Frontline

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Re: Frontline

Postby Tazman » Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:42 am

It's the job of the defense attorney to create "reasonable doubt."

It is the job of the prosecutor to establish before the court that the evidence is reliable. As the fingerprint witness, you must be aware that neither attorney understands fingerprints in the way you do. It is your job to assist the prosecutor by providing an outline of questions to establish the accuracy and reliability of your evidence. It is also your job to be well read on the subject and articulate in presenting your testimony. If you are not well read, if you do not keep up to date on the latest hot topic issues, if you do not provide the prosecutor with an idea of what needs to be proven, and if you are not a good speaker and have taken no steps to improve your skills in that regard, shame on you. Don't blame the defense attorney for destroying you and your evidence. Instead, just buckle down and do your job.
"Man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains." -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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Re: Frontline

Postby L.J.Steele » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:27 am

ER wrote:I think what Kevin was really getting at is that many defense attorneys and 'critics' don't care whether it's a good ID or not. They just want the evidence out of the trial.


You've got two different groups lumped in here.

When it's my client and my case, my job is to zealously defend the client within the bounds of the law. If there's a forensics issue, I have an ethical duty to investigate it and get up to speed on it. Then I need to advise the client about my opinion of the strenght of the prosecution case and the likelihood of success at trial and the range of sentence if there's a conviction and to communicate a plea offer (if any). Client has an absolute constitutional right to decide whether to accept the plea or go to trial. So if the client wants to go to trial, and there's forensics, it's my duty under the ethics rules to zealously investigate and challenge that evidence which may mean hiring a defense expert, or making a Daubert challenge, or vigorously cross-examining the forensics witness, or arguing innocent access. Any of these are possible.

When I'm not advocating for a specific client, I'm very concerned about the integrity of the criminal justice system. I want you guys to use solid valid science and practices to find the culpirt, get him or her off the streets, and not leave the wrong bad guy out there. I don't ever want to be in the position of being one of the attorneys for someone who is exonerated decades down the road because I, and the system, failed them. A month or so ago, Jennifer Thompson spoke in support of CT's new eyewitness ID bill
http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/show_info.asp?mbID=18567
(Time 15:25 to 50:00) This woman was a genuine victim of a horrible crime. And using then-standard, but bad ID procedures she picked the wrong guy as the culpri and he went to jail for a long time. When he was exonerated and the right guy went to jail, she had to deal with the guilt of having been part of this terrible mistake. This should not have happened, and I'm working hard in the ID area particularly to make sure it doesn't happen again.

The critics, I know several of them, at least by email and the occassional meeting at a conference. I think virtually all of them genuinely see a problem and want to make it better. If the evidence is ambiguous and the science or practices flawed, how can anyone be sure if it is a good ID or not? Mayfield's ID looked good to three senior FBI guys and to a court-appointed expert -- absent the Spanish police, I think the courts, the jury, virtually everyone would have said good ID, 100% certain, zero error rate. I don't want to see another Mayfield -- they are rare, but that's no comfort to the innocent guy arrested or the people hurt by the bad guy left on the streets.

We can do better. It is going to be disruptive. It may cost some money. But it needs to happen.

I did see the Frontline at last. I found it rather tame, but that may be because I've been deep in the NAS stuff for so long. I assume the FBI picked the agent to be their spokesperson -- she got a lot of screen time -- I didn't see it as one sided.
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Re: Frontline

Postby kevin » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:31 am

The rap on fingerprints is that it is not valid right? That's what the Frontline episode was basically saying unless I am mistaken?

it probably does come down to what ER said - it is an adversarial relationship and the two sides are never going to see eye to eye on anything let alone the validity of the science. But the media isn't the courtroom and you don't take turns presenting your respective arguements to the jury.

And LJ you are right that it is disruptive and may cost some money and is going to happen - but it is happening because it is an adversarial relationship between Prosecution and Defense. Not due to some travesty or incompetence or misguided conspiracy on the part of fingerprint examiners individually or worldwide to wrongly convict people that are accused of a crime as Frontline would lead some people to believe.

Hypothetically - Let's say there are people that watched that show that will sit on a jury one day and may already have their mind made up as to what value they are going to place on a fingerprint identification. Dror's study may never even come up during cross exam but is it going to play a role in that trial? Is it going to come up during jury selection even? That kind of bias is going to play a lot bigger role in the case than confirmation bias ever could.

I guess what I'm saying is the 50k study or the black box study or one of Glenn's statistical models doesn't get the same kind of play inside and outside of the courtroom that some slanted Frontline piece on how the FBI screwed up.
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Re: Frontline

Postby L.J.Steele » Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:58 am

kevin wrote:The rap on fingerprints is that it is not valid right? That's what the Frontline episode was basically saying unless I am mistaken?


Again, I know too much about the underlying issues to watch the Frontline piece as a prospective juror might. I heard them complain about "validation" -- the underlying studies that might help determine how unique small bits of friction ridge skin are and how well an examiner might determine that uniqueness. I heard complaints about the FBI, pre-Mayfield, overstating things -- "zero error rate", "infallible", but not that there's no merit to fingerprint ID.

To me, it was pretty tame, but then again, I see it in a different context that a typical viewer likely lacks.

kevin wrote:it is happening because it is an adversarial relationship between Prosecution and Defense. Not due to some travesty or incompetence or misguided conspiracy on the part of fingerprint examiners individually or worldwide to wrongly convict people that are accused of a crime as Frontline would lead some people to believe.


There's a bunch of issues that Frontline wrapped together that ought to get parsed out. Fingerprint issues are different from Firearms ID or bitemark or the North Carolina mess issues. Issues about IAI certification are different from ACFEI certification. They didn't even get to the questions being raised about ASCLAD/LAB. The adversarial relationship between defense and prosecution is a big problem -- I fear that the prosecutors are digging in their heels on this because it is something the defense wants and has raised, thus they are suspicious. Similar with some, I think, in the forensics community -- they are seeing attacks on specific cases, not a call for doing the job better.

kevin wrote:Hypothetically - Let's say there are people that watched that show that will sit on a jury one day and may already have their mind made up as to what value they are going to place on a fingerprint identification. Dror's study may never even come up during cross exam but is it going to play a role in that trial? Is it going to come up during jury selection even? That kind of bias is going to play a lot bigger role in the case than confirmation bias ever could.


Honestly, I think it going to have far less impact than all the hours of CSI, NCIS and their ilk which give a very shallow portrayal of complex science. Some folks may recall hearing about Mayfield, or in the UK, of McKie, but most folks likely won't recall much and will probably go with the evidence before them. I've been following the "CSI effect" studies for a while. (Not the anecdotal handwringing in the meda, the actual studies) and so far I haven't found one that shows much effect.
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Re: Frontline

Postby kevin » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:58 pm

the underlying studies that might help determine how unique small bits of friction ridge skin are and how well an examiner might determine that uniqueness. I heard complaints about the FBI, pre-Mayfield, overstating things -- "zero error rate", "infallible", but not that there's no merit to fingerprint ID.


Whether there is 'zero-error rate' or 'infallible' is and always has been, in my opinion, a question of semantics. It is simply taking uniqueness as a basis for examination and turning it into an overstatement that can't be backed up scientifically or even realistically (i.e. I compared everyone on earth to this print to the exclusion of all others etc etc). Fingerprints are still unique and examiners have to be careful not to overstate this with such loose terms but the basis for the science has always been solid with a century of empirical evidence and peer review to back it up. However Frontline says, to paraphrase, 'We used to think fingerprints were unique - but look here are two prints with 15 points of similarity that the FBI made a bad ID on! Something is rotten in Denmark!'

If anything the black box study shows just how conservative latent examiners really are; to the point that small bits of friction ridge skin are more likely to be excluded rather than identified. But my take on this is an opinion and comes down to nothing but semantics as well if you get my drift.

Honestly, I think it going to have far less impact than all the hours of CSI, NCIS and their ilk which give a very shallow portrayal of complex science.


I guess have to agree with you on this point - the flip side of this is no better. But the CSI effect really does more harm to the examiners on the stand than it does good. There have been many times that I have testified where I pretext an explanation with - 'this isn't like on television...' You got a good point there and there is alot of trash TV that hypes this field up way beyond what is reasonable.

But I'd still prefer to say 'this isn't like on CSI...' as opposed to 'this isn't like you hear on the news....'
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Re: Frontline

Postby L.J.Steele » Tue May 01, 2012 2:46 pm

kevin wrote:
Honestly, I think it going to have far less impact than all the hours of CSI, NCIS and their ilk which give a very shallow portrayal of complex science.


I guess have to agree with you on this point - the flip side of this is no better. But the CSI effect really does more harm to the examiners on the stand than it does good. There have been many times that I have testified where I pretext an explanation with - 'this isn't like on television...' You got a good point there and there is alot of trash TV that hypes this field up way beyond what is reasonable.

But I'd still prefer to say 'this isn't like on CSI...' as opposed to 'this isn't like you hear on the news....'


I came across a CSI effect paper for those interested in it.

Godsey & Alou, She Blinded Me with Science: Wrongful Convictions and the 'Reverse CSI-Effect' 17:4 Texas Weleyan Law Review (2011)
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? ... id=1960225
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Re: Frontline

Postby kevin » Wed May 02, 2012 11:41 am

Godsey & Alou, She Blinded Me with Science: Wrongful Convictions and the 'Reverse CSI-Effect' 17:4 Texas Weleyan Law Review (2011)


abstract -
The "Reverse CSI Effect," as I call it, can be stated as follows: while jurors may have come to expect, as a result of CSI-type shows, high-tech forensic testimony in criminal cases, and may inappropriately acquit when such evidence is lacking, these same jurors, as a result of these same CSI-type shows, often place too much weight on forensic evidence in cases where forensic evidence IS in fact produced by the prosecution, resulting in convictions in cases where the defendant probably should have been acquitted.

Pg 6 -
"Faulty forensic testimony is one of the leading causes of wrongful conviction in this country, and was present in more than 50% of the 261 DNA based exonerations nationally...."

"Post conviction DNA testing has taught us that entire fields of so-called "science" that were invented by detectives or crime scene investigators in the quest to convict are, in actuality, quite unreliable."


I read it and got the above quote jist of things and I think the above quotes can pretty much sum up the article - but OK....now I'm confused - so you are agreeing with me?

I know they were talking about bitemarks and arson investigations as the poster boy for bad foresic science but the article doesn't differentiate and basically lumps them all together (kind of like Frontline did with Mayfield).
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Re: Frontline

Postby L.J.Steele » Thu May 03, 2012 9:01 am

kevin wrote: I know they were talking about bitemarks and arson investigations as the poster boy for bad foresic science but the article doesn't differentiate and basically lumps them all together (kind of like Frontline did with Mayfield).


I'm more offering it for comment as one of the more recent articles in an area mostly dominated by anecdotes in the newspapers where one side or the other in a losing case blames the jury and CSI.

I think they are right -- there are some jurors who expect forensics in every case and may find reasonable doubt where there isn't any, even in cases where it was just not possible to get forensic evidence. There are also some jurors who put too much credence in forensic testimony, even in those areas where the testimony has weak fundamentals or weak work in this case and the trial attorney has done a good job of bringing it out.

I don't see them talking about jurors who are overly skeptical of forensics, when present, because of the exoneration cases or high profile mistakes like Mayfield or McKie. I'd be curious to see what goes on with jurors in areas where there have been high-profile lab scandals like the recent North Carolina mess.
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Re: Frontline

Postby SConner » Thu May 03, 2012 12:56 pm

L.J.Steele wrote:I think they are right -- there are some jurors who expect forensics in every case and may find reasonable doubt where there isn't any, even in cases where it was just not possible to get forensic evidence. There are also some jurors who put too much credence in forensic testimony, even in those areas where the testimony has weak fundamentals or weak work in this case and the trial attorney has done a good job of bringing it out.

I don't see them talking about jurors who are overly skeptical of forensics, when present, because of the exoneration cases or high profile mistakes like Mayfield or McKie. I'd be curious to see what goes on with jurors in areas where there have been high-profile lab scandals like the recent North Carolina mess.


Let's not forget cases either where forensic evidence just isn't necessary or is of absolutely no importance to the case whatsoever. I'm thinking of homicide cases where all of the players are known or admit to being involved and it's a matter of the mental state of the suspect differentiating the charge of first/second degree murder or even manslaughter. A latent print or a DNA profile is not going to tell you anything about the mental state of the person IDed by that print or profile. There are many cases where we deploy the forensic sledgehammer to squash a mosquito.
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Re: Frontline

Postby kevin » Thu May 03, 2012 3:41 pm

Sconner - you are right on with regards to the weight a jury decides to place on forensic testimony. What the everyone always forgets is that we present evidence and we do not convict the defendant. That is the jury's job to decide.

I believe Frontline's story, the reverse CSI effect, and alot of other challenges to fingerprints of forensic science in general, including blind-verification, are aimed more at gaining an advantage in the courtroom rather than presenting the jury with the most reliable information possible. Unfortunately, as I stated at the beginning of this thread, this leads to forensic evidence being seen by defense more as a target rather than a victim of the crossfire in their adversarial system.

I believe this study is a little more realistic with regards to the supposed 50% of cases where bad forensic testimony was cited in the reverse CSI effect:

http://crimelabreport.com/library/pdf/2 ... torial.pdf

http://crimelabreport.com/library/pdf/2 ... torial.pdf

In the second article it states Dante Parrish went back to murder again in 2009 although I believe he was convicted for this next murder just recently.
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Re: Frontline

Postby Pat » Thu May 03, 2012 6:48 pm

Some folks (mostly immature fingerprint examiners) play the "Chicken Little" part and scream that the sky is falling every time a new critique comes along. Others (mostly defense minded folks) think the "CSI Effect" gives forensic evidence undue weight in front of a jury.

I believe the answer as to how much weight a jury gives the evidence is directly related to the testimony given at trial. If you are a knowledgeable, articulate, effective witness, the jury will believe you regardless of whether they watch Frontline or CSI. If you are indecisive as a witness, do not make eye contact, equivocate in your testimony, and present a less than convincing case for your evidence, then the jury will likely hold that against both you and your evidence.

There are at least two equally crucial parts to our jobs. First, technical knowledge and skill. Without those, you shouldn't be in this business. And if you lack the motivation to stay well informed on current events and the latest developements in the field, shame on you.

But second, and equally important, is your ability to present your evidence. If you are afraid of public speaking, if the thought of being attacked by an opposing attorney frightens you, if the courtroom intimidates you so badly that you are petrified, then you should either tackle your fears and strive to become a competent speaker, or you should find another line of work.

It's not about whether Frontline outweighs CSI or vice versa. In the courtroom, it is about how well you present your evidence. That is the only thing the jury and judge rely on.
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Re: Frontline

Postby sandra wiese » Fri May 04, 2012 5:24 pm

Pat, I have long felt strongly that clpex.com needs a "like" button. If it had one, I would click on it a hundred times for this last answer. Congratulations, that is the correct answer...you are a winner!!!!!!!!! (sorry, just a like button, no new car is associated with this response). Thank you.
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Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

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Re: Frontline

Postby Graham F » Sat May 05, 2012 2:29 am

It's not about whether Frontline outweighs CSI or vice versa. In the courtroom, it is about how well you present your evidence. That is the only thing the jury and judge rely on.


Pat, I have long felt strongly that clpex.com needs a "like" button. If it had one, I would click on it a hundred times for this last answer. Congratulations, that is the correct answer...you are a winner!!!!!!!!! (sorry, just a like button, no new car is associated with this response). Thank you.


How I would love for the above to be factual. I would embrace the quotes dearly. However, I also have to be realistic. Generally we do not know what goes on the mind of the juror or the judge for that matter. I am sure some will not be swayed by any outside influence of information garnered from the TV. Being realistic once again, I am sure some will be victim of, dare I say, "confirmation bias" of the TV diatribe they have watched, be it CSI programs or the TV pre-trial broadcasts.

I applaud the above sentiments in that that is what it should be, but to me they are “rose tinted glasses” sentimentality quotes.
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Re: Frontline

Postby Pat » Sat May 05, 2012 7:28 pm

Graham F wrote:I am sure some will be victim of, dare I say, "confirmation bias" of the TV diatribe they have watched, be it CSI programs or the TV pre-trial broadcasts.

I applaud the above sentiments in that that is what it should be, but to me they are “rose tinted glasses” sentimentality quotes.


I respectfully disagree with your cynical view of the way a judge or jury see our testimony. Readily I will agree that our effectiveness is not determined by our skill at latents and our ability at speaking 100% of the time. But our testimony is accepted on more than just the flip of a coin -- "Heads, I believe the witness; tails, I believe the witness is a moron."

You cannot win all of the time, but a skilled latent print examiner who is articulate and communicates well with the jury will succeed in the presentation of her/his evidence most of the time. A fingerprint witness who is skilled neither in fingerprint science nor verbal communications will fail more often than not.

That is not "rose tinted glasses."

Cheers,
Pat
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