- Brandon Mayfield. Brandon Mayfield is an Oregon lawyer who was identified as a participant in the 2004 Madrid train bombings based on a fingerprint match by the FBI. The FBI Latent Print Unit processed a fingerprint collected in Madrid and reported a "100 percent positive" match against one of the 20 fingerprint candidates returned in a search response from their IAFIS -- Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The FBI initially called it an "absolutely incontrovertible match". Subsequently, however, Spanish National Police examiners suggested that the print did not match Mayfield and after two weeks, identified another man whom they claimed the fingerprint did belong to.
- RamÃ³n Sa'nchez , a legal Dominican Republic immigrant to the US, was arrested on July 15, 1995, on a charge of driving while intoxicated. His fingerprints, however, were placed on a card containing the name, Social Security number and other data for one Leo Rosario, who was being processed at the same time. Leo Rosario had been arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover police officer. On October 11, 2000, while returning from a visit to relatives in the Dominican Republic, Rene' was mis-identified as Leo Rosario at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and arrested. Even though he did not match the physical description of Rosario, the erroneously-cataloged fingerprints were considered to be more reliable.
- Shirley McKie was a police detective in 1997 when she was accused of leaving her thumb print inside a house in Kilmarnock, Scotland where Marion Ross had been murdered. Although McKie denied having been inside the house, she was arrested in a dawn raid the following year and charged with perjury. The only evidence the prosecution had was this thumb print allegedly found at the murder scene. Two American experts testified on her behalf at her trial in May 1999 and she was found not guilty. The Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) would not admit any error, although Scottish first minister Jack McConnell later said it had been an "honest mistake".
- Stephan Cowans was convicted of attempted murder in 1997 after he was accused of shooting a police officer while fleeing a robbery in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was implicated in the crime by the testimony of two witnesses, one of whom was the victim. There was also a fingerprint on a glass mug from which the assailant had drunk some water and experts testified that the fingerprint belonged to Cowans. He was found guilty and sent to prison for 35 years. Whilst in prison, Cowans earned money cleaning up biohazards until he could afford to have the evidence against him tested for DNA. The DNA did not match his and he was released. He had already served six years in prison when he was released on January 23, 2004.
- Craig D. Harvey . In April 1993, in the New York State Police Troop C scandal, Craig D. Harvey, a New York State Police trooper, was charged with fabricating evidence. Harvey admitted he and another trooper lifted fingerprints from items the suspect, John Spencer, touched while in Troop C headquarters during booking. He attached the fingerprints to evidence cards and later claimed that he had pulled the fingerprints from the scene of the murder. The forged evidence was presented during John Spencer's trial and his subsequent conviction resulted in a term of 50 years to life in prison at his sentencing. Three state troopers were found guilty of fabricating fingerprint evidence and served prison sentences.
According to Wikipedia, the words "reliability" and "validity" have specific meanings to the scientific community. Reliability means that successive tests bring the same results. Validity means that these results are judged to accurately reflect the external criteria being measured.
Although experts are often more comfortable relying on their instincts, this reliance does not always translate into superior predictive ability. For example, in the popular Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, and Verification (ACE-V) paradigm for fingerprint identification, the verification stage, in which a second examiner confirms the assessment of the original examiner, may increase the consistency of the assessments. But while the verification stage has implications for the reliability of latent print comparisons, it does not assure their validity.
The few tests that have been made of the validity of forensic fingerprinting have not been supportive of the method.
"Despite the absence of objective standards, scientific validation, and adequate statistical studies, a natural question to ask is how well fingerprint examiners actually perform. Proficiency tests do not validate a procedure per se, but they can provide some insight into error rates. In 1995, the Collaborative Testing Service (CTS) administered a proficiency test that, for the first time, was "designed, assembled, and reviewed" by the International Association for Identification (IAI).The results were disappointing. Four suspect cards with prints of all ten fingers were provided together with seven latents. Of 156 people taking the test, only 68 (44%) correctly classified all seven latents. Overall, the tests contained a total of 48 incorrect identifications. David Grieve, the editor of the Journal of Forensic Identification, describes the reaction of the forensic community to the results of the CTS test as ranging from "shock to disbelief," and added:
'Errors of this magnitude within a discipline singularly admired and respected for its touted absolute certainty as an identification process have produced chilling and mind- numbing realities. Thirty-four participants, an incredible 22% of those involved, substituted presumed but false certainty for truth. By any measure, this represents a profile of practice that is unacceptable and thus demands positive action by the entire community.
Investigations have been conducted into whether experts can objectively focus on feature information in fingerprints without being misled by extraneous information, such as context. Fingerprints that have previously been examined and assessed by latent print experts to make a positive identification of suspects have then been re-presented to those same experts in a new context which makes it likely that there will be no match. Within this new context, most of the fingerprint experts made different judgments, thus contradicting their own previous identification decisions.
Complaints have been made that there have been no published, peer-reviewed studies directly examining the extent to which people can correctly match fingerprints to noe another. Experiments have been carried out using naÃ¯ve undergraduates to match images of fingerprints. The results of these experiments demonstrate that people can identify fingerprints quite well, and that matching accuracy can vary as a function of both source finger type and image similarity.
Complaints have been made that there have been no published, peer-reviewed studies directly examining the extent to which people can correctly match fingerprints to one another. Experiments have been carried out using naÃ¯ve undergraduates to match images of fingerprints. The results of these experiments demonstrate that people can identify fingerprints quite well, and that matching accuracy can vary as a function of both source finger type and image similarity.