Breaking NEWz you can UzE...
Bond Gadgets: Never Say
They'll Never Work
News - May 29,
gelatine as found in chewy
sweets like gummi bears, he
showed that a latent
print could be lifted
from a glass and used to
fool 80 per cent of ...
Comparison Sought For Bloody
Tribune, FL -
May 27, 2008
At the crime
scene, latent print
analyst Rick Navarro
examined the bloody
footprint and determined
that it exhibits sufficient
ridge detail for comparison
Park Press, NJ -
May 31, 2008
Acevedo Montes wore socks
over his hands in what
police believe was an
attempt to avoid leaving his
the victim's home, ...
Recent CLPEX Posting Activity
containing new posts
Moderated by Steve Everist
Upgrade Being Conducted
Updated the Fingerprint Interest Group (FIG) page
with FIG #47; a subtle double tap, submitted by
Bonnie Manno. You can send your example of unique distortion to Charlie
Updated the forum Keeping Examiners Prepared for
thread with KEPT #22; Blind Verification - Expected Results
by Michelle Triplett. You can send your questions on
courtroom topics to Michelle Triplett:
Updated the Detail Archives
we looked at an article on cross-linking latent cases
through latent-to-latent comparisons
Charlie Parker brings us a look at the concept of keeping latent prints
deemed not of value for identification.
Keeping Latent Prints Of No Value For
by Charles J. Parker, CLPE
Austin Police Department
It has always been my conviction that when a latent print lift or photo is
submitted for examination that the legal requirement or at least the right
requirement that even if it is of no value for either identification or in
today’s world comparison that it must be retained. I am aware that agencies
in the past did not follow that rule but discarded those lifts or photos
that were determined to be of no value but that practice has ceased. In
teaching a class last year I was surprised when the subject came up that
several students stated that their agencies still perform the “No Value In
The Trash” procedure.
In March 1982 there was an article published titled “The Philosophy of the
Field of Identification” several questions were asked of the members of the
Fingerprint Subcommittee. Now 26 years later I wonder if those same
examiners have the same view, or has it changed over time. Here is the
excerpt from that article.
QUESTION: SHOULD A LATENT PRINT EXAMINER “SAVE” A LATENT PRINT IF THAT
EXAMINER CANNOT “SEE ENOUGH” POINTS FOR HIS VALUE FOR A POSITIVE
Hall: If a pattern is discernible, yes. It may be possible to eliminate
suspect(s) on the basis of the pattern type only. It would depend on that
Leadbetter: No. If no positive identification can be established from the
latent, in my opinion it should be destroyed. A latent can either be
identified or not identified – there is no alternative.
Putter: If there are other digits present, possibly, but if not,
unidentifiable prints should not be retained.
Hamilton: No, a latent impression which cannot be identified cannot be
considered as evidence.
Grieve: Obviously some impressions are valueless for identification
purposes. Others are so evaluated by one that may be identified to someone
who has more experience or ability. Saving garbage is fruitless.
Norkus: Prints which are not suitable for identification are not
fingerprints and should be discarded.
Watling: If the examiner is competent and if Departmental policy permits,
any latent that does not contain sufficient characteristics for
identification should be destroyed. Although I do seriously believe there
are different levels of competency, I cannot see keeping worthless
impressions. If there is any doubt, keep it. In our lab the policy is that
if two examiners with the rank of LPE II must agree that the latent is of no
value before it can be destroyed.
Ross: No . . . after examining for characteristics. Otherwise we would keep
This article did create some comments and in the June 1982 issue a Barry
Cushman responded and the following are some of his response.
“It has been my experience that these useless latent lifts do have value in
court as evidence if properly presented. There have been several occasions
in our courts of the defense making great issue of the fact that his client
prints are not on an object, were not found at the scene, or were not
identified. One answer to this may be that the object or scene were not
processed for latent fingerprints. This is a poor answer and an embarrassing
one to admit in open court. Another answer is that not all latent lifts are
identifiable since there is nothing there, or it is smudged, overlapped,
etc. This last answer can be enhanced upon to give the jury adequate
information on which to base their decision.”
“…..This is also a good example of the best evidence rule, being able to
produce and show the real evidence, not to just talk about it.”
In the September 1982 issue a Donald L. Conner took the opposite approach as
to Cushman’s comments. Some excerpts from his response are:
“My point is this, to retain and maintain in our filing system all latents
retrieved at the crime scenes, regardless of ridge detail value, would be
disastrous. Our latent files would bulge to a totally unworkable and
unmanageable system with “latents of value” lost in the mass of “latents of
no value”. The number of latent identifications would certainly plummet due
to time consumed in tabulating and filing latents of no value, time taken
away from crime scene examination and latent comparisons.
When presenting all latents retrieved to the court, a case can be made for
“presenting best evidence”. However, you open yourself up for possibly some
very hard to answer questions. In addition, you run the risk of the defense
‘expert witness’ identifying a ‘latent of no value’ that you, the state’s
expert, could not identify.
Our experience has been that once you adequately present yourself to the
court as a fingerprint expert (in other words you give the impressions that
you know what you are talking about), then the easy explanation that ‘all
latents of no value were discarded’ is acceptable without question.”
A lot of things have changed in 25 plus years. Even ASCLD-LAB has a little
blurb on the topic. The following is taken from their Legacy program from
page 33 of their June 2005 Legacy program: “While it is permissible to keep
all prints, ASCLD/LAB does not require that original latent prints or
legible copies of latent prints which have no value for comparison or which
were not examined be maintained in the case record.”
Now that DNA has been obtained in a limited number of cases from latent
images that were determined to be of no value, I wonder if the some agencies
are still discarding those that have been determined of no value.
For my part I think we will keep on maintaining the custody of latent lifts
and photographs that have been submitted for examination. I happen to agree
with Barry Cushman’s “Best Evidence Rule”.
1. “The Philosophy of the Field of Identification” Author Unknown, March
2. “Comments On: The Philosophy of the Field of Identification” by Barry Q.
Cushman, June 1982, V32(6).
3. “More on “The Philosophy of The Field of Identification” by Donald L.
Conner, September 1982, V32(9).
Keeping Examiners Prepared for Testimony - #22
Blind Verification - Expected Results
by Michele Triplett, King County
The intent of this is to provide thought provoking discussion. No claims of
Feel free to pass The Detail along to other
examiners. This is a free newsletter FOR latent print examiners, BY
latent print examiners.
With the exception of weeks such as this week, there
are no copyrights on The Detail content. As always, the website is
open for all to visit!
Question – Blind Verification – Expected Results:
What happens if the results of blind verification are not the same as the
a) If the results are not the same then the individualization isn’t
considered a good conclusion.
b) As long as the conclusions aren’t conflicting then there’s not a problem.
c) Conclusions may be different because of differing tolerance levels. One
person may make an identification that another person is uncomfortable with
due their differing tolerance levels. This is why differing conclusions
isn’t a problem.
d) Our agency policy is….(state your agency policy).
e) The conclusions of blind verification are one aspect we assess but
another important element to look at is how and why the blind verifier
arrived at their conclusions (the justification behind the conclusion).
Answers a and b: If the conclusions are not conflicting (one person
individualizes an image and another person says inconclusive) then no
erroneous conclusion exists but the blind verification didn’t give any
information about the reproducibility to the person using this tool. If a
certain process is needed then it should be used in a manner that will give
the user some result. When no results are given and the user isn’t concerned
then they are either uneducated about the process they are using or perhaps
they are not using the process as diligently as they should.
Answer c: Conclusions that differ due to tolerance levels are acceptable.
This only becomes a problem when people use this as the reason that
conclusions differ when there is no data to lead people to this conclusion
(such as no notes that state that consistency existed but not sufficiency).
If one person individualizes a latent print and another doesn’t, then we
shouldn’t assume that tolerance levels were the issue unless it’s stated.
Without this form of documentation, it’s just as likely that the second
examiner was unable to correctly orient or locate the area of friction ridge
detail that the latent print originated from. It’s also possible that the
conclusions were different because different items of evidence were looked
at (such as lift cards vs. photographs of lift cards).
Answer d: If your agency has a procedure then stating this it is the best
answer. If an agency uses blind verification then it’s advisable to have a
procedure which states when and how to use it.
Answer e: If a fingerprint comparison is so complex that blind verification
is needed then justification (or documentation of the justification) should
accompany the blind verification. Suppose an examiner individualized a
latent print to a known print but blind verification resulted in an
inconclusive determination. We can’t simple decide that the
individualization should or shouldn’t be made; we need to know why this
occurred. It’s possible that the two individuals were using different tools
(a 4x magnifier vs. computer magnification). It’s possible that the two
individuals were using different exemplars (an original vs. a livescan image
vs. a copy vs. fax). It’s also possible that the two people have different
visual abilities. Some people see certain shades better than others. It’s
also possible that one person noticed something in the print that the other
person did not. If blind verification resulted in different conclusions then
we need to know the justification behind the conclusions and not make a
determination about individualization prior to having this information.
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