Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
Sloppy FBI Work Blamed for Linking Lawyer to Terror Bombing
SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER
- Jan 6, 2006 ...the Justice Department's
internal watchdog faulted the FBI for sloppy work...
Department Inspector General's Executive Summary
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
- Jan 5, 2006
...Department of Justice's report on the erroneous
identification of Brandon Mayfield (9 MEG file)...
FBI's Response to Inspector General's Report
FBI NATIONAL PRESS OFFICE, DC - Jan 6, 2006 ...the report
confirmed there was no misconduct by the FBI or misuse of the USA
Palm Print Allowed at Trial
COURIER-JOURNAL, IN - Jan 7, 2006
...Defense had sought to block
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containing new posts
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New Mayfield Article
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Latent Print Certification Experience Requirements
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Commonwealth v Terry L. Patterson
Michele Triplett Thu Jan 05, 2006 2:09 pm
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jonahbee Mon Jan 02, 2006 1:41 pm
UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
Updated the Smiley Files with two new
the decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Patterson
regarding the use of simultaneous latent print impressions
we look at the fingerprint-related portion
of the unclassified report of the US Department of Justice Office of the
Inspector General (OIG) involving a Review of the FBI's Handling of the
Brandon Mayfield Case.
*Below is the outline
with key sections of this report
The complete report is available online at:
(Starting at p. 6)
IV. OIG Assessment of the Causes of the Misidentification
In this section of the executive summary, we discuss the
OIG's assessment of the causes of the FBI Laboratory's misidentification of
A. The Primary Causes of the Error
The OIG found several factors that caused the FBI's misidentification of the
fingerprint. The unusal similarity between LFP 17 and Mayfield's known
fingerprint was a major factor in the misidentification that confused three
experienced FBI examiners and a court-appointed expert. However, we
concluded that the examiners committed errors in the examination procedure,
and that the misidentification could have been prevented through a more
rigorous application of several principles of latent fingerprint
1. The unusual similarity of the prints
In identifying Mayfield as the source of LFP 17, the FBI examiners relied in
significant part on the relationship of "minutiae" or "points" within the
prints. (...) Ten of the points in LFP 17 that were used to
identify Mayfield were also later used by different FBI examiners to
identify Daoud as the source of the print. These 10 features in LFP 17
formed a constellation of points that was generally consistent with the
constellation of points in the known fingerprints of both Mayfield and Daoud.
The unusual similarity is reflected in the relative location of the points,
the orientation of the ridges coming into the points, and the number of
intervening ridges between the points. Although the OIG found no
systematic study of the rarity of such an event, anecdotal reports suggest
that this degree of similarity between prints from two different people is
an extremely unusual circumstance.
In addition, the Mayfield case illustrates a particular hazard of the IAFIS
computer program. (...)
2. Bias from the known prints of Mayfield
(...) The OIG found that a significant cause of the misidentification was
that the LPU examiners' interpretation of some features in LFP 17 was
adjusted or influenced by reasonong "backward" from features that were
visible in the known prints of Mayfield. (...) The FBI examiners
began to "find" additional features in LFP 17 that were not really there,
but rather were suggested to the examiners by features in the Mayfield
3. Faulty reliance on extremely tiny (Level 3) detials
The OIG also found that FBI examiners gave significant weight to the
purported agreement between extremely tiny details in LFP 17 and Mayfield's
The OIG found that none of the purported Level 3 features in LFP 17 used to
identify Mayfield corresponded to features in the known prints of the true
donor (Daoud). Thus, unlike the case with larger details, the
examiners were not confused by any unusual similarity in Level 3 details on
the fingers of Mayfield and Daoud. Rather, they apparently
misinterpreted distortions in LFP 17 as real features corresponding to Level
3 details seen in Mayfield's known fingerprints.
4. Inadequate explanations for differences in
(...) Although the explanations that the examiners gave for each
difference were individually plausible, they cumulatively required too many
rationalizations to support an identification with the requisite certainty.
The OIG concluded that the FBI examiners did not apply a sufficiently
stringent standard for their explanations and thereby failed to
appropriately apply the "one discrepancy rule."
5. Failure to assess the poor quality of similarities
The OIG also found that the FBI examiners failed to give adequate
consideration to the incomplete nature of the agreement in points between
LFP17 and Mayfield's fingerprint. (...) The OIG found that many
of the points utilized by the FBI to support the identification suffered
from ...(ambiguity as to feature type), and that accordingly the "quality"
of the agreement was inadequate to support the conclusion of identification.
6. Failure to reexamine LFP 17 following the April 13 Negative Report
(of the Spanish
The FBI Laboratory missed an opportunity to catch its error when the SNP
informed the FBI on April 13 that it had reached a "negativo" (negative)
conclusion with respect to matching LFP 17 to Mayfield's fingerprints.
(...) A better response to a conflicting determination by another
forensic laboratory would have been first to determine the complete basis
for the other laboratory's disagreement before committing anew to the
validity of the original determination, and also to arrange for a fresh
examination of the relevant prints by a new examiner who had not previously
committed himself to a particular conclusion. The FBI Laboratory took
neither of these steps.
B. OIG Assessment of Other potential Sources of Error
First, the OIG examined whether the ("Ridgeology Standard") used by the FBI
Laboratory for declaring an identification contributed to the error. (...)
The OIG concluded that the error would not necessarily have been avoided by
the application of a Numerical Standard. (...)
Second, the OIG examined whether the FBI's verification procedures (lacking
blind verification) contributed to the error. (...) The OIG did not
find compelling evidence that the FBI's verification procedures introduced a
bias that prevented or discouraged the official verifier from challenging
the identification in this case. (...)
Third, the OIG considered whether the pressure of working on a high-profile
terrorism case was a significant contributing cause of the error in this
case. We found no evidence to support this conclusion.
C. The Role of Mayfield's Religion in the Identification
The OIG also investigated whether the FBI fingerprint examiners were aware
of and improperly influenced by knowledge of Mayfield's religion when they
made the identification of LFP 17. We determined that the FBI
examiners were not aware of Mayfield's religion at the time they concluded
Mayfield was the source of LFP 17.
D. Explanations Found by the OIG Not To Have Contributed to the Error
First, the OIG reviewed the initial claim that the FBI's lack of access to
the original evidence on which LFP 17 was deposited was a cause of the
error. (...) The OIG reviewed the evidence and concluded that, contrary to
the FBI's claims, having access to the bag would not necessarily have
prevented the LPU from misidentifying Mayfield.
FBI spokespersons also offered another explanation immediately after the
error was discovered: that the FBI was working with a degraded or distorted
third-generation digital image of LFP 17 provided by the SNP. The OIG
found that although there was a modest improvement in clarity in the
photographic image of LFP 17 that the SNP eventually made available to the
FBI, the quality of the digital image initially supplied to the FBI did not
cause the error.
We also considered the suggestion by some members of the International Panel
that the FBI examiners were misled by an excessive faith in the IAFIS
technology. The OIG did not find this explanation to be persuasive.
Develop criteria for the use of Level 3 details to support identifications
Clarify the "one discrepancy rule" to assure that it is applied in a manner
consistent with the level of certainty claimed for the latent fingerprint
Require documentation of features observed in the latent fingerprint before
the comparison phase to help prevent circular reasoning
Adopt alternate procedures for blind verifications
Review prior cases in which the identification of a criminal suspect was
made on the basis of only one latent fingerprint searched through IAFIS
Require more meaningful and independent documentation of the causes of
errors as part of the Laboratory's corrective action procedures.
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