Fingerprint Evidence is Crucial?



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Fingerprint Evidence is Crucial?
 

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The Indomitable Sherlock Holmes, a Fingerprint Expert ?

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HOLMES: Dr. Watson, it is a real shame that we were not about on this earth in present times. I am positive that with the technology of today we would have solved all manner of dastardly crimes.

WATSON: By Jove Holmes, what do you mean?

HOLMES: Watson do you remember, take that Hollywood moving image thing we recently saw, with that big star Eddie Murphy. You know Watson, Beverley Hills Cop, where all the sun shines. Not a bit like foggy old London Town in our time.

WATSON: Why Holmes, yes I remember that one. No horses and carts, but plenty of those motorized carriages, traveling a high speed everywhere. I think they may have been moving at over 5 miles per hour. Very fascinating and highly dangerous if I recall.

HOLMES: Watson, you have got it. That Murphy gentleman a rum sort of chap, places a piece of evidence, a book of matches I believe into a glass tank. He then also places some glue in the tank and puts the lid back on the tank.

WATSON: Yes, I think I remember that scene.

HOLMES: What do you think happened to the book of matches?

WATSON: Well er, well um, well, I am not rightly sure Holmes.

HOLMES: Watson, you must have been asleep. You bumbling old fool. Within minutes this Murphy chap had developed a fingerprint on the matches in the matchbook. Moreover Watson, he did not use a brush and lamp black to reveal the most excellent fingerprint evidence. With that sort of modern marvel we could have solved the Jack The Ripper case and all those other cases we had to investigate.

WATSON: Ah Holmes, I have got you this time. I am not always an old fool you know. I have read about some of this modern technology mumbo jumbo. The glue Murphy used was called Superglue, or some such. But Hollywood fooled all those who watched that Beverly Hill Cop junket. Apparently, the glue fumes react with the moisture of the fingerprint deposit on the non-porous surfaces of items of evidence. The developed prints will subsequently turn white. I am sure that the matches in the matchbook were a porous surface so the superglue would not work and to top it all, that print developed by Murphy was as black as the Ace of Spades, you know, not white superglue.

HOLMES: Elementary my dear Watson. I was just testing your acute powers of observation and research skills. Of course I am aware of the poetic license used by the moguls of Hollywood and I have no doubt Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had some with our cases. Maybe we should investigate this fingerprint expert evidence, latent prints, AFIS superglue and CSI phenomenon and see what it is all about!

The Sherlock Holmes Museum “Do not take anything for granted in the study of fingerprints.” A reputable CSI or Latent Examiner would not do so.
What looks great for the cinema version of fingerprints, or for CSI, may well be far from the truth in the realm of Latent Prints identification. Be certain that you are cognizant and confident of the fingerprint identification issues and concerns of your Forensic Case Review. You may well need the modern equivalent of Sherlock Holmes to scrutinize the latent prints on your behalf. A Forensic Case Review is a tool all attorney's should have in their arsenal of rebuttal against the prosecution’s Latent Print Examiner. This is the only way to be certain that the alleged prosecutorial fingerprint expert evidence is as worthy as the District Attorney purports it to be. It has not always been so and a Latent Print Examiner is sometimes found wanting in the application if fingerprints as a science of identification.

Latent Prints as a means of personal identification has progressed a long way since to use of old "lamp black" of late Victorian and early Edwardian times. We have moved onto Superglue, florescent chemicals, alternate light sources (lasers), DFO, RTX, and many other fascinating tools for the Latent Print Examiner to utilize in the laboratory, or to be deployed at the crime scene by the Crime Scene Investigator (CSI).

Databases that hold all the Fingerprints have grown massive over the years and electronic AFIS systems (Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems) now manage and retrieve the stored fingerprints and palm prints.
Fingerprint error in an AFIS system is rare, except when caused by computer encoding errors, albeit humans can be involved. Fingerprints error in Latent Prints is not so rare and is often a human fingerprint error by the Latent Print Examiner. Consequently a Forensic Case Review should always be considered, not just to confirm or rebut the Fingerprint Identification proposed in the prosecution evidence by their Fingerprint Expert, but the wider forensic aspects of the case are also an important consideration.

AUTOMATION
With current modern technology all manner of biometric fingerprint reader equipment is now available in the fingerprint identification world.

A fingerprint scanner or biometric fingerprint reader can be used for security purposes to access buildings and computers etc. A fingerprint scanner is also used in numerous automated fingerprint identification system of the police. The automated fingerprint identification system or for short AFIS, are used as the main database repository of fingerprint ID data of known offenders. These automated fingerprint identification system (s) can incorporate a fingerprint scanner at the local police department, or detention facility to be used in the booking process. A common term utilized for a fingerprint scanner is a Livescan. Biometric fingerprint (s) are used in real time when the suspects fingerprints are obtained by using the fingerprint scanner to read the “live” fingerprint of the suspect and record it digitally and project it onto a computer screen. If the quality of the biometric fingerprint is poor then the operator can just use the fingerprint reader again, all without using the old fashioned black ink and card.

Whilst many fingerprint experts prefer the quality of the old inking method for recording fingerprints over the modern fingerprint reader or fingerprint scanner, they are certainly here to stay. Generally the old ink recording of fingerprint detail is superior in that it records better quality data than that of a Livescan system. As technology progresses, the quality of Livescan will improve. Will it be able to capture "Level 3" detail of a sufficient quality & quantity, to subsequently provide identification evidence to please a fingerprint expert, we will just have to wait and see.

The automated fingerprint identification system is not just used to establish if a suspect has a previous biometric fingerprint record detailing their criminal history. They can also be used to identify latent prints from a crime scene where a closer fingerprint analysis may be required. Whilst the automated fingerprint identification system has been around for some years, increased computing power in the biometric fingerprint arena and newer fingerprint ID search algorithms, have vastly improved the world of fingerprint identification and fingerprint analysis.

There are numerous worldwide companies that can supply an automated fingerprint identification system – AFIS. Some of these can be large scale AFIS systems that have fingerprint ID databases of millions of persons with a past criminal history. They can be statewide, local PD, or even a federal agency automated fingerprint identification system. Many of the smaller police departments have the smaller stand alone fingerprint ID systems.
Be they large or small, the automated fingerprint identification system does not identify the fingerprint. It merely provides a list of the most likely offenders in the biometric fingerprint database that match the fingerprint search enquiry, based on the computer algorithm. It still requires a fingerprint expert to perform the fingerprint analysis to establish if there if there is a fingerprint ID match. Therefore the human has the final say on the fingerprint analysis, especially where crime scene latent prints are concerned. Do not belive the speed of the computer matches you see on the TV series CSI - this is just not so.


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Fingerprint Pattern - Arch

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Fingerprint Pattern - Tented Arch

Whilst these four fingerprint images depict the most common pattern types that are found on the fingers and thumbs (but don't forget our little toes), fingerprint identification and palm print identification are based on much more than pattern types. This is but a starting point for the classification and filing of manual fingerprint databases.
The identification of latent prints from the scene of a crime, against the known fingerprints of a donor is a more complex analysis requiring extensive training, knowledge, skill and experience amongst other components, before becoming a CSI or Latent Examiner.
Fingerprint Identification Error Story

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Fingerprint Pattern - Loop

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Fingerprint Pattern - Whorl