| posted on 12.21.2014 at 11:20 PM
Forensic Science is NOT scientific (2 people CAN have the same fingerprint!)
The last time I saw a program (PBS' Frontline, I believe) that disputed the accuracy of finger-printing, I was wowed. With this new documentary, I decided those who missed it should know this
important information, as well.
Plastic and other non-porous materials don't give up fingerprints, unlike say, wood or paper, leather, etc. Fingerprints on plastic smudge. To lift
prints off keys, or plastic bags, scientists put them in a(nother) plastic bag and introduce superglue which bonds to the oil in the fingerprint on
the object (every time we touch something, we leave oil from our hands). But superglue has its limitations. It chemically alters the lines of sweat
and oil in the fingerprints and can even obscure the details of a fingerprint's unique details and patterns. This can result in getting only a
partial print from the non-porous materials. It's from "partial prints" that most examiners declare a fingerprint to belong to one and only person
in the world. They use a "point " system where 12 matching points on a fingerprint is considered proof, 100% accurate by courts.
However, the Madrid Bomber case prove this to be WRONG. When Spain sent the Bomber's fingerprint to the FBI, the agency put it in a data base of over
47 MILLION criminals, federal employees, military personnel and people of National Security interest. They identified 20 people whose prints matched
"some" of the same traits as the Bomber's. And, although 12 "unique" points are required for identification, the FBI found one print that
contained 15. It belonged to Brandon Mayfield of Portland, Oregon. Wire-tapping, breaking into his home to collect DNA samples (taking strands of hair
our of his hairbrush), taking photos of his wife and kids, and finally in 2004, arresting him, Mayfield's life went to hell.
Mayfield was charged with the bombing murders of 200 people (Spain's 9/11). Newsweek magazine blared that his fingerprints were an "incontrovertible
match" to the Madrid bomber's. A lawyer, Mayfield hired his own fingerprint expert who to his dismay at a pre-trail hearing, declared: "It's a
match." Mayfield, an American who had converted to Islam and had defended Muslims charged with terrorism (why he was on the persons of interest
National Security list), said that he "knew the train to the death penalty had just pulled out of the station." Hours after he was taken to stand
trial, however, Spanish authorities discovered the fingerprint belonged to Ouhnane Duoud, a known Algerian terrorist. Mayfield was released after 15
days in jail.
Everyone knows no 2 people have the same fingerprints, so how could this happen? Turns out that "parts" (partial fingerprints!) of a fingerprint can
be so similar, it's possible for 2 people to be identified to one latent print (left on something). In response to this affront to "common
knowledge," Congress got in on the act, asking the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious in the U.S., to conduct an inquiry into ALL
forensic sciences and techniques (not just fingerprint forensics). Their report 5 years later in 2009, mirrors what I remember from the first program
on the inaccuracies of fingerprinting:
1) uncertainties and errors
3) questionable or questioned science
The report concluded: "There's not enough "science" in Forensic Science."
Jessica Gable, professor of Law who lectures in Forensics Science: "Forensic Science is flawed. It lacks the rigors, standards, the quality
controls and procedures we find usually in science, and in that, Forensic Science can sometimes contribute to wrongful convictions."
The Madrid Bomber case was the perfect storm of forensic flaws:
1) Only a partial print is recovered on a plastic surface and this is eventually distorted (by the superglue)
2) There's a surprising similarity between Mayfield's prints and the real bomber's (an ocean away!)
3) Together, the above could have led to the conviction of an innocent man.
This was the gist of the first program I saw on flawed fingerprint identification. I came away from that one thinking that fingerprinting was as much
an "art" as a science. While the FBI used it's super-computer to match up the "partial" fingerprint, cities and states don't have access to any
computer nearly so complete or sophisticated. They usually rely on forensic "experts" who sit behind a desk with a copy of the fingerprint in
question and a copy of the fingerprint of the accused. No computers involved. They, the human being, decide if the 2 are a match. Their word as an
expert is then used in courts to convict defendants, innocent or not.
There's a real problem with this human "sight" identification ('do the 'swirls' go the same way, are the lines as deep?'). Many if not most
times, a District Attorney will give the expert the fingerprint and say the accused is guilty as hell. If there's even a doubt in the "analysis,"
e.g., is that line squiggling 'left' like the fingerprint on the murder weapon?, the expert almost always says the fingerprints match. I've
forgotten the percentage, but it was astronomical, something like 90% of the time!
So if you ever find yourself accused with "incontrovertible" fingerprint evidence, remind your lawyer of the Madrid bomber case.
| posted on 12.23.2014 at 11:44 PM
Forensic (so-called) science on Bite Marks
Since Congress commissioned the study in the OP, there are a laundry list of forensic techniques currently under review. One of the them is forensic
dentistry "bite" marks. Once again, human conclusions/deductions are the culprit.
Six days before the murder, a hard-drinking 31 year old named Ray Brown was released from prison. CPS took his kids and he threatened a massacre if
they didn't give them back - "want me to come down there and open up on you all with an uzi?" His bad luck was that the dead woman worked for that
particular CPS office. He was found guilty of a murder/arson he didn't commit based on bite marks found on the victim's breast, legs, thighs and
back. His 2 former wives testified that "when he gets mad, he bites." With his ragged, messed up, missing teeth mouth, you'd assume NOBODY had
teeth to match his (even though the bite marks showed only one gap (missing tooth), he had TWO gaps (missing teeth) between those raggedy ones that
To "compensate" for only one gap between the teeth of the murderer and Ray Brown's TWO gaps, the Forensic dental "expert" (odontologist) said he
didn't just bite the woman, he turned his mouth in the bite (like a pit bull), twisting the skin which obscured the gaps between the teeth marks they
found on her. That's the goal of forensic science, btw - trying to "match" patterns. Upshot is, ole boy was convicted because both he and the real
killer like to "bite" women (smh).
Like the would-be Madrid Bomber, when Ray was eventually cleared, he sued the State of New York and got a multi-million dollar settlement ($2.7
million, I believe). Unlike Mayfield, however, instead of 15 days in jail he spent 15 years locked up. Ray's case is one of, IMHO, "fraud." One gap
between the killer's teeth vs 2 gaps between Ray's. And not only that, turned out that cops found saliva on the woman's clothing that did NOT match
Ray's DNA. Because he was a n'er-do-well with a history of "biting" women he was angry with, and had threatened the CPS workers, by "dismissing"
the saliva and with the help of the odontologist (bite expert), the cops railroaded him to jail.
MY conclusion: Any "forensics" other than DNA are, at best, suspect.... and after seeing how "experts" muck up evidence, ON PURPOSE, I'd keep one
eye open even when THAT "incontrovertible proof" is offered as evidence.
| posted on 4.19.2015 at 01:56 PM
Fingerprints. Now "hair follicles": FBI admits to exaggerating forensic hair evidence for two decades
Almost every examiner in the FBI's hair analysis unit repeatedly overhyped evidence to aid prosecutors over a two-decade period ending in 2000,
according to The Washington Post. The finding comes from an ongoing review of cases conducted by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
and the Innocence Project in conjunction with the federal government. Per the review, 26 of 28 forensic hair analysts overstated evidence in 95
percent of the 268 trials examined so far. The FBI and Justice Department acknowledged the errors, saying in a statement they were "committed to
ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance."
I keep telling you - forensic science.... and that includes FINGERPRINTS.... is less than 100% accurate. People get put in jail all the time for b.s.
forensics! The evidence is only as good as the examiner's willingness to LIE!