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via THE WEEKLY DETAIL
 
Monday, July 18, 2005

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

Mayfield Case Rivets Crowd OREGONIAN, OR - July 16, 2005 ...Mayfield was arrested as a material witness and jailed for two weeks before the FBI conceded the mistake and apologized...

Mayfield Demands FBI Return Copies of Files KGW.COM, OR - July 15, 2005 ...wrongly linked to the 2004 Spain train bombings, Mayfield demands that the FBI return paper and computer files seized from his home...

FBI Note Cited Little Evidence to Arrest Mayfield   OREGONIAN, OR - July 14, 2005 ...if he "gets outed by the media," the FBI would detain him as a material witness...

Police Obtain New Inked Prints   BEAVER COUNTY TIMES, PA  - July 14, 2005  ...Police obtained a set of prints, including those from fingertip, palm and wrist areas, of a man who is a "person of interest" in a doctor's shooting death...

Last week

we look at a recent line of questioning in court involving IAI certification and the individuals involved in the erroneous Brandon Mayfield identification.

This week

we continue to look at different perspectives on this same topic.
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Re: IAI Certification Issues
Paul Truedson and Ronan Shouldice

Regarding the " Letter to the IAI RE: Certification Issues," from Ronan Shouldice, Monday July 11th, 2005.

From Criminalist / LPE / Deputy Sheriff, Paul Truedson
IAI member # 18928
Forensic Science Department
Washington County Sheriff's Office
Hillsboro, Oregon 97123-3874
paul_truedson@co.washington.or.us
503-846-2655

Dear Ronan,

For God sakes man, stop whining! The United States Constitution guarantees the right of the defense / the accused, to not only put on a vigorous defense, but the right to confront witnesses. You are a witness. An expert witness.

[Editor comment: in a separate quote, the author states "If you knew me, you would find that I do have a weird sense of humour, and even though this may come across somewhat like a cold slap in the face to some, I did not mean it in a mean-spirited way.]

You wrote in the Weekly Detail, " I have recently been in the position of having to defend my Certification in the courtroom..." So what. That's life. Every time you take the stand the defense has the right to question the evidence, every word written in your report, and every word that you utter while testifying. Did you expect anything less ? Did you not anticipate this ? Did you expect that you could hold up your Certification and not be questioned about your knowledge, training and abilities ?
( " Having worked hard to attain CLPE status, I am extremely upset by having to defend it!" ) The test you took for your Certification is merely a snapshot in time. Every time you testify you have to be qualitied on the stand as an expert witness. Bruce Lee once had a student who held the rank of black belt come whining to him after a bout, in which the student was defeated. "But you don't understand...I have a black belt, and I lost." Bruce asked him if he thought the mere act of having the belt would have made him prevail. Would it have somehow miraculously undid itself from his waist, and attack and defeat his opponent.

Don't whine to the IAI. You got beat on the stand. ( By beat, I mean you did not get your point across to the jury, and make them understand, in order to win the argument.) The reason; knowledge is fixed in time, whereas knowing is a movement. Think...react...anticipate. Before you testify you should think about the different ways the defense could attack your Certification, and how you would handle those questions. You put yourself in the position of being the quintessential " Deer in the headlights." The defense, how dare they, questioned your IAI Certification? That is their job. I guarantee that they would have questioned you if you were not certified; if you took the Certification test and did not pass it; what your score was, and/or why you did not get 100%, etc,etc...

You wrote,"Simon Cole was retained by the defense and was allowed, by a visiting judge, to testify." Okay...that's their right. Not being familiar with Simon Cole, I assume he is a latent print expert, and a latent print examiner. Which would lead me to the following questions. Did Simon Cole compare the latent palm print impression on the cashbox, with the defendants rolled inked impressions, and if so, did he agree or disagree with your positive identification ? If he agreed with your positive identification, did he author a report of his conclusions, present that to your ADA, and testify as a prosecution witness ? If he did not compare the latent impression to the inked, but was afforded the opportunity to do so, did your ADA cross examine him about that fact. Brandon Mayfield is an all too convenient smoke-screen.

The defenses options are to attack the source of the latent, the age of the latent, the science, or the examiner. It is clear which way they went.

The Brandon Mayfield case. My thought is, " Get over it!" Did you do the comparison work in that case? No. Do you always use the original evidence when you make comparisons? Yes..or you should...or your lab should have a policy in place that you do. Not having first-hand knowledge of the case, from reading the accounts of the Mayfield case, have you formed any sort of opinion? The FBI apparently used copies of original evidence to make their comparisons and identification, something that I would not be permitted to do, and they realized their mistake only after viewing the original latent impression. I believe it was in an IAI publication that I read, "If a pilot error causes an airplane to crash, that does not mean the scientific principals that explain flight are flawed." This might have been a fitting anology for you to have used on the stand.

In your letter you stated that," defense refused to stipulate to expertise and immediately initiated a line of questioning regarding the Mayfield case." Did I mention that Brandon Mayfield lives in our county ? Local reaction...if synchronized panic were an organized sport, several of our Deputy District Attorneys would be in the Olympics. I guess I'll just have to deal with it.

You wrote,"The assistant DA, who is very capable, addressed all the usual areas in the qualifications phase, including IAI Certification, and went into some detail about the difficulties in attaining CLPE and the relative few there are." And the defense did not stipulate to your expertise ? Shocking! Your DA opened a door the size of a Mack truck, and invited the defense right in. This is not a knock on the IAI, ( I am a member ) but as I understand it, any latent examiner who has X # of years on and/or college education can take the Certification test. How many thousands of examiners who are not certified, are, as of this moment, eligible to take the test? The finest latent print examiner I have ever known, retired a few years ago. He had 32 years on as an LPE. I asked him why he never took the Certification test. He told me it was for several reasons. He was nearing retirement. The county did not pay him anything extra to obtain his certification. The county would not pay for the test. The test put a limit on the amount of time each applicant could spend making the comparisons, and in actual case work, he was not under such a time restraint. The IAI used copies of latent prints in their testing, and he was not allowed to use copies in his casework. And finally, he said that the Certification would only hold so much weight on the stand, and not be the end-all of his lifelong work in the science of fingerprints.

Look above at my somewhat lengthy official title. Notice it reads LPE and not CLEP. I am not certified. I am currently eligible to take the IAI Certification examine. I think if I chose to do so, I could pass the test and obtain my certification. I have many years on, made hundreds of thousands of comparisons, testifed as an expert in Circuit Court and U.S. District Court, and have attended several latent print schools, including the old FBI advanced three week latent print examiners school at Quantico, Virginia. I can be questioned about not being certified, just as you can be questioned about being so. I think I am prepared to anticipate and answer most questions put to me on the stand.

I have only addressed the subjects in your letter that really torqued me off, although your idea that the IAI or JFI publish "any change in an examiner's Certification status," ( Gee, I wonder what that change would be, or what caused that to occur?) I find ridiculous and irresponsible. ( Also see lawsuit, if/when the publishing results in the examiner not being hired or retained by an agency in the future.) The reasons for erroneous identifications, though rare, do occur, and for different reasons, including " bookkeeping errors." An erroneous latent print identification can be a career buster. But on the other hand, some agencies discipline, re-train, or keep their examiners on, following the mistake, with certain limitations such as requiring the examiner to have multiple verifiers of their work, or not being allowed to testify to their conclusions in court.

In conclusion...the IAI is not going to take the stand with you. Don't wrap yourself in your Certification when you testify, and don't blame the IAI. Your certification is only one piece of your background, and as you know by now, everything you testify to can and will be challenged. Afterall, that is our criminal justice system, and the American way.

I also believe that you should be proud of your Certification, because you did put in your dues to attain it, and the IAI is a fine and respected body. My purpose of writing this letter was not to discourage anyone from taking the Certification test, or obtaining their Certification. I know I have exceeded the analogy limit, but I will leave you with a final one. " The mighty dragon, stranded in shallow waters, amuses the frogs."

After a brief lecture from my supervisor about my supposed "anger control problem" ( My misjudgement in having him proof read this e-mail. ) I finally end with this caveat . The opinions and views of this Criminalist are not necessarily those of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, their subsidiaries, or their employees.

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Dear Mr Truedson,
 
I have read, and re-read, your lengthy reaction to my letter and I have to admit that your penchant for missing the point is manifest.
 
Naturally, every time one of us testifies (certified or not) we expect, increasingly it seems, rigorous cross-examination and refusals to stipulate. That is as it should be, because if you are going to testify you should be prepared for any line of questioning. I happen to enjoy the challenge and am all for the maintenance of high standards, awareness of continuing challenges, and ongoing training. I am not in the habit of waving certification around in the expectation that it will make my life easier. Rather the contrary. My experience, certification, knowledge, background, training and track record are all fair game in the courtroom. Do you think I am unaware of this? Your condescending redundancies, and peculiar analogies, would suggest that you are preaching to a novice rather than an experienced examiner, and I don't appreciate it. The strident tone and finger-wagging sermonising of your correspondence would have me believe that you are more an apologist than a realist, though I expect that your writing style masks otherwise good intentions...
 
Your blithe interpretation of my complaint as "whining" was both insulting and juvenile.
 
Regarding the Brandon Mayfield case, your suggestion that we just "get over it" showcases your apparent lack of understanding of what is going on in courtrooms accross the country, and indeed worldwide.
Your ignorance of Simon Cole's role in contemporary argument in your chosen field is testimony to your cobwebbed professional standing.
Your self-congratulatory belief that you are "prepared to anticipate and answer most questions" put to you on the stand is curious. If you were asked about your professional affiliations, you would no doubt proudly proclaim your IAI membership. If you were asked about your general knowledge of the Mayfield incident, I assume you would be able to respond. I can guarantee you that if you were then asked about the reaction within the IAI, following review of all the particulars in the case, and the subsequent action taken and papers published etc..., you would not have had an answer. Nobody did.
 
I would agree with you on two issues only. One is the fact that the vast majority of latent examiners are not certified by the IAI. I would further agree that this in no way diminishes their ability, professionalism, or dedication. The pursuit of certification tends to be a personal choice, unless it is mandated by your Department. I understand that most Departments, including my own, do not compensate for certification, or for the study material or test fee, so many examiners do not undergo the process, and that is fine. Those of us who have taken the time to challenge ourselves, and have succeeded, deserve, at the very least, the courtesy of response from the IAI when inquiring as to their position on the Mayfield case more than ONE YEAR after the fact. (yeah, I know....'get over it'). In fact, ANY member of this organization has the right to request this information.
 
The second issue that provoked a nod of agreement was the wisdom of your supervisor.
 
If you ever "choose to" pass the certification test, you might discover that it is something worth defending, and that the IAI should feel likewise.
 
I wish you well, and would invite you to re-review my original letter for content and substance.
 
Sincerely,
Ronan Shouldice


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