Do you have adblock enabled?
If you can read this, either the style sheet didn't load or you have an older browser that doesn't support style sheets. Try clearing your browser cache and refreshing the page.

(Yahoo)   Federal Judge rules experts may no longer testify that fingerprints 'match.'   ( divider line
    More: Stupid  
•       •       •

3490 clicks; posted to Main » on 09 Jan 2002 at 10:23 AM (16 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

29 Comments     (+0 »)
2002-01-09 10:35:18 AM  
Wow. Sherlock Holmes is gonna be pissed.
2002-01-09 10:38:26 AM  
Similar to this, there is a school of thought that DNA might not be individual and there could be two people in the world who share the same DNA.
2002-01-09 10:40:34 AM  
Yeah, like OJ and that other guy sharing his DNA that actually killed Nicole...
2002-01-09 10:41:54 AM  
"These fingerprints don't match...this one found by the police is a mirror image of the one on the defendant's hand. Case dismissed!"
2002-01-09 10:43:18 AM  
For the first time, a federal judge has ruled that fingerprint experts cannot tell juries that two fingerprints are a "match" because the science they rely on does not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's Daubert test.

I think they meant Dilbert test.

Caboozy- Uh, if they shared the same DNA wouldn't they be completely identical in every way?
2002-01-09 10:46:23 AM  
img.fark.netView Full Size

Judges from 70's tv show "Match Game" will be brought in to rule whether disputed fingerprints actually match.
2002-01-09 10:53:33 AM  
What the judge ruled was basically this-

A witness cannot rule that something is a "match" if there are no standards or guidelines that defines what a "match" is. According to the article, the FBI dropped any official criteria for determing what constitutes a match. They could theoretically have argued that since they found fingerprints at the scene and the defendent has fingerprints, the defendent must have done it (extreme ludicrous example, but it makes my point). For evidence to be claimed as scientific, you have to have a way to control it. It cannot be based entirely on the subjective evaluation of the prosecutors witness.

How would you like to be written a ticket for speeding based upon the cop's beleif that he thought you looked like you were speeding? Didn't rely on radar, measured distances, or anything else that could be duplicated. Just his "expert" testimony that he has been watching traffic for years and he is a great judge of how fast cars are traveling.

The judge didn't say that fingerprints are not admissable as evidence. He stated that it cannot be admitted that something is "exact" when there are no definitions as to the determining of what "exact" is.
2002-01-09 11:03:15 AM  
HAHAHA Radiofreewill! I watch it often, on the game show channel. Love the music. And , how drunk WAS Charles Nelson Riley?
2002-01-09 11:06:41 AM  
Troyf1 is precisely right. Unlike determining a person's blood type, there is no established standard for determining whether finger prints "match." People who examine finger prints look at any of a number of different criteria, some of which are more stringent than others. When they testify about finger prints "matching," they are essentially remarking on the number of criteria that two different finger prints have in common. One examiner might look at just a few different measurements while another might look at many more measurements. Plus, a lot of finger prints used as evidence are not even full prints. Unfortunately criminals do not press their finger prints firmly against flat objects after rolling them ink and then proceed to leave an entire finger print at the crime scene. To say that a partial finger print "matches" a finger print taken at the police station is sometimes very subjective.
2002-01-09 11:13:24 AM  
Digitalchris - Yup. I guess there is a small town/region in Mexico where they have found two people with the same DNA - I'm not making this up, I saw it on a documentary. Their point was that it is rare but it does question the whole DNA counsel an argument in defending their client....

Also, the idea that they haven't DNA tested every single person in the world opens up the argument that it is possible that two people share DNA, no one has proven this to be true...

I personally feel DNA is rock solid but there are skeptics
2002-01-09 11:18:30 AM  
Next, a videotape of a guy committing robbery won't be admissible because the guy on the tape is clearly ten pounds heavier than the defendant.
2002-01-09 11:29:15 AM  
I saw "First Person" on IFC last night - the interview was with a criminal defense atty. He actually got a guy off by claiming that his client didn't stab the guy in the back 7 times, the victim actually fell back into the knife 7 times.

Any argument is possible.

Let the "got a guy off" jokes begin
2002-01-09 11:37:15 AM  
An episode of Law and Order this season used this idea: (Myth of Fingerprints).
2002-01-09 11:41:44 AM  
What about Biometrics fingerprinting for security reasons? I can't get into the building where I work if my fingerprint scan isn't identical to the one they have on record...

Please compare and contrast...
2002-01-09 11:47:10 AM  
This is long overdue. Interesting to note that the FBI have no minimum number of points. Also interesting to note that the police in the UK use more points of ID than their US counterparts (and LOTS more than the FBI). Fingerprints may be unique on hands but left behind on car doors, guns etc,. incomplete or stretched prints may be (and have been) mixed up.

As for the reference made to DNA - this is all down to how the DNA is split for analysis and the DNA strands etc,. and the statistical method used to give probability or a mismatch - if you are interested search the net for Bayes + dna (bayes theorem).
2002-01-09 11:50:26 AM  
In the UK they use a system of points (13 is the minimum I believe). If a fingerprint and a latent print have at least 13 points in common, it's considered a "match." This has a lot of inherent problems however, as it is possible to know for sure that a fingerprint and latent print are from the same person without having all 13 points. I hate to say it, but latent print comparison isn't rocket science. It's fairly simple observation and can be done by nearly any person on the planet , if they take a few hours to be trained correctly (they even do it in Kentucky).

The Daubert case is frightening because they've thrown into doubt fingerprint evidence in general. Now that this judge has ruled that you can't judge fingerprints as a "match," EVERY criminal that has ever been convicted by fingerprint evidence in the history of the U.S. criminal justice system can now appeal. How fun is that?

"Those may have been my fingerprints at the crime scene...but you said the word "match," so I get to go free."
2002-01-09 11:54:49 AM  
Fingerprints are indicitive, and the greater the number of matches, more indicitive. But they aren't absolute proof. Biometrics are all about probabilities--it's damned unlikely someone will come up with your fingerprints, so that's probably good enough.
2002-01-09 11:56:16 AM  
Adoran: Stretched and partial prints can still be identified by the marks left by what is called "Friction Ridge Skin." Basically, it's the unique marks that are not only on the ridges in your skin, but run deeper into the marks left by your pores. A stretched and partial latent print can still be easily identified to a rolled print.

As far as the UK point system goes, they don't use it here in the US because it's a silly system. They're on the verge of dumping the points system in Scotland because it causes too many problems. The Shirley McKie case is a good example, where they nearly convicted a fellow police officer because they were able to find 13 matching points on the forged latent prints other officers left at the crime scene.
2002-01-09 12:30:00 PM  
Slightly OT...

DNA evidence is a little different from fingerprints in one important way - it can be used to place an individual at the scene of a crime, or show they handled an object, but mostly DNA evidence is good at _exonerating_ people. Example: some guy who looks just like me (not my identical twin!) rapes a woman. The police pick me up and she picks me out of a lineup. Looks like I'm farked, right? Nope. I just give them a blood, tissue or semen sample, and lo and behold, it doesn't match the DNA extracted from the "rape kit". I walk.

Later on, they pick up the other guy. The victim identifies him, he lives near the crime scene, was seen following the victim, has no alibi, and his DNA _does_ match. It's one piece of evidence, even if you don't think it's definitive by itself. So this suspect is much more likely to go to trial.
2002-01-09 12:35:14 PM  
I'm surprised about this, but I shouldn't be. There's so much pseudoscience in police labs.
2002-01-09 12:38:03 PM  
This is not
img.fark.netView Full Size
, it's
img.fark.netView Full Size
. Kudos to ppl in authority actually doing something logical.
2002-01-09 12:59:11 PM  
yeah, why the stupid tag?
2002-01-09 01:14:30 PM  
Very huge ruling here. Though I don't see how DNA usage is even applicable here. The core problem with fingerprint testimony isn't so much that there is no proof that there isn't another person in the world with the same prints, the main issue is the standard of proof used to state a match, and the methods used to determine this.

There isn't much subjective analysis with DNA testing. Once the samples have been processed, you don't need years of expirience or a trained eye to tell whether or not two samples are the same. Its as easy as overlaying the films. If the sample's integrity is not in doubt (which is usually the core defense against DNA), and they are a match, then saying that the two samples are a match is a sound scientific statement. Other evidence still needs to be presented, but DNA is (and should be) considered far more reliable than prints.

Prints are a whole different story... "Hmmm.... looks pretty much the same, I think..." is essentially all the experts can say.

While I think fingerprints should still be a part of a case, its value should be taken with a grain of salt. There are plenty of cases where prints were a major factor in the conviction, convictions now being overturned due only to DNA evidence.
2002-01-09 01:20:28 PM  
I think what's happened is not that 2 people had identical DNA, but something a little different, which goes like this:

Scientists test DNA similarity by looking at 15 or so different genetic markers, on a standard test. There are a number of different tests for DNA, but the one in question became "standard" because it's relatively inexpensive, and pretty reliable.

So, these people do not have the same DNA map, but a "quick and dirty" test shows them to have similar markers. Personally, I'd still say it was 99.999 accurate; if you didn't commit a crime & were about to be convicted based on this test, I'd of course tell you to get a more expensive, detailed analysis.
2002-01-09 01:21:50 PM  
The decision makes sense to me, but what a boring article!
2002-01-09 01:26:06 PM  
Doctor - What you said makes sense, it was a documentary on tv so it wasn't too technical but their point was bringing up the question of using the DNA test in criminal cases.

Thanks for expanding on that. So I guess the name Doctor for you is legit!
2002-01-09 01:43:27 PM  
This makes perfect sense. This is 19th century technology still in use today to convict people. And it's based upon a common belief that fingerprints are unique, which no one ever bothered to test scientifically. It's like saying "No two snowflakes are alike". That's untrue. Lot's of snowflakes are identical, there are just low odds of finding two that match. Even DNA testimony, which has more basis in science fact than fingerprinting, is submitted in terms of "One out of 100,000,000 indivduals shares these common markers". And different tests have different probabilities, and the quality of the sample influences the exactitude of the result you get.

So basically the expert tells the jury "The DNA we found at the scene belonged to one of sixty people on Earth, and the defendant is one of those sixty people." Similarly, that's how Fingerprint testimony will now have to be given. It makes sense, because it is closer to the truth.

I also believe that defendants who were convicted heavily based upon fingerprint information should get appeals. The idea that this means the jails will suddenly have to open their doors and releases hundreds of thousands of prisoners is simply untrue. A prisoner would get a hearing to see if a certain threshhold is met. Basically the defense would have to convince a judge that a reasonable jury may have found his client innocent if the fingerprint testimony was delivered differently.

That's actually a hugely difficult task, since no one is talking about throwing out fingerprints, just how the information is presented to a jury. The defendant would have to have had a case where pretty much the only physical evidence placing him at the scene was the fingerprints.

Then, if a judge actually did agree that threshhold of doubt was met, they would retry the guy, not simply release the guy. It would then presumably be at the judges discretion (depending on what kind of case it is) whether or not to keep the defendent in custody for the new trial.

This is the way the system is supposed to work.
2002-01-09 02:38:48 PM  
Well, DNA is still in its infancy.

IAFIS is far from 19th century stuff, luckily prints are only a portion of evidence used to place people at crimescenes.

I watch too much New Detectives on Discovery.
2002-01-09 08:29:23 PM  
This definitely should have a cool tag. This will save a lot of people from wrongful sentences, and I doubt it will let any real criminals walk.
Displayed 29 of 29 comments

This thread is archived, and closed to new comments.

Continue Farking

On Twitter

Top Commented
Javascript is required to view headlines in widget.
  1. Links are submitted by members of the Fark community.

  2. When community members submit a link, they also write a custom headline for the story.

  3. Other Farkers comment on the links. This is the number of comments. Click here to read them.

  4. Click here to submit a link.