Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
compiled by Jon Stimac
Rose Case – BALTIMORE SUN, MD - Feb 21, 2008 ...prosecution
weighed as judge affirms MD v. Rose fingerprint ruling...
Fingerprint Leads to Suspect in 2002 Burglary – BURLINGTON
FREE PRESS, VT - Feb 20, 2008 ...state police say a
29-year-old Swanton man has been identified as the person
who allegedly burglar...
No Two Palms Alike Say Experts – NEW YORK DAILY TIMES - Feb
19, 2008 ...crime scene Detectives lifted a left palm print
off a rolling suitcase brought to the murder scene...
Partnership to Improve Visualization of Latent Prints –
WEBWIRE - Feb 18, 2008 ...will enable the further
development of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy
(SERS)-based agents for visualization of latent prints on
Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
Trying to find a book
EmmaC 151 23 Feb 2008 06:32 pm
Supreme court oral arguments in NH v Richard Langill
Lisa Corson 317 22 Feb 2008 10:29 pm
Baltimore Judge declares Fingerprints not reliable.
Justice Pie 9606 22 Feb 2008 03:23 pm
Confirming AFIS hits, ASCLD considerations
Alicia Wilcox 823 21 Feb 2008 07:28 pm
Calls for Inquiry to be scrapped
Daktari 15495 21 Feb 2008 04:50 pm
Peer Review...A Myth??
charlton97 330 20 Feb 2008 10:01 pm
You just can't help some people....
Cindy Rennie 268 20 Feb 2008 08:41 pm
They Walk Among Us
Charles Parker 5639 20 Feb 2008 01:32 pm
Anyone still using "paper prints"?
antonroland 644 20 Feb 2008 12:29 pm
IAI Conference Category Update
Steve Everist 128 20 Feb 2008 03:56 am
Evidence Fabrication in South Africa
Pat A. Wertheim 13239 19 Feb 2008 09:21 pm
AFIS and missing/deceased person
L.J.Steele 398 19 Feb 2008 08:35 pm
Charles Parker 1003 19 Feb 2008 04:48 pm
Statistics and Misidentifications - The weeks Detail
Michele 39961 19 Feb 2008 03:08 pm
UPDATES ON CLPEX.com
Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group web page with
FIG # 33 and 34 (the update of 33 did not occur as planned last week)
Inserted KEPT #8 - Court Cases - What Should Be Known: Discuss this
topic on CLPEX.com - a discussion has been created for KEPT.
Updated the Detail Archives
we looked at recent information on the
commercialization of fingerprint nanotechnology.
Steve Ostrowski brings
us a summary and links regarding the New Hampshire Supreme Court's
appeal of State v. Langill.
New Hampshire Supreme Court
Hears Arguments in Langill Appeal?
On February 13, 2008, the New Hampshire
Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an appeal of the case of State v.
Richard Langill. These arguments originate from a pair of lower court
rulings excluding fingerprint evidence from a 2004 burglary case.
In 2006, Judge Patricia Coffey of the Rockingham County Superior Court
presided over a two day admissibility hearing. In January of 2007 she
ruled that the fingerprint evidence would be excluded from trial and
upheld that decision a few months later following a Motion to Reconsider
filed by the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office.
Attorney Ann Rice, an appeals specialist with the NH Attorney General’s
Office, argued for the State. The original Daubert hearing defense
attorney, Richard Samdperil, argued on behalf of Langill. The session
consisted of each attorney having 15 minutes to present and argue their
side of the case. Each attorney made a brief opening remark and then
accepted questions from the panel of five justices. Debate between the
parties lasted the majority of the designated time until each attorney
ended their respective session with a succinct closing argument.
The State went first as Attorney Rice described in her opening remark
how the lower court exceeded its role of gatekeeper and assumed the role
of jury when determining the admissibility of fingerprint evidence in
the case at hand. She described how Judge Coffey’s requirements for the
contemporaneous written documentation of the cognitive process went
above and beyond the currently established and generally accepted
protocols and procedures throughout the field of fingerprint
The panel began their questioning by inquiring about any established
national standards regarding note taking. They also wanted to know if a
third party could have come in and reached the same conclusions with the
level of documentation that was present in the case file. Additionally,
they queried if any other courts required this level of note taking.
Rice fielded these questions well and the panel seemed satisfied with
The Justices dissected the lower court records and noted that Judge
Coffey made three rulings. One, she ruled the examiner to be qualified,
which was a good ruling based on law. Two, she ruled the science to be
reliable, which was also a good ruling of law. Three, she ruled that
because the written case notes were unsatisfactory, there was no blind
verification, and she did not allow the expert’s testimony to further
describe the methodology followed, she found the evidence to be
inadmissible. This third ruling is not a good ruling based on law as
this is a credibility issue to be addressed during cross-examination;
not an admissibility issue.
A common theme throughout the exchange was whether a perceived lack of
sufficient note taking by the lower court should have been a prong of
admissibility. Although the notes may have been incomplete in Judge
Coffey’s opinion, the testimony of the expert should have been able to
fill in any perceived deficiencies. The examiner testified that she
followed the laboratory protocols and national standards set forth by
ASCLD-LAB. Essentially Coffey did not believe the qualified expert’s
testimony and wanted written documentation above and beyond the
established requirements to satiate herself. Not believing or giving
enough weight to the testimony of an expert witness is a credibility
issue and not an admissibility issue. It is not for the judge to decide
if they think the witness is credible, but rather it is the
responsibility of the jury.
A connection was also made that other variables such as the specific
aspects of the application of the ACE-V methodology and blind
verification are also functions of credibility and should be challenged
on cross examination as opposed to being excluded from trial.
Rice ended the State’s argument by reiterating that the lower court
erred in requiring more than the generally acceptable practices of the
field and laboratory established protocols with regard to note taking in
order to pass the threshold test of admissibility.
Attorney Samdperil opened by expressing that the gatekeeping role was
applied in a proper fashion because the lower court was able to
determine that the methodology applied in the case at hand was done so
unreliably. He stated that the lack of proper contemporaneous written
notes and blind verification does not allow the court to determine if
the test was done correctly.
Samdperil argued that there is no way to challenge testimony of an
expert with the absence of written notes. When asked by Justice Hicks
what more he wanted to see in the notes, Samdperil described an
articulation of the application of the methodology coupled by what the
examiner was seeing and the corresponding values assigned to those
details. The panel then retorted that his request required the recording
of the cognitive process. Samdperil later described a scenario of having
the answers for the New York Times crossword puzzle and then filling it
out. The answers would be correct but the methodology would be flawed.
The panel responded by stating that this goes towards credibility and
not admissibility of the evidence.
The panel again acknowledged that the lower court made two good rulings
of law in finding the expert to be qualified and the science to be
reliable. The lower court’s third ruling concerning the lack of suitable
contemporaneous notes on the mental process and absence of blind
verification was unreliable as a matter of law.
Ultimately it was determined that specific standards regarding note
taking have to be recorded somewhere for various judges in different
courtrooms to read and make a ruling on. If these written standards do
not exist, then a judge cannot make a ruling of law to this regard.
Beyond a suggestion, recommendation or guideline, if there is no
national or written standard, then it cannot be interpreted. Guidelines
are not required standards.
Essentially it comes down to the distinction of being a measure of
reliability. A question was posed if whether more concise
contemporaneous written notes and blind verification would deem the
evidence to be reliable or more reliable. Does the absence of these
notes and verification render the method unreliable? Basically it is not
an argument of reliable vs. unreliable, but rather reliable vs. more
Chief Justice Broderick presented a good point when he asked Attorney
Samdperil if the FBI would admit that all of the fingerprint
identifications prior to the Brandon Mayfield case were dubious due to
the fact that they were not practicing the same methodology as they are
now concerning blind verification for single latent cases. Samdperil
agreed that they would most likely not admit that.
I am surmising that the court will return it’s ruling in a few months.
It looks promising that the panel will overturn Judge Coffey’s ruling
concerning the inadmissibility of fingerprint evidence, but this case
has already proven that anything can happen. We will keep you posted.
For your viewing and/or listening pleasure, I have included links to the
oral arguments in the Langill appeal. Please follow one of these links
and listen for yourself as there are a lot of good discussions presented
that I did not comment on.
Stephen H. Ostrowski, MSFS, CLPE
New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory
Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony - #8
Court Cases - What Should Be Known
by Michele Triplett, King County
Disclaimer: The intent
of this is to provide thought provoking discussion. No claims of accuracy
Question – Prominent Cases:
Any questions about a prominent case (the Langill case, the Bryan Rose
case, the Mayfield case, the Plaza decision, the Ricky Jackson case,
a) The judge in the Rose case made a bad decision.
b) I wasn’t involved in the Mayfield case and I can’t speak about it
without direct knowledge.
c) I’ve read the official court documents and I know that…….
d) That case happened years ago. At the time it occurred I read all the
reports about it but I don’t recall the exact information right now.
Answer a: Don’t get caught repeating what you’ve heard. If you start to
talk about a particular case then the attorney’s assume you can answer
other questions, like why that was your answer. You don’t want it to end
with you saying, “Well, that’s what I’ve heard”.
Answer b: While it’s not recommended for people to testify to rumors,
it’s also not recommended to avoid speaking about these cases. Some
cases are very prominent and a great deal of information has been
published about these cases (information beyond speculation). If you
can’t testify to the basic information on these cases then it could be
interpreted that you’re not as knowledgeable as an expert should be.
Answers c or d: These answers are honest and professional. Examiners
should try to remain as objective as possible when speaking of these
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