Copyright (c) 2002 Southern California Law Review
University of Southern California
ARTICLE: FINGERPRINTS MEET DAUBERT: THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINT "SCIENCE" IS REVEALED
Southern California Law Review
75 S. Cal. L. Rev. 605
For the past ninety years, law enforcement fingerprint examiners have been matching partial latent fingerprint fragments detected at crime scenes to inked fingerprints taken directly from suspects. 1 In many, if not most of these cases, the fingerprint identifications have been seen as dispositive of the defendant's guilt. From the very outset, law enforcement has claimed that latent fingerprint identification is a science. 2 Over the years, this claim has achieved almost universal acceptance. 3 Recently, however, some of the leading voices in the forensic science community have begun to question the scientific foundation of the fingerprint field and suggest that latent fingerprint identifications may not be nearly as reliable as people have long assumed. 4 Indeed, some commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that fingerprint experts are vulnerable to challenge pursuant to the Supreme Court's seminal decision 5 in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 6 Defense attorneys have started to pick up on these suggestions. To date, there have been at least ten Daubert challenges filed in federal courts seeking to preclude fingerprint examiners from testifying. 7 But, while these challenges have been the subject of much recent media attention, 8 there has not yet been a comprehensive treatment of this issue in the academic literature. This Article constitutes a first attempt at filling that void.
Part II of this Article will examine the basics of latent fingerprint identification evidence. Part III explores the legal history of its acceptance. A brief discussion of ...
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