Challenges to Fingerprints by Lyn and Ralph HaberPrécis for Challenges to Fingerprints: A Guidebook for Lawyers, Judges, Fingerprint Examiners, and Forensic Scientists, by Lyn Haber and Ralph Norman Haber. Published by Lawyers & Judges Publishing Co., 917 North Swan Road, Suite 300, Tucson, AZ 85711.

Textbooks and affidavits published by fingerprint examiners focus on the assumptions of the profession and the procedures to be followed. They provide the essentials of how to compare fingerprints: the forensic application of fingerprint evidence for courts. In contrast, research scientists and legal scholars have published a number of articles and affidavits on the scientific principles underlying fingerprint comparisons and the legal issues involved in meeting scientific requirements now demanded by courts. These publications rarely discuss how to compare fingerprints. They focus on the lack of supporting evidence for fingerprint comparison methodology as currently practiced.

Neither approach is likely to bridge the gap between these two disciplines, the forensic application of fingerprint evidence, and the scientific research supporting conclusions from forensic comparisons. For this reason, our book combines the two disciplines of forensic fingerprint examinations and the research science of forensic conclusions. This book requires the research scientist to learn a lot about fingerprint comparisons, and the fingerprint examiner to learn a lot about research science. It allows the two adversarial lawyers to learn about both, and how the two disciplines must support each other.

We intend this book for prosecution lawyers, defense lawyers and criminal court judges who handle criminal cases in which fingerprint evidence is to be introduced. It will assist them in understanding the sources of fingerprint evidence, the assumptions on which conclusions are based, the method used to compare fingerprints, the standard underlying conclusions regarding matches between fingerprints, the accuracy of the method and of examiners to reach correct conclusions, and the evaluation of testimony given by fingerprint examiners and other experts. The book is written as a guide to evaluate individual court cases.

We also intend the book to be used by professional fingerprint examiners, forensic research scientists, legal scholars, and judges hearing challenges to fingerprint evidence. The book is written as a guide to evaluate the scientific basis of fingerprint comparison evidence, and the research evidence needed to demonstrate that examiners who are proficient use a method that is valid to reach conclusions that are correct by following standards that are objective and valid. Where we are critical of the current scientific state of fingerprint evidence, we describe the experiments and other evidence still needed to provide this evidence. The book describes the research needed to support the use of fingerprint evidence for person identification. The book can also be used as a textbook in criminal justice and forensic science courses in colleges and universities in which the topic is fingerprint evidence, fingerprint training, and forensic sciences covering a range of forensic evidence beyond identification of persons from fingerprints (such as identification from DNA, firearms, tire tracks, handwriting, speech, eyewitnesses).

The book is organized into five sections.

The first section, through Chapter 3, covers the forensic use of fingerprint comparisons. We set the scene in the first chapter: how fingerprint evidence arises, how it is used to identify persons, and how that evidence is introduced into court. Chapter 2 presents the assumptions necessary to identify, or match, a crime scene latent print to a single finger. Next we describe the features found on fingers, their uniqueness, the differences among fingers and good images of fingers, and crime scene latent prints. From these differences we consider the definitions of the features used to compare fingerprints.

The next section of three chapters begins with the acquisition of latent fingerprints at a crime scene and the processing of prints in the crime laboratory. In Chapter 5, we present the comparison method fingerprint examiners employ when they compare two fingerprints, starting with how examiners analyze a latent and ending with how they decide two prints came from the same finger. In Chapter 6, we describe the procedures used when no suspect is available and the crime scene latent print is submitted to an automated computer search system to find a suspect with a matching fingerprint.

The third section of the book addresses issues tied to recent court decisions concerning evidence based on a scientific method. Chapter 7 focuses on the proficiency of individual examiners, and examines the evidence of the skill level of fingerprint examiners in the real world of case work. Chapter 8 draws on this material to examine the evidence of accuracy and error rates. What is the probability that the method allowed even an experienced fingerprint examiner to make a mistake? Our analyses consider the different kinds of errors that can be made, and the research evidence supporting a known error rate.

The fourth section of two chapters covers contamination and bias in performing fingerprint comparison, and standards for the qualifications of fingerprint examiners and the laboratories in which they work. How much education does an applicant need before he can be considered eligible for training? What kinds of other qualifications should he have? How much training, and what kind, must he receive to be a qualified fingerprint examiner? We address these questions in Chapters 9 and 10.

In the last section, we review in Chapter 11 the claims and rhetoric offered in trials and hearings regarding fingerprint methods and accuracy, and we summarize the responses to these. In the last chapter, we review the challenges to fingerprints raised throughout our book. We focus on how to answer each one of these to make fingerprint evidence more powerful and more accurate.

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Scientific Validation of Fingerprint Evidence Under Daubert, (2007) by Lyn Haber and Ralph Norman Haber, Human Factors Consultants.

Abstract: When a scientific method is used by an expert to reach a conclusion offered in court, the Frye ruling in 1923 and particularly the Daubert ruling in 1993 requires that the method itself has been shown to be valid. When applied to fingerprint methods, valid means accurately distinguishing between pairs of prints made by one and by two donors. Courts have ruled uniformly in more than 40 Daubert hearings since 1999 that fingerprint evidence rests on a valid method, referred to as the Analysis-Comparison-Evaluation-Verification (ACE-V) method. In this article, we discuss the scientific evidence needed to document the validity of ACE-V. We describe examples of experiments that would provide this evidence, and review the available published research. We briefly describe the testimony presented by fingerprint examiners in these hearings, intended to show that ACE-V meets the Daubert criteria for validity. We analyze evidence for the validity of the standards underlying the conclusions made by fingerprint examiners. We conclude that the kinds of experiments that would establish the validity of ACE-V and the standards on which conclusions are based have not been performed. These experiments require a number of prerequisites, which also have yet to be met, so that the ACE-V method currently is both untested and untestable.

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Error Rates for Human Latent Fingerprint Examiners, by Lyn Haber and Ralph N. Haber, 2004. In Advances in Automatic Fingerprint Recognition (Ch. 17, pp. 337-358), edited by Nalini Ratha and R. Bolle, published by Springer-Verlag Publishers, New York.

Abstract: Fingerprint comparison evidence has been used in criminal courts for almost 100 years to identify defendants as perpetrators of crimes. Until very recently, this evidence has been accepted by the courts as infallibly accurate. We review four kinds of available data about the accuracy of fingerprint comparisons made by human latent fingerprint examiners: anecdotal FBI data; published data on the accuracy of consensus fingerprint comparisons made by groups of examiners working in crime laboratories; the proficiency and certification test scores of latent fingerprint examiners tested individually; and the results of controlled experiments on the accuracy of fingerprint comparisons. We conclude that anecdotal data are useless and misleading; consensus judgments of fingerprint comparisons show either indeterminant or quite large error rates; the proficiency and certification procedures in current use lack validity and cannot serve to specify the accuracy or skill level of individual fingerprint examiners; and there is no published research evidence on error rates. It is impossible to determine from existing data whether true error rates are miniscule or substantial.

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Upper Limits of Eyewitness Identification Accuracy in Court, by Lyn Haber and Ralph Norman Haber, Human Factors Consultants. Unpublished.

Abstract: Eyewitnesses in real life make erroneous identifications, as shown by compilations of a century's worth of newspaper accounts of erroneous indictments and / or convictions based on mistaken eyewitnesses, and based on published descriptions of exonerations since 1989 that show that the majority of the erroneous convictions resulted from erroneous eyewitness identifications. These accounts do not indicate an error rate, only a high number of instances. To estimate error rates with which eyewitnesses identify innocent suspects in police lineups and innocent defendants in court, we review and evaluate five independent lines of research. These include: (1) laboratory experimental research on face r9ecognition showing the accuracy of recognizing unfamiliar faces seen just once before, in the absence of a crime; (2) laboratory experimental research from 1970 to the present in which subjects observe a crime and attempt an identification from a lineup; (3) field research studies from the showing the accuracy of the identification of a “perpetrator,” in the absence of a crime; (4) military laboratory research data showing the accuracy with which soldiers can identify their interrogators (perpetrators) from a lineup 24 hours after intense and stressful questioning; and (5) analyses of police archival data showing the percentage of time that an eyewitness picks the person the police have placed in the lineup as the suspect. These data bases, taken together, establish an upper limit on eyewitness identification accuracy of less than 50% correct (correct identification rate and / or correct rejection of the lineup when the perpetrator is not in the lineup). They further indicate that most real eyewitnesses to real crimes are unable to achieve even this modest level of accuracy when they testify in court to an identification of a defendant as the perpetrator.

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Experiencing, Remembering and Reporting Events: The Cognitive Psychology of Eyewitness Testimony, by Ralph N. Haber and Lyn Haber. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 2000, vol. 6, pp. 1057-1097.

Abstract: Human beings frequently describe from memory events they have observed, and most people consider these descriptions to be accurate. However, scientific research on memory in the last few decades has revealed that people's memories are often inaccurate. These errors in memory are systematic and are especially likely to occur for the kinds of events that are reported in courtroom testimony: reports of strangers performing brief, violent or unexpected acts that are frightening to the observer / witness. This article examines the research on factors that affect the accuracy of initial observation, encoding and remembering and forgetting such events. The authors consider the special memory issues involved in describing and identifying strangers, and how these can impair the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. Throughout the review of the research findings, the authors consider their impact on courtroom procedures governing eyewitness testimony and identification. The article concludes with a set of policy recommendations based on this scientific evidence.

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Criteria for Judging the Admissibility of Eyewitness Testimony of Long Past Events, by Lyn Haber and Ralph N. Haber. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 1998, Vol. 4, pp. 1135-1159.

Abstract: Court cases of recovered memories of childhood abuse, in which the victim's testimony may constitute the only evidence available, and a growing body of research demonstrating the inexactitude and suggestibility of autobiographical memory of long past events, are forcing courts and cognitive scientists to seek scientific, principled criteria for admissibility of such testimony. The authors use as examples two recent court cases. In the first case, a concussion produced total retrograde amnesia for an accident for a period of three years, and then, over a few months, the driver claimed his memory returned. In the second, two adults reported to the police that they witnessed their sister's murder 35 years earlier, when they were three and five years old, respectively. The authors provide objective guidelines for courts to determine whether testimony about recovered or very long term memory for eyewitnessed events should be admissible. The principles we outline easily can be expanded to include eyewitness testimony in general.

Eyewitnesses to Accidents: The Factors that Determine Accuracy, by Ralph N. Haber and Lyn Haber. In Human Factors in Traffic Safety, Second Edition, 2007, chapter 23, pp. 495-514, Edited by Robert Dewar and Paul Olson, published by Lawyers & Judges Publishing Co., Tucson, AZ.



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