what would happen if they did report the
exclusion. Basically, they viewed subsequent testimony on the second
'prime suspect' as violating IAI resolution VII, which states there will be no
reporting or testimony regarding 'possible' identifications. Others
believe the wording of IAI Resolution VII should have never involved the word 'possible,' but
only 'probable' and 'likely'. So the issue becomes, how would you deal
with that on the stand?
I am really having to restrain myself from throwing my personal beliefs in this
discussion, but I truly want you to consider these facts and think about them,
discuss them, post your feedback about them, and be ready to hear the opinions
of others over the next week.
For those of you who are interested (as I was), here is the exact wording of the
IAI Resolution VII which was unanimously passed in 1979:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that any member, officer or certified
latent print examiner who provides oral or written reports, or gives testimony
of possible, (underlined for emphasis) probable or likely friction ridge
identification shall be deemed to be engaged in conduct unbecoming such member,
officer or certified latent print examiner as described in Article XVII, Section
5, of the constitution of the International Association for Identification, and
charges may be brought under such conditions set forth in Article XVI, Section
5, of the constitution. If such member be a certified latent print
examiner, his conduct and status shall be reconsidered by the Latent Print
Several questions come directly out of this entire subject and the scenario
presented above. I would encourage you to think about these issues, and if
you haven't already made up your mind, to listen to the comments of others this
week and next week, and decide how you would respond to this issue if it came up
in your department. If you do have confident answers to the following
questions, I would encourage you to log on and participate in one of several
discussions I have created on our discussion board. I was going to create
a survey, but apparently I still have some learning to do as a webmaster... I
can't even make a freeware .cgi script work. So for this round, we will
have to make use of the discussion forum. I will try to 'get on the ball'
for surveys soon. Here are the discussions (and what the survey options
would have been):
Is it even possible? Do you feel that it is possible to EXCLUDE an individual from a
latent friction ridge skin impression that does NOT contain a sufficient quality
and quantity of features for individualization?
Yes, it is possible
No, it is not possible
I am not convinced either way
Resolution VII restrictive? Do you feel that the wording of IAI Resolution VII restricts an examiner from
reporting and testifying to an exclusion in the scenario above?
I don't believe that scenario is possible
Wording of conclusions: Select any of the opinions you feel are acceptable in latent print examiner
The latent print WAS made by XXX
The latent print WAS NOT made by XXX
It is NOT possible that the latent print was made by XXX
It is possible that the latent print was made by XXX
XXX could NOT have made the latent print
XXX could have made the latent print
It is probable / not probable that XXX made the latent print
It is likely / unlikely that XXX made the latent print
Should / can anything be done? Which of the following options most accurately represents your opinion
IAI Resolution VII is worded well and should be left alone
IAI Resolution VII is poorly worded but should be left alone
Only the word 'possible' should be removed from IAI resolution 7
Other modifications are necessary to IAI Resolution 7
How do you feel about discussion? I feel that discussing and polling on this subject are:
Appropriate and welcomed
Welcomed, but not appropriate online
Unwelcome in any format, but necessary
Welcomed but unnecessary in any format
Unwelcome and unnecessary
Other issues to discuss on the CLPEX.com board
and/or survey comments section: How would you defend your conclusions in court
if you excluded the first prime suspect and reached an inconclusive
determination on the second suspect? Do you feel this would be difficult
to deal with in court? Do you feel it would be difficult to avoid
testifying that it was 'possible' that the second suspect did or did not leave
the impression? Do you feel there is anything wrong in testifying:
that the second suspect could have left the impression
that it is possible that the second suspect left the
that anyone could have left the impression
that it is possible that anyone left the impression
Visit the CLPEX message
board to discuss this or other fingerprint related matters:
And as usual, the onin.com forum
(http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent
This week's FUNNY FINGERPRINT
In case you were wondering how to "identify twin and clone
clone has what you call a multiple ridge.
twin has a secondary ridge. Multiple ridges are normal ridges except that the
ridges sticking out, curve inward forming an almost M shape. Secondary ridges
only one ridge stands up and fully falls flat."
That clears things up for me!
CLPEX.com this week...
I tried like crazy to get a survey form to work, but had no luck. No time for anything else
this week. Maybe next week!
I have decided to let "Funny Fingerprint Finds" replace the BidNow
site feature. I can manage the Funny section weekly, but the BidNow item
would be too time-intensive to attempt weekly. I will still occasionally
auction off unique or new fingerprint-related items, but the auctions won't
necessarily be on the first Monday of every month. As usual, I will
announce them in the Detail. If you have an item you are auctioning on
Ebay, I would consider linking to your auction if you pass on the information
and your name/e-mail address. This would keep things interesting and still
allow me to keep up this feature!
Feel free to pass The Detail along to other examiners. This is
a free newsletter 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
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!