Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
New Fingerprints Found in Blood of British Student Killed in Italy
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, FRANCE
- Nov 17, 2007
...bloody fingerprints have been found on the pillow of
a student found slain in her bedroom...
Trial Begins for One of Two Men Accused of Killing Family of Five
- Nov 16, 2007 ...a bloody partial palm
print found in the doorway matched prints collected from suspect...
Prints Link Man to Victim's Car
MUNSTER TIMES, IN - Nov 15, 2007 ...a fingerprint expert
testified that evidence gathered from a crime scene matches the
fingerprints of a man on trial for the 2004 slaying...
Ohio Wants Your Fingerprints
REPOSITORY, OH - Nov 14, 2007
...agencies are required by a new state law to get fingerprints from
everyone they cite for any of at least 71 misdemeanor crimes...
Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
Jan Seaman Kelly 230 Fri Nov 16, 2007 3:53 pm
Statistics and Misidentifications - The weeks Detail
Michele Triplett 30508 Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:18 pm
Randall's Post from the Maryland Thread
Steve Everist 311 Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:05 pm
Latent Print Examiner Position in Santa Cruz, CA
Jeremy Verinsky 133 Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:22 am
Looking for a DNA policy
Norberto Rivera 113 Tue Nov 13, 2007 2:00 am
Ernie Hamm 1101 Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:02 pm
Fingerprint Positions -- Austin Texas
Crimcon 240 Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:09 pm
UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group web page with FIG #
we concluded a 3-part historical series on the
rarity of features in friction ridge identification.
we review a 2-part
editorial regarding the Maryland court fingerprint decision.
Fingerprint Ruling Unjust, Hurtful to Victim's Family
by Wayne T. Fleming Sr.
November 6, 2007
I am the father of the murder victim in the case in which a Baltimore County
Circuit judge ruled that fingerprint evidence will not be allowed. I can't
tell you how devastated my family is that the judge picked our case to
challenge more than 100 years of precedents to make her point that current
fingerprint forensic methodologies, although widely used around the world,
have an insufficient scientific basis to be allowed as evidence in a capital
Yet the grieving family, having placed its trust and confidence in the
judicial system to render justice, is expected to chalk it up as the cost of
being civilized. That price is too high.
As the legal community scurries to make talking points and pontificate on
the potential ramifications of this opinion, attention is taken away from
the case immediately affected by this miscarriage of justice. My family lost
our son, brother, nephew, cousin, grandson, uncle, husband and father in
broad daylight while he was departing a shopping mall parking lot.
My son was shot in the head, from behind, by someone who doesn't deserve the
many blessings our civilized society works so hard to extend to all.
Our society has spent years debating the notion of cruel and unusual
punishment. When do we start the debate on cruel and unusual protections?
In this case in which the fingerprint evidence is so important, Judge Susan
M. Souder is making her point despite the cost to my family in particular
and society as a whole. I assume that she believes that she is right. But
what if she is wrong? How can she feel so secure in her technical academic
musing, which would strike down the validity of a scientific field with more
than 100 years of practice?
All of our complex sciences at some point default to statistical expressions
of probability and are subject to errors of interpretation. They are all in
some respects fallible.
Do we discard them all because of it? No, we continue to use our best
practices, while working like the dickens to cost-effectively improve them.
In this case, the judge could have chosen to instruct the jury, reasonably,
to note the imperfections of the science when considering such evidence.
Instead, she struck the fingerprint evidence altogether, suggesting that she
thinks herself smarter than the potential jurors and the rest of the world
in these matters. The judge's opinion in this case is wrong, even if she is
right about fingerprints.
There are better ways to force this debate than to strip the Maryland
justice system of such a tool whose usefulness anyone with common sense can
recognize in our effort to cope with a society riddled with crime,
especially in and around Baltimore.
Today, it's my family that has to cope with the effects of this opinion;
tomorrow, it might be yours.
Mr. Fleming's son, Warren T. Fleming, was shot and killed leaving his
business at Security Square Mall on Jan. 5, 2006. Mr. Fleming's e-mail is
Unfair for courts to admit unreliable evidence
November 10, 2007
by Aaron Gavant
(The writer is a student at the University of Maryland School of Law and a
former intern for Judge Souder's court.)
One cannot help but feel for Wayne T. Fleming Sr. and his family
("Fingerprint ruling unjust, hurtful to victim's family," Opinion
Commentary, Nov. 6). Their son, husband and brother has been ripped out of
their lives through a seemingly random act of violence.
That said, deciding whether partial fingerprint evidence is admissible in
court should not be based on emotions.
Indeed, it is precisely the "technical academic musing" of judges and other
legal scholars, which Mr. Fleming derides, that must be employed to make
this kind of decision.
And after reading Baltimore County Circuit Judge Susan M. Souder's ruling on
the use of fingerprint evidence, it seems clear to me that significant
doubts exist over whether the methodology behind fingerprinting forensics is
reliable ("Judge bars use of fingerprints in murder trial," Oct. 23).
It appears that expert opinions in the field are colored by subjectivity and
can be relied upon only to a very limited degree, if at all ("Fingerprint
evidence on trial," Oct. 26).
Mr. Fleming suggests that whether those opinions are reliable should be left
to the jury.
However, as the basic rules of evidence suggest, courts must be careful as
to what is admitted under the rubric of expert testimony.
When a court-approved expert gets up and states an opinion, his or her
statements are given significant weight by the jury. This problem is even
more acute in the case of fingerprint evidence, which has long been
portrayed by popular TV shows as being very cut and dried.
Even if a judge were to clearly explain to a jury at the end of a trial that
fingerprint forensics are highly subjective and should be taken with a grain
of salt, jurors would be very likely to believe a fingerprint expert who
says a particular set of prints belongs to a particular defendant.
If this is the case - and the most qualified people to determine if it is
would seem to be judges and other legal scholars - such evidence cannot
fairly be admitted.
Mr. Fleming implores us as citizens to do something about this ruling, for
although today it is his family that has to cope with its effects, tomorrow
it might be ours.
Unfortunately, he does not consider the opposite proposition - that our
families might have to cope with the effects of an opposite ruling.
What if I or a loved one were falsely accused of a crime and a fingerprint
"expert" places my prints at the scene of a crime?
What recourse would I have?
Such was the recent horror of Brandon Mayfield, an American lawyer who was
falsely connected to the Madrid bombings by fingerprint evidence.
I don't claim to be sure that fingerprint forensics does not live up to the
admissibility standards of evidence law in Maryland. I am merely a
second-year law student studying evidence law for the first time.
I do, however, know that judges and others in our legal system are charged
with protecting the innocent and fairly prosecuting the guilty. And that
people in positions like Judge Souder's must prevent the introduction of
what they perceive as untrustworthy evidence, even if the results of such a
ruling are less than ideal.
As the old saying about free speech goes, "I may hate what you're saying,
but I'll fight for your right to say it."
Similarly, I may hate that seemingly guilty people get off, but I will fight
any attempt to unfairly prosecute them.
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