Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
Judge Throws Out Fingerprint Evidence In Murder
2007 ...death penalty case involving the murder of a
businessman has been derailed in court...
Judge Bars Use of Partial Prints in Murder Trial
BALTIMORE SUN REPORTER, MD
- Oct 23, 2007
...Baltimore County judge has ruled that fingerprint evidence is not
Judge Opens Fingerprints to Court Scrutiny –
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL - Oct 24, 2007
...ruling by a Baltimore judge barring fingerprint evidence from a
trial could lead to challenges...
Fingerprinting Goes High-tech
- Oct 25, 2007
can detect fingerprints left at crime scenes that can't be obtained
with traditional techniques...
Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
Give us your opinion
RJ Hillman 138 Sat Oct 20, 2007 9:45 pm
Pat A. Wertheim 161 Sat Oct 20, 2007 8:41 pm
Statistics and Misidentifications - The weeks Detail
Michele Triplett 25531 Fri Oct 19, 2007 6:57 pm
Raise The Banner
Charles Parker 577 Thu Oct 18, 2007 7:59 pm
Are you a LEO.gov user?
Steve Everist 119 Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:26 pm
Fingerprints and Intelligence
Charles Parker 503 Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:15 pm
SWGFAST, ASCLD-LAB, et al
Ernie Hamm 345 Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:11 am
ASCLAD Related question
Alphabrit 2144 Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:46 pm
ULW and IAFIS
Charles Parker 348 Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:29 pm
UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group web page with FIG # 19.
we looked at Judge Susan Souder's motion to
exclude fingerprint testimony from a MD Capital Murder trial.
we start a 3-part
historical series on the rarity of features in friction ridge
identification. Intuitively we know a unique configuration of detail
when we see one. We also know intuitively that increased clarity, and
therefore the appearance of finer levels of detail weigh into the evaluation
phase of ACE-0V. For the next three weeks we take a trip back in time
to a short series of articles that appeared in Finger Print and
Identification Magazine in the early 1970's, prior to the IAI's 1973
resolution stating that "There is no valid scientific basis for requiring a
minimum number of friction ridge characteristics which must be present in
two fingerprints in order to establish positive identification."
Thanks to Charles Parker for formatting this series for distribution.
The Reference Shelf (Osterburg
by J. Hess
LAPD Latent Finger Print Section
Breathes their a finger print man today who hasn’t been troubled by the
“gray zone?” (And we don’t mean your wife’s attempts to get the finger print
powder out of your white collars either!) No, regardless of whether your
standard is 8, 10, 12 or whatever number of points you feel is necessary to
establish a positive identity of a latent finger print, you frequently
encounter those that are shy a point or two. These are the borderline, the
“gray zone” cases in which you are convinced of identity because of the
particular formation of some of the ridge characteristics even though
numerically the print fails the “quantity test” of that arbitrary value. You
may base this belief on the “unusualness” of the characteristics that are
available in the print for study.
Much mention has been made by various writers about the qualitative value of
the ridge characteristics, but not many go beyond the statement that most
finger print workers agree that even with fewer points than is usually
deemed necessary for identification, a print displaying unusual points is a
Number Not Only Factor
Due to past dependence on quantitative values being stressed, we often feel
“trapped” by the numbers game. The courts, the prosecution and the defense
have been programmed to expect the expert to indicate that he has found a
minimum of points of agreement between the latent and the exemplar. Often
the print man who has a valid case, not based on a “norm” of points but on
the arrangement and relative “weightier” points, may hesitate because of the
anticipated struggle he may encounter in convincing all concerned that an
arbitrary number may be modified, based on the unique characteristics
available in the print.
This brings up this month’s article for discussion. To quote from the
author, “What are unusual characteristics; what are the qualitative and
quantitative differences in their unusualness?” The author is James W.
Osterburg, noted criminalist, professor and author, and the article is
titled “An Inquiry into the Nature of Proof.” It was published in the
October, 1964, issue of the The Journal of Forensic Science, Vol. 9, No. 4,
In this study the author noted that there is no set standard for the number
of points required for identification and may vary from 6 to 18 points. If
fewer points are available than are normally required by the particular
technician involved, he must rely upon his experience and evaluation of the
qualitative value of the characteristics. Mr. Osterburg defines the problem
as one of determining what are unusual characteristics and how much weight
should be given to them toward establishing a positive identification. To
find the answer to this question he approached the working finger print
technicians. A survey questionnaire, illustrating and naming 10 different
ridge formations was sent to all 50 states and to the identification bureaus
of the 130 largest cities in the United States. The characteristics
illustrated were: the bridge; delta; dot or short ridge; double bifurcation;
ending or broken ridge; eye; fork; island ridge; spur or hook; and the
Frequency Rate Requested
The survey requested the recipient to study the ten characteristics and
without reference to any literature but entirely of his own experience, rate
the ten points in the order of their frequency. Starting with the
characteristic that is encountered least frequently was to be listed as
number one; the formation that is the second most uncommon was to be marked
two, and so on down the line to number ten which would be in the rater’s
opinion the most recurrent formation in finger prints.
An adjunct asked the technician to indicate the relative frequency of each
of the characteristics in comparison to the one he listed as the rarest in
occurrence. In other words, for every time that this “rare” characteristic
would be found how many more times would each of the other formations is
encountered? This part of the survey was an attempt to establish some sort
of ratio of occurrence between the more common points and those rarely
There were 82 questionnaires returned and as might be expected, they
reflected some divergent opinions between various experts as to the relative
frequency of certain points. As this is discussed in detail and very well
illustrated in several charts and graphs by the author in his article, we
will mention only the final analysis. However, we recommend that the reader
refer to the article in its entirety because it does bring out some very
How Respondents Replied
When the survey was tabulated, according to a weighted score opinion of the
82 finger print experts who participated, the rarest characteristic in their
opinion is the bridge, followed in order by the trifurcation, double
bifurcation, island ridge, eye, spur, dot , delta, and fork, with the ending
ridge as the most frequent.
The author does not elaborate further on the original question, “What are
unusual characteristics?” but rather leave us to draw our own conclusions on
the basis of the survey. If we consider the ten different points covered and
their relative ratings, we might draw an arbitrary line between the five
most frequent and the five least frequent and come up with something like
this: According to a survey of 82 finger print experts representing a
cross-section of practicing professionals, a summary of their opinions rates
the ending ridge, fork, delta, dot and spur as the most common ridge
characteristics, while the eye, island ridge, double bifurcation,
trifurcation and bridge are the least frequently encountered.
Part Goes Unanswered
Nor does he mention the results of the second part of the survey, dealing
with the ration of occurrence between the more common characteristics and
the rarest one. We would guess that the returns on this phase of the opinion
survey were neglected by many of those participating. Unless the individual
rater had done extensive research in this field, and attempt at an answer
would be pure speculation and few of us would care to go so far out on a
limb. Inquiry by the writer into this field has indicated very little
research in this area to date. Two such studies have come to light will be
covered in a later column.
Finally, the author did not attempt to attach any “weight” to any
characteristics because of he position on the scale of frequency of
occurrence. Perhaps if we look at the conclusions that the survey did not
establish, the author has made his point.
In a later article, appearing in the March, 1969, issue of The Journal of
Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, Vol. 60, No. 1, page 97, Mr.
Osterburg, comments further on the results of this survey. He indicates a
very definite need for more data and research in the article titled,
“Evaluation of Physical Evidence in Criminalistics: Subjective or Objective
In the next column we shall continue with the qualitative approach to ridge
characteristics evaluation and refer to the research and the application of
the results by workers on opposite sides of the globe.
(Originally printed in Finger Print and Identification
Magazine, Vol. 52 No.; March 1971)
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