T H E
D E T A I L
Monday, October 20, 2003
BREAKING NEWz you can
compiled by Jon Stimac
Finger Food - MID COLUMBI TRI CITY
HERALD, WA -
Oct. 14, 2003 The lunch cards of
Hawthorne Elementary School students are replaced with a biometric system
Sheriff's Office Gets High-Tech Palmprint ID from Motorola-
Boca Raton News, Fl
- Oct. 15, 2003 The Palm Beach
County Sheriff's Office gets Omnitrak AFIS/Palmprint Identification and Livescan...
Police Unveil Fingerprint Technology -
- Oct.15, 2003
testified that fingerprints and faked court documents link the man to the
Fingerprints to Prove Lottery
News.com.au - September 20, 2003
petition was filed by a Vancouver man claiming that a neighbor found his lottery
ticket and cashed it... latent print work is being performed...
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.
John Nielson wanted me to mention that there are a few seats available in an
in-service "Ridgeology Science Workshop" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin November 3-7.
For details, contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in touch with John. The
course is only two weeks away, so let me know soon. Details on the course
are available on the RSW section of the Training page of CLPEX.com.
Pat Wertheim brought us his report on a Daubert challenge to the science of
fingerprints in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This week, we see a written
opinion from U.S. District Judge
Ralph R. Beistline regarding a motion to
exclude fingerprint evidence in the District of Alaska.
U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
Case No. A03-0113 CR (RRB), U.S. vs. Zachary Ryan Carey
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO EXCLUDE FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE
Filed October 15, 2003
Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Exclude Government’s Latent
Fingerprint Evidence (Docket 14) brought pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). A “Daubert hearing” was held on
October 9, 2003 at which each party presented expert testimony regarding the
admissibility of fingerprint evidence. The focus of the hearing was not on the
specific partial fingerprint at issue in this case, but on the use of
fingerprint evidence generally.
The Court is well aware of the fact that fingerprint evidence has been utilized
in the courts of the United States for years (roughly a century) and has been
routinely recognized as reliable. It is undisputed that fingerprints are
permanent and unique, and that the science and/or technique of fingerprint
analysis and comparisons have been well established and extensively developed.
Experts, including the Government’s expert in this case, Melisha Gische, have a
clear understanding of the physiological basis for fingerprints and have
established beyond a reasonable doubt that no two fingerprints are exactly the
same, not even the fingerprints of twins. The Court concludes, therefore, that
the testimony of a competent fingerprint examiner, utilizing a reasonably clear
latent fingerprint and comparing it to a known print, can reliably assist the
jury in its fact-finding function to render an opinion as to whether the prints
in question match.
Defendant asserts, however, that there is insufficient scientific testing to
justify using fingerprint evidence under the guidelines set forth in Daubert,
id. The Court disagrees. While each factor suggested by the Supreme Court in
Daubert may not have been perfectly addressed to the satisfaction of some in the
scientific community, there is more than sufficient basis to conclude that
fingerprints are reliable for the purposes utilized here. The use of
fingerprints has been generally accepted in the “scientific community.” In other
words, those with an interest in the subject, including law enforcement, the
courts, scientists, the military, hospitals, etc., have routinely accepted the
accuracy of fingerprinting and have utilized it routinely over the years.
Furthermore, the use of fingerprints is well known and has been subject to peer
review in the sense that defendants in criminal cases and scientists in general
have had years in which to challenge the science and techniques associated with
fingerprinting but have not done so with any success. In fact, the passage of
time only adds to the number of verified matches that have occurred with
misidentification rare, if at all. And fingerprint accuracy has been tested by
virtue of its successful and reliable use, day in and day out. All state and
federal prisoners are fingerprinted, as well as all military personnel and many
others. Despite the wide use of fingerprints, never have two people been
discovered with the same fingerprint. The potential for error is therefore de
minimis if at all.
Defendant’s concerns about the reliability of specific print or a fragmented
print is properly the subject of cross-examination and may certainly be
considered by the jury as it determines the weight to be given to the evidence.
The Court cannot conclude however, in light of the overwhelming evidence of
reliability, that the field of fingerprinting is so speculative and uncertain
that it must be kept from the jury. Defendant’s Motion To Exclude Government’s
Latent Fingerprint Evidence at Docket 14 is therefore DENIED.
Entered at Anchorage, Alaska, this 14 day of October, 2003.
Ralph R. Beistline, U.S. District Judge
To discuss this Weekly Detail, log on to the CLPEX.com
Submitted by John Pedroza
Fingerprint Technician I
Riverside County Sheriff
Feel free to pass The Detail along to other examiners. This is a free
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!