How Reliable Is Fingerprint Evidence?

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224Juries in Illinois and other states have been asked to measure the reliability of latent fingerprint evidence for decades. Latent fingerprints are collected samples of hidden fingerprints in a crime scene. Examiners use them to relate with those that are known to come from recognized sources. Forensic science is crucial in examining crime and assisting in the verdict for innocence or guilt at court hearings.

Questions concerning the sufficiency of several forensic subjects are arising daily. In 2009, a report was issued by the National Research Council that claimed that most latent fingerprint analyses were scientifically unjustified. It also said that some forensic disciplines had no credibility at all.

However, many reports still regard it as scientific injustice. In 2016, a group working on latent fingerprint analysis concluded that the forensics were not justified. The groups say that such assertions have brought false convictions and arrests. The American Association for the Advancement of Science made conclusions in a report. They said latent fingerprint examiners should stop claiming concealed fingerprints come from one source. Furthermore, they should particularly stop saying they could prove as much without errors.

Currently, scientists are busy working to minimize the chances of human error. Scientists working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology claim to have created a new system. Its purpose is to automate a key in the latent fingerprint analysis procedure. According to their report, latent fingerprints are important sources of forensic examination. Therefore, improving the fingerprint detection system will produce two benefits: It will increase the speed and accuracy in identifying suspects. The automatic fingerprint detection system has been one of the more interesting topics faced by researchers and forensic workers alike.

This is one of the first steps to the manual processing of latent fingerprint examination. A researcher must carry out some steps that will sort out the information in a crime scene according to quality. An examiner carries out a triage by giving a query of several valuations. These include value for exclusion only, value for individualization, or no value.

This report proposes a framework based on crowd-sourcing. The goal is to clearly understand the essential grounds for determining value by examiners. The fingerprint examiners later use this information. With it, they study predictors of hidden or latent value.

After they carry out the tests, the experimental results are presented. This is done using four latent fingerprint databases. Two are from laboratory settings. Two are from the forensic casework. The latent automated fingerprint detection system is last in the presentation.

Most examiners do not claim 100% accuracy of latent fingerprint analysis. There are moderate terms currently used in court reports and testimonies. They still claim researchers can identify the origin of concealed fingerprints.

The above research evaluations show where forensic activities are well-established. They also show where they are not scientific. They are used for guidance when examining a crime and perhaps give the criminal justice system strength in structure.

Regardless, examiners should deliver high standards of scientific data as these matters require it for fairness and justice. For assistance or further information, contact the offices of Attorney David Freidberg at 312-560-7100.

(image courtesy of Tertia van Rensburg)