Archived Webinar: Fingerprint Reporting with Individualization

A webinar from the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence has been archived online: "New Paradigm for Fingerprint Reporting". In November 2015, the Defense Forensic Science Center (DFSC) issued an Information Paper announcing the decision to cease the use of the terms “individualization” and “identification” in latent print technical reports and expert witness testimony.

 

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For over 100 years, fingerprint evidence has been used as a valuable tool for the criminal justice system. Relying on the generalized premise of “uniqueness”, the forensic community has regarded fingerprint evidence as nearly infallible having the capacity to “individualize” the source of a fingerprint impression to a single individual. While the uniqueness of a complete record of friction ridge skin detail is generally undisputed, the extension of that premise to partial and degraded impressions has become a central issue of debate. Nevertheless, forensic science laboratories routinely use the terms “individualization” and “identification” in technical reports and expert witness testimony to express an association of a partial impression to a specific known source.

Over the last several years, there has been growing criticism among the scientific and legal communities regarding the use of such terms to express source associations which rely on expert interpretation. The crux of the criticism is that these terms imply absolute certainty and infallibility to the fact-finder which has not been demonstrated by available scientific data. As a result, several authoritative scientific organizations have recommended forensic science laboratories not to report or testify, directly or by implication, to a source attribution to the exclusion of all others in the world or to assert 100% infallibility and state conclusions in absolute terms when dealing with population issues. This webinar and Q&A explains the reasons the DFSC made the change and presents the fingerprint community an alternative reporting framework to consider to ensure the certainties are not over or understated.

Click here to learn more and register to watch the archival version of this webinar.

 
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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.

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