Understanding the Basic Science and Testimony of Latent Prints

Understanding the Basic Science and Testimony of Latent Prints


The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) hosted this workshop at the American Academy of Forensic Science Meeting (AAFS) in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 13, 2017. This workshop impacted the forensic community by assisting the legal community to better understand the basic scientific principles behind friction ridge comparisons. This workshop provided the legal community with the tools to critically evaluate friction ridge testimony, which will in turn allow them to better advocate for the science, challenge the science, or fulfill a gatekeeping role, as their positions within the legal system dictate. These skills will improve the application of friction ridge comparison science in the legal system by helping to ensure that it is presented responsibly and used appropriately, increasing its value to the legal system.

After attending this presentation, attendees were well-positioned to critically evaluate latent print reports and testimony. Prosecutors became more aware of changing trends in testimony and learned how to prep their expert witnesses to make sure they aren’t falling into “old school” traps and are well-prepared to discuss the relevant literature. Defense attorneys became able to spot unsupported statements and effectively challenge them in court. Judges gained a basic understanding of the modern scientific research detailing the strengths and limitations of latent print comparisons, which will allow them to be more effective gatekeepers. All legal professionals were equipped to spot the difference between the “old school” or “dogma” expert and the “transparent” expert, and learned how to react accordingly.

Workshop Topics

► Scientific Foundations of Friction Ridge Comparisons
► Traditional Expression of Conclusions and Their Pitfalls
► New Styles in Expression of Conclusions
► Legal Strategies for Latent Print Evidence

Workshop Presenters

Heidi Eldridge, MS  |  Research Forensic Scientist, RTI International
Brendan Max, JD  |  Chief, Forensic Science Division, Cook County (IL) Public Defender Office