Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
Murderer Arrested 2 Decades After Escape –
- Apr 12, 2007 ...agents were able to match the
fingerprints taken during a recent arrest to those of the escaped
Fingerprint Checkouts 'in 5 to 10 years' –
STUFF.CO.NZ, NEW ZEALAND -
2007 ...imagine a day when the only item
you'll need to take to the supermarket to complete a transaction is
your index finger...
Robber Sentenced to More Than 5 Years in Prison
- Apr 13,
2007 ...a fingerprint lifted from the envelope after the
dye pack exploded led police to suspect...
Still Guilty After All These Years
– NEW YORK
- Apr 8, 2007
...worry that the growing capacity of today’s forensics to reach
farther into the past seems likely to undermine the law’s statutes of
Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
Pollen impedes finding prints
L.J.Steele 419 15 Apr 2007 05:05 am
ACE-V The only methodology?
S. Siegel 509 14 Apr 2007 12:51 pm
Thomas Taylor 867 14 Apr 2007 11:02 am
JJ 156 13 Apr 2007 03:31 pm
Coffey Rules on Reconsideration of Langill Decision
steve ostrowski 333 12 Apr 2007 03:03 pm
KFarrell 150 11 Apr 2007 07:56 pm
Mike Fletcher 604 11 Apr 2007 10:39 am
UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
updates on the website this week.
we continued a series on U.S. patents related to
latent print examination.
we look at Judge Coffey's
ruling on the Motion to Reconsider in the NH Langill case.
Decision on Motion to
Reconsider in State v. Richard Langill
by Stephen Ostrowski
The New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory has been notified that
Justice Patricia C. Coffey has
ruled on the Motion to Reconsider in the case of State v. Richard Langill.
The Motion to Reconsider was
filed following Coffey’s decision to exclude fingerprint expert testimony
after a Daubert hearing (--see
"Judge Grants Motion To Exclude Latent Fingerprint Identification," The
Weekly Detail, January 29, 2007).
Despite: 1) the State’s Motion to Reconsider, 2) a sworn affidavit from the
case examiner and, 3) a sworn
affidavit from the lab’s QA/QC Manager, Coffey ruled that there was
“insufficient information to support
a finding that the application (emphasis by Coffey) of the ACE-V methodology
to the single latent print
in this case was reliable.” Thus, Coffey has affirmed her original decision
and denied the State’s Motion
In her decision, Coffey describes the court’s role as gatekeeper as
assessing the reliability of the
technique used by an expert to reach a given conclusion. She explains that
the level of scrutiny the
court applies in the reliability inquiry depends upon the complexity of the
evidence involved and the
impact the evidence will likely have on the trial itself (this
identification of a single latent
impression is the only evidence in the case). She states that fingerprint
analysis is complex and the
conclusion of individualization carries enormous weight. Furthermore, she
writes that while the
scientific reliability of the ACE-V methodology itself should not vary
according to the circumstances of
each case, whether the proffered witness has applied the principles and
methods reliably to the facts of
the case will change and requires a case by case assessment, and therefore,
the court has strictly
scrutinized the principles and methods in the case-at-hand.
In her ruling, Coffey outlined the administrative portion of the case
examiner’s notes, but it is unclear
whether she considered the remaining four pages of technical notes (latent
print worksheets and
photographs) in the case file. Also, Coffey seemingly ruled without regard
of certain facts such as: the
NHSPFL is an ASCLD-LAB accredited laboratory, our SOP’s are based on ASCLD
and SWGFAST guidelines, our
SOP’s were reviewed and approved by the ASCLD inspection team, the case
examiner and the verifying
examiner are both IAI CLPEs, and the lab’s QA/QC Manager conducted an audit
of the Langill case file and
found that all procedures were adhered to. Despite all of this, Coffey made
the following arguments:
• There is nothing in the case notes that permits the court to assess
whether the ACE-V methodology
itself was conducted properly.
• The fact that the documentation submitted in support of the
individualization is sufficient to satisfy
the NHSPFL internal requirements, it does not assist this court in
evaluating whether the principles and
methods of ACE-V were reliably applied in this case.
• Without contemporaneous bench notes on the application of the ACE-V
methodology, neither legal counsel
nor the court can determine that a reliable comparison has actually been
• The examiner should have documented the application of the ACE-V
methodology as extensively as
So basically, Coffey has ruled that even though 1) the lab is accredited, 2)
the examiners are certified,
3) the SOPs were followed, 4) written and photographic notes were taken, and
5) the ACE-V methodology was
indeed applied in this case; the court cannot determine if the ACE-V
methodology was applied reliably.
In my opinion, the fact that defense counsel believes that the examiner’s
notes were insufficient should
go towards the weight and credibility of the evidence and not the
admissibility. Obviously Coffey
disagrees. I am not saying that more notes could not have been taken, but
rather the notes that were
taken did meet the minimum requirements set forth in our protocols and
generally accepted in the field
(the IDU Affidavit included results from a telephone survey of forty-two
forensic science laboratories
representing 38 states and Canada conducted by the NHSPFL IDU). Coffey
wanted to see notes that went
above and beyond the minimum requirements, but is not clear on what would
Coffey also addressed blind verification by stating that the court would be
satisfied that the analysis
was reliably conducted if blind verification processes were in place. This
contradicts her claim that the
written case notes were insufficient. Coffey further stated that she views
blind verification not as a
means of assuring the credibility of the result, but rather as a check and
balance on the application of
This ruling supports Coffey’s previous decision to exclude fingerprint
expert testimony and was fully
expected by all legal parties. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office
now has the case and is
preparing an appeal to the State Supreme Court. Optimistically, a final
decision will be reached by the
end of the year.
Posted on the CLPEX Discussion Forum on April 11, 2007.
Stephen H. Ostrowski, MSFS, CLPE
New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory
33 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03305
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