(10) This landmark case is analyzed in detail by Simon Cole in a paper focused on "the nitty-gritty of expert [fingerprint] testimony." (11) In Jennings, no less than five fingerprint examiners, all of whom were trained by a Scotland Yard detective, agreed that fingerprints left at a murder scene "matched" the defendant's rolled prints. One of them even testified, in response to a question as to whether it was his "opinion" that the prints were a match, "I am positive.
was commonplace enough to be readily understood by the jury, yet sufficiently esoteric to require expert interpretation." (18) Crispi's attorney challenged the fingerprint expert by pointing out a discrepancy between the latent and rolled prints, to no avail.
Recall the difference between latent and rolled prints. The latter are full sets of ten fingers.
The government has offered up one study using a computer database of 50,000 rolled prints, which purported to estimate the probability of finding two identical prints at ten.
(82) The two prints in evidence, which had been positively identified as belonging to Mitchell, were sent by the FBI to fifty-three law enforcement agencies, along with Mitchell's rolled prints. Without explaining the reason, the FBI asked the agencies to have a "court qualified" examiner determine whether they were a match.
These features were not identical between the two men's rolled prints, but they were similar enough to mislead four experienced fingerprint specialists as to the source of the latent print in question.
The parties will be able to present expert fingerprint testimony (1) describing how any latent and rolled prints at issue in this case were obtained, (2) identifying, and placing before the jury, such fingerprints and any necessary magnifications, and (3) pointing out any observed similarities and differences between a particular latent print and a particular rolled print alleged by the government to be attributable to the same persons.
Janis, (129) which involved matching two sets of rolled prints. After explicitly holding the evidence in the case met Daubert, it went on to determine that any error was harmless.
These unfortunately include two failed challenges to comparisons of repeat sets of rolled prints, in published opinions by the Ninth and First Circuits.