Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
Fingerprint Evidence Not Good Science, Scholar Says –
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, CA - Oct. 27,
scientist wages his campaign to prove that the science of
fingerprint analysis is missing a crucial element - namely, the
Fingerprint Match Leads To Two Suspects in Murder Case –
WBRZ-TV, LA - Oct. 29, 2004
...fingerprint match has identified a
pair of suspects in a two-year-old murder case...
New Software Judges Quality of Scanned Fingerprints –
EUREKALERT, DC - Oct. 27, 2004
...an improved automated fingerprint
tool that judges the quality of a scanned fingerprint is now
Fingerprinting Glitches Are Said to Hurt Anti-Terror Effort
– NEW YORK TIMES, NY
- Oct. 26, 2004 ...problems
in searching databases have left the military unable to check fully
the identities of thousands of detainees...
If you haven't checked out the Reference
Grail lately on CLPEX.com, there have been a couple of additions. Recently
a gold mine of information was found at a website called Mugu.com. All of
Francis Galton's papers, books, and the books of Herschel, Faulds, and Henry are
available to download as facsimile .pdf files. Details are available on
the "New" additions under the history section of the Reference Grail.
At 1.00 pm on Friday November 12, the inauguration of the Dr Henry Faulds Memorial in Beith,
under the chairmanship of the President of the Henry Faulds Society, Rev Fiona C Ross, will take place with a finger buffet and speeches afterwards in
Beith High Church, Kirk Road, Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland. The plaque will be unveiled by Provost
Drew Duncan of North Ayrshire Council and Rt Hon Brian Wilson, MP for
Cunninghame North. A press release will be prepared for circulation to all
national newspapers and BBC/STV as well as national and local Radio stations.
It would be nice to be able to include comments from those in the fingerprint
world across the globe giving an international feel to this special memorial. If you would like to make any comment for inclusion in the press release
regarding Dr Faulds or the memorial together with authorizing a contact number
or e-mail should the press wish to make contact, Donald Reid would be pleased to
receive this by Friday 29 October. Please oblige and pass this
information on to any interested parties who may wish to make a comment on the
first memorial to Dr. Faulds. Over 120 invites are in the process of
being sent out with several to USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and one to
India. The memorial will be fully completed to coincide with the inauguration
date to avoid the possibility of vandalism.
Donald L Reid
Henry Faulds Society
Our institute (IPS - Institut de Police Scientifique, University of Lausanne,
Switzerland), in collaboration with the Forensic Science Service (FSS, UK), is
conducting a major project on fingerprints statistics under the umbrella of the
US Department of Defense (TSWG). The project is mainly concerned with statistics
associated with level 2 features.
Within this project, we are very interested to pinpoint the definition of third
level characteristics as understood by fingerprint examiners. In fact, we aim at
designing, in a later stage, specific algorithms to detect and study
systematically level 3 features, and therefore there is a need to define them
In this context, we would like to invite you to participate in our web based
survey. The survey is anonymous and personal. The data gathered will be used
within the strict framework of the TSWG project.
The survey is titled:
"Survey on level 3 characteristics"
To participate, please click on the link below:
If you are interested in accessing the results of this survey, please contact us (for security reasons). Also feel free to
circulate this mail to other interested people to contact us.
We thank you in advance for your kind assistance.
Prof. Christophe Champod and Alexandre Anthonioz
If you have any questions or problems, please contact Alexandre Anthonioz
17th Meeting of the
International Association of Forensic Sciences
21-26 August 2005, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
It is my pleasure to announce that the 17th Meeting of the International
Association of Forensic Sciences (IAFS 2005) will be held in Hong Kong on 21-26
August 2005 under the theme of "Justice Through Science". We are working on a
rich and balanced professional programme with stimulating workshops. Inspiring
cultural and social events will also be organized for the participants.
If you are interested in submitting abstract(s) that fit in the topics of the
programme, please act NOW. Submission guidelines and form are available on our
Pleases click IAFS - Call for Papers for more information and a submission form.
Should you have any enquiries, please feel free to contact the Conference
Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org
International Association of Forensic Sciences
we looked at a summary of a document from South Africa regarding Daubert
concepts, demonstrating that these issues are not simply U.S. issues... they are
global in nature.
Pat Wertheim brings us a report from the Daubert Symposium held in Las Vegas,
Nevada last week.
“Daubert and the Comparative Sciences”
Summary of the
Symposium sponsored by the
American Board of
Forensic Document Examiners
2004, Las Vegas, NV
By Pat A. Wertheim
1. “Frye” – the 1923 Supreme Court decision that “scientific” evidence had to
meet the test of “general acceptance” to be admissible in court.
2. “Daubert” – the 1993 Supreme Court decision that “scientific” evidence should
be considered in light of four criteria: testing and validation, peer review,
error rate, and general acceptance. Not all or even one of those criteria need
to be met, but they are the criteria that should be considered by the court in
determining admissibility of expert testimony.
3. “Rule 702, Federal Rules of Evidence” – If scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence
to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge,
skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an
opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is sufficiently based upon reliable
facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and
methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to
the facts of the case.
4. “Rule 16, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure” – Rule 16 (a) (1) (G): At the
defendant’s request, the government must give to the defendant a written summary
of any testimony that the government intends to use under Rules 702, 703, or 705
of the Federal Rules of Evidence during its case-in-chief at trial. . . . The
summary provided under this subparagraph must describe the witness’s opinions,
the bases and reasons for those opinions, and the witness’s qualifications.
The second symposium on Daubert and the Comparative Sciences, hosted by the
American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, was held at the Orleans Hotel &
Casino in Las Vegas October 29-30, 2004. As with the first such symposium held
two years earlier, the topics were evenly split mainly between document and
fingerprint examination, but footwear/tiretread, firearms, fracture match, and
other comparative sciences were also addressed. Most attendees were from the US,
but there were also examiners from Canada and Australia. Speakers included
prominent experts from crime laboratories and the private sector in documents
and fingerprints, but also included Judge Stephanie Domitrovich, Pennsylvania
State Trial Court Judge; AUSA David Leta, US Attorney’s Office, Northern
District of Georgia; Professor William McComas, USC; Roni Dahir and Mara Merlino,
University of Nevada, Reno; and Dr. Thomas Busey, Indiana University. These
“outside” speakers provided an especially valuable and insightful perspective on
the Daubert related problems facing us today and in the future.
Daubert cases from the fields of documents and fingerprints were discussed by
the speakers in the field, most of who have participated in actual Daubert
hearings. Information on such hearings and how to prepare for them can be found
on other websites and the discussion here will not focus on those hearings and
issues. Rather, some of the concepts and trends not generally known or
anticipated by the majority of document and fingerprint examiners will be
discussed in this summary.
From a historical perspective, Judge Domitrovich discussed Frye and judicial
expectations, then traced the history of Daubert and related cases in both
intent and actual development. Of interest, but no remaining practical
application, was the fact that the Supreme Court’s original intent in the
Daubert decision was to provide a mechanism to make it easier for “new and
novel” sciences to make it into court. Thus, for example, DNA would have taken
years longer to meet the Frye standard of “general acceptance” to be used in
evidence. Daubert allowed introduction of DNA under testing and validation, peer
review, and discussion of error rate without having to wait for general
acceptance. By the late 1990’s, however, the defense community figured out they
could use Daubert to challenge long standing sciences, thus circumventing the
original intent of the Supreme Court and instead of simply making it easier to
introduce new science, Daubert could be used to make it harder to get generally
accepted science into the courtroom.
Judge Domitrovich also discussed Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, as
amended in 2000, which addresses the admissibility of scientific evidence.
Basically, Rule 702 requires that the principles and methods used to conduct the
scientific examination be reliable, that there be sufficient facts or data, and
that the witness applied the methods and principles reliably to the facts and
data. Judge Domitrovich went on to explain, however, that the rules applied
under Daubert, Frye, and 702 are not applied uniformly across the US. She
discussed “restrictive” Frye and Daubert states as well as “permissive” Frye and
Daubert states. This discussion helped some of us in the audience understand how
the situation has evolved in which our reports differ so drastically from
department to department and state to state in the amount of detail we include.
The judge gave examples of Michigan as a “restrictive Frye” state, Texas as a
“restrictive Daubert” state, Indiana as a “permissive Daubert” state, and
Arizona as a “permissive Frye” state. This led several of us from Arizona to
speculate on ASCLD-LAB inspectors who seem overly strict in interpreting our
policies and procedures. Would an inspector from a “restrictive” state
unintentionally impose stricter interpretation than required in a “permissive”
state? Would an inspector from a Daubert state conduct an inspection with
subconscious expectations that a Frye state is not required to meet? Has ASCLD-LAB
considered these variations of legal requirements in training the inspectors?
AUSA David Leta presented Daubert, Rule 702, and Rule 16 (Federal Rules of
Criminal Procedure) from the perspective of a Federal prosecutor who has handled
Daubert challenges. In his introduction, Mr. Leta stressed that, “You only get
one change to make a good impression.” In other words, you cannot approach a
Daubert hearing less than totally prepared and expect a second chance. Once a
judge rules against you, it’s all over. Taking that to the real “first
impression” level, Mr. Leta stated that your written report should fulfill
all of the requirements of disclosure. He gave examples of cases he has lost
during the pretrial phase because the police examiners thought he was asking for
unnecessary information from them and their reports failed to meet the
requirements of Daubert, Rule 702, and Rule 16, even after he asked for the
additional specific information such as full curriculum vitae.
Professor William McComas instructs at USC on how to teach science. Most
attendees agreed that Prof. McComas, a former science teacher himself, was the
most dynamic speaker at the symposium. He talked about “myths of science,” which
include a widespread failure of the public, and even many scientists, to fully
understand the differences between a law, a theory, and a hypothesis. Even the
definition of science itself is poorly understood, as shown by surveys that show
a large percentage of Americans believe astrology, spiritualism, and graphology
are science. Prof. McComas’ main point was that an expert witness has to explain
to a jury how science works before asking the jury to evaluate the evidence.
Further, though, he added that the witness has to explicitly discuss common
misconceptions. We have all read at CLPEX.com and other places of the problems
caused by the beliefs jurors bring with them to the courtroom from “CSI” and
other television programs or movies. Prof. McComas said we have to dispose of
those misconceptions right up front before we get into the examination process
and our conclusions.
Mara Merlino and Veronica Dahir, University of Nevada at Reno, have been
conducting a nationwide survey of judges to learn what they believe about
science. Their research pointed to the fact that some judges are very
knowledgeable about science, but many more are ignorant or worse, have a
terrible misunderstanding of how science works. The recommendations of Ms.
Merlino and Ms. Dahir were that our reports explain not only how the analysis
was done, but that we provide to the court multiple studies to support our
methodology and the scientific foundations our discipline as attachments to our
Dr. Thomas Busey, Indiana University, is conducting a scientific study of error
rate of latent print examination, with particular emphasis to determine if there
is a difference between error rate of trained and experienced latent print
examiners and that of lay persons. Of course, we all believe intuitively there
would be a drastic difference between our ability and the ability of the jurors
to make identifications and exclusions. But our belief that such is the case is
not scientific proof. The results of Dr. Busey’s study, when published, should
go a long way to answer defense critics who challenge us on the issue of error
rate. While his study will not provide a reliable error rate of our methodology,
such an error rate is not as necessary as showing that an expert’s conclusion
(“opinion”) is significantly more reliable than the opinion of an untrained lay
Several common threads ran through the presentations of the document and
fingerprint experts and the presentations of the “outsiders” as well. Like them
or not, among those common threads were the following issues:
1. There will be increasing reliance by the courts on accreditation of
laboratories, certification of examiners, and standardization and publication of
our procedures. We need to move with all due haste to meet those criteria.
2. Many jurisdictions, if not all, that are covered by Rule 16 now require
automatic disclosure, not just disclosure “at the defendant’s request.” Even in
jurisdictions not covered by Rule 16, we can expect the requirements to come
into effect in the next few years. We would all be wise to start moving in that
direction now rather than wait for the requirements to be thrust suddenly upon
us in a case lost because we had dragged our feet.
3. The primary issue in Daubert has been shifting from the four stated criteria
to the importance of witness qualifications. That interpretation was explicitly
stated in Judge Pollack’s second decision in the Llera-Plaza case. We can expect
that witness qualifications to become a primary focus of future defense pretrial
challenges under Daubert. Witness qualifications will also take on added
importance in the trial itself and in the appellate process. In that regard, the
expert cannot overstate his or her qualifications. Never be humble or think that
you are indulging in overkill when you list your qualifications. Present a
complete but honest curriculum vitae and testify to it in its entirety in
Daubert situations or when you disclose your qualifications under Rule 16.
4. Regardless of whether you are in a Frye or Daubert jurisdiction, restrictive
or permissive, you can’t go wrong by complying with the strictest interpretation
under Rule 16. You can lose your case before it even makes it to trial if you do
not comply right up front. In some cases, the case might even be dismissed
without you being notified that more information is needed. AUSA David Leta:
“You only get one chance to make a good impression.”
5. Every report by an expert should fulfill the requirements of disclosure
whether the defense files a disclosure motion or not.
6. Include in disclosure as part of the “bases and reasons” SWGFAST guidelines,
ASCLD requirements, and current published articles or references that describe
or define those “bases and reasons.”
7. KNOW science and especially how to articulate it in your discipline. Stay
current on the accepted practice. Include it in disclosure and be able to
explain or teach it in the courtroom.
8. Be able to explain the testing (proficiency and certification) available to
experts in your field and be able to testify that you have complied with and
passed that testing. Explain your laboratory’s accreditation requirements. If
your laboratory is not yet accredited, expect it to become a virtual court
mandated requirement in the coming decade and move in that direction now.
9. The discussion of “error rate” under Daubert is trending toward the
individual error rate as gauged by certification testing, proficiency testing,
and errors discovered in the verification process. Type II errors (missed
identifications) are irrelevant in considering error rate in cases where the
expert is testifying to an identification.
Conclusion: It does absolutely no good to argue what should or should not be
required in our field. Forget the bellyaching and complaining that we shouldn’t
have to do these things. The fact is that courts are going there so we had
better just suck it up and get ready. The sooner you are prepared, the better
you will fare. Those who spend their time complaining instead of preparing will
likely find themselves on the street corner with a cardboard sign saying “Will
do fingerprints for food.”
To discuss this Detail, the
message board is always open: (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2)
More formal latent print discussions are available at
UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
Updated the Smiley Files with a new smiley from the Smilie Czar. Send
yours in today! If you only have hard-copies, contact Bill Wolz to arrange
a digital smilie conversion:
Added 2 new consultants to the Complete Consultants Worldwide page
Updated the Newsroom
Added electronic copies of the foundational books of our forefathers, Herschel,
Faulds, Galton, and Henry to the Bookstore
as free downloads and to the History section of the
Reference Grail page. If you are
interested in downloading these, don't feel you have to do it this week... these
will be around for quite a while on the website, and I only have so much "free"
bandwidth a month for people to pull information off the website. If
everyone downloaded these this week, I would have to start charging for the
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 miss out! (To join this free e-mail newsletter, send a blank
email@example.com) Members may
unsubscribe at any time. If you have difficulties with the sign-up process
or have been inadvertently removed from the list, e-mail me personally at
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try
to work things out.
Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!