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Monday, February 17, 2003

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac


IAI AFIS Committee Survey - ONIN.COM/FP  - Feb. 2003 ...survey data will provide valuable information to promote the development of the I-AFIS systems and its inter-connectivity...

TV's Whodunit Effect  - THE BOSTON GLOBE - Feb. 9, 2003 ...police dramas are having an unexpected impact in the real world: The public thinks every crime can be solved, and solved now - just like on TV...

Database Ends Long Search to ID Bodies - ST. PETERSBURG TIMES - Feb.11, 2003 ...thanks to new technology,  the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office can tap into the national FBI fingerprint database...

Police Agencies Get Fast Fingerprint ID System - WBAY-TV - Feb.14, 2003 ...the system can also compare palm prints and notify the police agency that put the fingerprints in the database...

Police Worker Compensated - THE EVENING CHRONICLE, UK - Feb. 15, 2003 ...the 33-year-old was originally fired in 1999 for falsifying a date on a fingerprint continuity record...


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.

A press conference in Utah over the weekend revealed that an identification presented at the preliminary hearing of a suspect in a 1996 Utah murder was erroneous.  The examiner who made and testified to that erroneous identification was Scott Spjut.  After Scott's untimely death, the case was sent to the Utah State lab by the prosecutor for review so someone could testify in Scott's absence.  It was then that the erroneous identification was discovered.  The circumstances surrounding Scott's death are currently under investigation.  The facts at this point are still very sketchy, but it is important not to let rumor run rampant.  Scott was a bright and competent latent print examiner. One likely scenario is that the ACE-V methodology in that particular identification was not followed, most probably that the evaluation phase was not given due attention and that verification was lacking in some respect.  As noted in the article, a review of Scott's prior casework is underway.  For more detail on the information released at the press conference, click here: Bloody Prints Don't Match - THE STANDARD EXAMINER, UT - Feb. 15, 2003
(www.clpex.com/Articles/Newz/2003/2003-02-15-1.htm)

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The IAI AFIS committee is requesting help in order to gain a better understanding of the total number of crime scene latent prints that:

· Are available for processing
· Are being submitted for fingerprint processing
· Are or are not being processed via AFIS systems
· Could potentially be submitted to other Local, Regional, or National systems

A questionnaire is available on the IAI AFIS Committee website at ONIN.com.  The questionnaire will also provide an indication of the possible hidden demand for AFIS system capacity and provide information on the number and type of crime scene latent prints that are currently not suitable for AFIS searching (i.e.: Tips, sides, second joints, palms etc).

This data will provide us with valuable information to promote the development of integrated AFIS systems which promote inter-connectivity. We will make recommendations to the AFIS suppliers on how they can improve their systems to tap into this huge potential for identifications from crime scene prints that are not currently searchable in present systems.

A second goal is to facilitate the enhanced collaboration of latent crime scene case work between agencies where we have a diverse mix of AFIS equipment.

IAI AFIS Committee Survey

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Last week we looked over plans to place a memorial for Henry Faulds in his birth-town of Beith, Scotland.  Guidance on the wording of the plaque itself is being solicited.  Below is the wording currently being considered.  If you have suggestions, now is the time to reply.  It is open for comment for a short while, so please read over the wording below and reply with any suggestions to insure accuracy or to include aspects which may have been missed. 

(large font:) BEITH'S DR. HENRY FAULDS
(image of Dr. Henry Faulds)

BORN AT 39 NEW STREET, BEITH, AYRSHIRE, ON JUNE 1, 1843 , HE BECAME A MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN DARJEELING , INDIA 1871-1873 AND A MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN JAPAN (1874 – 1885) FOUNDING TSUKIJI HOSPITAL , TOKIO IN 1875. A PIONEER OF FINGERPRINTING, HE IS ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE FIRST PERSON TO PUBLISH A DETAILED REPORT ON THE CONCEPTION OF FINGERPRINTS IN CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION IN NATURE MAGAZINE IN 1880. HE DIED ON MARCH, 24, 1930 IN WOLSTANTON, NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME   IN 1930 AND IS BURIED THERE IN ST MARGARETS CHURCHYARD.

 

SADLY, HIS CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF FINGERPRINT TECHNIQUES IN CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION WAS NEVER FULLY ACKNOWLEDGED. HE IS REMEMBERED WITH AFFECTION IN TUSKIJI, TOKIO , JAPAN WHERE A MEMORIAL ERECTED 1951  MARKS HIS ROLE AS A PIONEER OF FINGERPRINTS.

 

A FEW SEEM FAVOURITES OF FATE,

IN PLEASURE’S LAP CAREST;

YET THINK NOT ALL THE RICH AND GREAT

ARE LIKEWISE TRULY BLEST:

MAN WAS MADE TO MOURN – A DIRGE

ROBERT BURNS

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The SWGFAST meeting at the FBI Academy went very well.  Three general topics were discussed in committee: Future IAI certification test structure and requirements, guidelines for latent print examiner opinion conflict resolution, and an expert v. non-expert competency test to calculate the error rate of type I errors.  More importantly, the meeting in August will be quite busy as we work towards completion on two of these documents (conflict resolution and competency test) and also incorporate comments on the drafts that are currently available.  Alan McRoberts wants me to remind everyone that comments on the current 'drafts for comment' are required by the August meeting in order for recommendations to be considered during committee meetings.  Currently in 'draft for comment' status are:

Friction Ridge Examination Methodology for Latent Print Examiners

Glossary - Latent Print Processing

Glossary - Identification (Supplement)

These and other SWGFAST documents are available on the website at:
http://www.swgfast.org

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The week before last, the Weekly Detail sparked a lot of discussion on the message board and through e-mail regarding several different topics that are all related.  Generally, the topics and discussions center around inconclusive opinions.  Side topics include IAI resolutions
VII (1979) and V (1980), requirements for exclusion versus individualization, probable conclusions, and several others.  I enjoyed speaking with several people at SWGFAST and others through e-mail, and I believe I have a pretty fair idea of consensus on a few topics, as well as the major arguments of different 'sides' on other topics.  Before I share some of the comments and/or concepts received this week, allow me to say that some of these subjects have received intense debate for years with no clear consensus in sight.  Others have become more generally accepted one way with clear advocates against being a minority.  Regardless of who believes what, I would venture to say that discussion and communication regarding these issues is healthy and will continue to improve the field of friction ridge examination.

CONCEPT 1): Level 1 exclusion but not sufficient for individualization

Most agree it is possible to exclude a source as having deposited a latent impression that is not of value for individualization.  The example of a bloody whorl pattern with perhaps only a couple of level 2 details and no level 3 on the murder weapon is an example that has appeared in the literature for years.  In looking back over arguments 'for' and 'against' the IAI resolutions V and VII in the late 70's and early 80's, similar examples appeared several times.  Consensus standards acknowledge that level 1 detail is sufficient to exclude.  We do this every day.  If the latent print is a whorl and the suspect has all loops, we don't even examine level two detail.  We exclude that person as having been the source of that impression.  We also know it is possible for an impression to contain reliable level 1 detail and NOT contain reliable level 2 or three detail.   A week ago, I would have left out the word 'reliable' in the prior sentence, but a recent discussion on the chat board made me think.  Perhaps it will also strike you as interesting:

CONCEPT 2) Reliable Levels and Quality / Quantity:  "If I can see detail (flow) at Level One and distinguish that the print is , say, an arch pattern, I can only do so because I can see some detail at Level Two (how else would I know it's an arch pattern if I couldn't follow ridge path to some degree). It's just that what I see at Level Two is "unreliable", the path can't be followed with any confidence. But in saying I see something at Level Two, I'm committed to saying I see ridge(s) and their paths, and if you I see ridges, therefore I must perceive where the edges of such ridges are, which is to say there is something (albeit ever moreso unreliable) at Level Three."

The real question goes back to quality and quantity.  Is there a sufficient quality and quantity of detail present to: Exclude, Individualize.  In certain cases, most examiners I have talked with would acknowledge that you have to admit there can be impressions that contain a sufficient quality and quantity of detail to exclude but not individualize.

CONCEPT 3) INCONCLUSIVE OPINIONS:  The real discussion begins when deciding what to do after you encounter an impression you can not exclude, but you cannot individualize.  In our example, this would be the known print with level 1 that is consistent with your bloody, insufficient latent print.  The result of this examination is said by most to be 'inconclusive.'  However, some argue you should have thrown the impression away to begin with, and others argue you should be allowed to testify to probabilities.  The consensus currently lies somewhere in the middle.

Most arguments center around the concept that if an impression is of value for exclusion, then it IS "of value for comparison purposes."  Not individualization purposes, but comparison, which comes before your conclusion.  A hot topic involves the question of what you call the remainder of the population you have not excluded.  Some would say "included" right away.  However, others argue very quickly that it is impossible to include more than one unique source as having made an impression.  Only one can ever be correctly included as the donor, and that is the source that made the impression.  How can you include more than one biologically unique entity as being the source of an impression?

What you call the other group seems to be a matter of semantics, but many agree it is acceptable to say that they "could not be excluded" as being the source.  It is not OK to include them, but it is OK to say they could not be excluded.  I would like to hear some more discussion on this topic for next week.  As I said, it seems like we are arguing over words here, but I have heard some very convincing arguments from very vocal advocates regarding the 'big picture' involved in this discussion.

CONCEPT 4) INCLUDED versus NOT EXCLUDED:  And this discussion is exactly where the IAI resolutions come in.  If some percentage of the population can be excluded as having made the impression, then some propose that the percentage itself should be utilized to arrive at a probability.  This is what the IAI resolutions prevent.  Any opinion other than "Individualization," "Exclusion" or "Inconclusive" are outside the currently-IAI-accepted scope of testimony.  Under "inconclusive", most examiners I have corresponded with on this issue currently adhere to the philosophy that it is acceptable to exclude and "not exclude" a source, but it is not acceptable to "include" a source of a friction ridge impression.

It is confusing to some that impressions can be "included" as having been made by footwear and tiretracks.  However, with these disciplines, there are manufactured molds that make a certain number of shoes and/or tires.  This is the group that is included.  For example, if Nike makes 500 pairs of size 11.5 narrow model 300E (made up) running shoe, then a latent shoe print demonstrating only those "class" characteristics can be included as having been made by a shoe in that population of 500 sources.  It cannot be excluded as having been made by any one shoe in particular, but it can be included in the group.  The arguments against applying this logic to fingerprints include that friction ridge skin is different.  It is biologically unique.  No two patterns are exactly the same.  The other side to this argument is articulated well by a proponent of probable identifications, Christophe Champod.  He e-mailed me this week and wished to pass on his thoughts on this:

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CONCEPT 5) PROBABLE / LIKELY:  If, following the comparison, the mark cannot be excluded from having originated from a finger of that person, then I would report so. In addition, I will try to provide the court with guidance as to the significance of that association, by putting in front of the court data allowing to assess the rarity of that general pattern (and other features as expressed in the mark and not the print). Using actual collections, it is quite easy to obtain a fair and robust estimate for the relative frequency of that pattern. For the sake of the argument, let us assume that this pattern occurs with a relative frequency of 1/200 (taking into account general pattern, ridge counts and ridge tracing). In my statement I will certainly quote that figure and indicate that it provides good support for the view that this person produced the mark.

Now all readers will have realized that I may not follow the IAI resolution VII!

I have been debating the IAI resolution VII in the past (in JFI e.g.) and my position hasn't changed. I strongly argue that their is no scientific basis for requiring fingerprint comparison conclusions to be absolute. I fully understand that to cope with the workload, procedures have been put in place, but these are policies and are not based on scientific ground. In my view, we have a duty to treat scenarios such as the above in a transparent manner and make sure the the Criminal Justice System is not mislead. I would call for a complete review of resolution VII and also the associated SWGFAST guidance. 

I always felt uncomfortable when the 'positivity' of the fingerprint field was justified using arguments such as: 'Nature never duplicates' or 'we cannot conceive a mark as being left by more than one friction skin ridge area'. They are statements of the obvious addressing the wrong question. The issue is not the (accepted) biological uniqueness of friction ridge skin but the distinguishability of the mark. Here, I have no difficulty to state that more than one person may leave a mark
with the same features as revealed in this case (general pattern, ridge counts, etc.). Indeed, assuming the above-mentioned figure, on average, we will find one person in 200 that could produce a mark that cannot be distinguished from the mark revealed. This is of course not an identification, but we are providing supportive evidence that, in my opinion, cannot be excluded from the Criminal Justice System. Our procedures and policies should reflect and address that properly.

j(Christophe Champod)
 

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I further anticipate some excellent discussion on the CLPEX message board this week.  Join in discussions on these topics in an in-formal, non-permanent, un-moderated manner :)
http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2
And as usual, the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) is also available for more formal latent print-related discussions.

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FUNNY FINGERPRINT FINDS

"Fingerprints are made of oils, salt, and moisture. When these three components mix they form a sticky solution which rests in the ridges of your Volar Pad until pressed against something. When pressed against something the sticky formula leaves your fingertips and sticks like two-sided tape. When you dust for fingerprints the dust sticks to the sticky part of the fingerprints. Fingerprints in conclusion are made of three every day ingredients."

<http://www.gpcsd28.ab.ca/stmarys/forensics/dnahowfinger.htm>
1-14-03

Seems logical to me.

Hey... that was it for "Funny Fingerprint Finds" in my pending folder.  Let's try to fill it back up!  Scour the internet and send me what you find.  If I don't receive anything this week, we may find a blank funny section next time.  I know we all need a laugh on Mondays, so make a mental note to search the internet this week.  Happy surfing!

UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...


Updated the Newzroom

Updated the Detail Archives
 


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.

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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.

Have a GREAT week!