Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
Last week, we posted an article on Ruthenium Tetroxide (RTX) by Kenzoh
This week we consider what happens when a splinter is allowed to fester.
I have two daughters (6 and 7 years of age), and they are completely different in many ways. One
enjoys being with others constantly; the other can play for hours alone.
One will become emotional at the drop of a hat; the other will just stare
blankly at Amy and I in the midst of a major rebuke. One is deathly afraid
of the removal of a splinter and the other is not.
To the one who would rather leave the splinter in, I have started explaining the
reason why we get out the tweezers (and sometimes a needle) and suffer the pain
If not dealt with immediately, the splinter will fester and we become much worse
than before. In fact, a couple of months ago I gave her the choice to let
a splinter fester for a day, which she gladly accepted.
She came to me the next morning and had decided on her own to allow the removal.
More recently, she came to me with a small thorn that had begun to fester, opted
to leave it alone, but changed her mind within an hour. Progress has
indeed been made on the homefront.
However, it seems that progress toward the removal of a major splinter in the
field of latent print examination has not been so promising.
What has become known as the "Scotch Botch" in many circles is far from over.
From travel and discussion with other examiners, I know that most U.S. examiners
consider the McKie situation resolved. In fact, many examiners I have spoken
with remember the situation as if it were a part of history, saying things such
as "didn't that happen years ago?" or in disbelief, "there are still people who
think it is a match!??"
Indeed there are... and they aren't just from the SCRO.
splinter is festering.
By Iain McKie on Saturday, May 21, 2005 - 05:30 pm:
The solicitor of Peter Swann, Fellow of the Fingerprint
Society, in a 14 page letter to the Lord Advocate in
Scotland claims that the Shirley McKie and Marion Ross
identifications by the SCRO are correct and that a
miscarriage of justice is threatened against the SCRO
experts. He condemns the world experts who have supported
“foreign Fingerprint Experts and, indeed, Internet Experts
who repeatedly attack fingerprint standards in the UK in
circumstances where they would not be offered employment,
even to clean the toilets at SCRO.”
He has circulated this letter to the Scottish media and a
number of articles are expected tomorrow Sunday.
In February, 2002, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd of the Crown Office in Edinburgh,
Scotland, stated that the BBC Frontline Scotland program on the case of Shirley
McKie "helped uncover what were at best serious defects in the analysis of
fingerprinting at the Scottish Criminal Records Office and forced the
Authorities, including myself, to act to ensure that such a Case would not
In the letter to Lord Advocate Boyd from Mr. Swann's solicitor David Russell, he
writes "That was a spineless speech in which you were doing nothing more than
pandering to the McKies and currying favour with the media in Scotland."
"Peter Swann... was asked to provide an opinion on the comparison of the prints,
prior to Ms. McKie's Trial for Perjury. Mr. Swann stated with absolute
certainty that there was a match between the prints... Mr. Swann recorded the
exchange as follows:
Donald Findlay QC: Have you seen the mark?
Peter Swann: Yes, I have seen it in situ on the Door Standard.
Mr. Findlay: Is it genuine?
Mr. Swann: Yes it is.
Mr. Findlay: And whose is it?
Mr. Swann: It's the left thumb impression of Shirley McKie."
"the fingerprint of Shirley McKie was positively identified as a match... by a
second Independent Fingerprint Expert, Malcolm Graham, who had been instructed
by the Asbury Defense Team." In a statement, Mr. Graham asserts "My
conclusions concerning Ms. McKie were that her fingerprint could not have been
planted on a door frame in the house. I was also satisfied that it was her
fingerprint. I made that clear in my report to Asbury's Defence Lawyer and
also gave Evidence to that effect at the Murder Trial."
In the letter, David Russell also states that "neither Mr. Swann nor Mr. Graham
have ever withdrawn their Evidence on the McKie fingerprint."
He continues: "In Scotland, of course, the two "victims" are portayed as Shirley
McKie and David Asbury. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
The victims are the family and friends of Marion Ross and the four named Experts
within the SCRO."
For those who have not heard, the Fingerprint Society is holding the next
conference in Scotland, but it has been made clear that there will be no public
presentations regarding the McKie situation from either "side" of this issue.
"The Society will have a neutral stance on this matter next year and I for one
will be most vocal in keeping it that way... The Society is at great pains to
ensure that this conference does not become embroiled in matters surrounding
your daughter's case... I intend to ensure that NO ONE is able to score any
points via the conference...from either side." (David Charlton, (http://www.shirleymckie.com/documents/FingerprintSocietyDebate_007.pdf)
In reality, the heart of the issue is the concept of "sides"
concerning a particular latent print comparison. There should be no "sides"
regarding the identity versus the non-identity of any
pair of impressions except for truth. When an element
of mis-truth exists, as it must in any case of opposing conclusions, it becomes
a splinter in the greater body of worldwide forensic science that must be dealt
In the Marion Ross case, it must be realized that a splinter still exists, and
has always existed. Some know that it does, but refuse to admit the wound
is festering. Others continue to believe the issue will just go away, but
we find our discipline 6 years later in a lot more pain than if it had been
immediately resolved. The McKie situation was recently referred to in the
Michael Jackson case.
In the Mayfield case, the FBI immediately resolved the issue through an independent, international panel of
experts. The wound has healed and forensic science walks on.
But the FBI opened the door and allowed the process to occur, even facilitated the
process by inviting a completely unbiased panel to arrive at a
conclusion they would live with. And they have lived with that conclusion.
Unfortunately, it is obvious that the issues in the Marion Ross case will require a lot
more effort to
resolve. For the good of the profession, this needs to happen as soon as
possible. All parties involved need to agree upon a course of action that
will lead nowhere except to one unanimous conclusion based on two friction ridge
impressions. To do anything else at this point is simply allowing a
splinter to fester. And we all know from personal experience that it is
better to deal with the pain as early as possible rather than cause more and
more pain as time goes on. It is past time to remove this splinter from
the latent print discipline.
message board is always open: (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2).
For more formal latent print discussions, visit
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