Thursday, October 25, 2007

Legal Tests of Fingerprints: Soon Expected to Multiply


The Myth of Fingerprints

by Mondoreb & Little Baby Ginn

For years, voices have been crying about the "myth of fingerprints". A judge in Baltimore now agrees. And prosecutors and police all over the country are concerned.

The account in the Baltimore Sun:
As stunned Baltimore County prosecutors scrambled Tuesday to salvage a murder case gutted by a judge's decision to exclude fingerprint evidence, the defense attorney who led the challenge predicted a flood of similar legal tests in other cases.

Patrick Kent, chief of the state public defender's forensics division, said the questions raised about the reliability of fingerprinting extend to other types of scientific evidence that have gone unchallenged by defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.

"This is the beginning of the scrutiny," he said, speaking publicly for the first time about the judge's ruling. He added, "These issues will not go away. We will litigate these issues, because there are too many 'forensic sciences' that have never been scrutinized and that lack a sufficient scientific basis."
The question arose in the murder case of Bryan Keith Rose.
Baltimore County's top prosecutor said the unexpected, last-minute ruling forced his office to ask that the trial be postponed in the case of Bryan Keith Rose. The 23-year-old Baltimore man faces a possible death sentence if convicted in the fatal shooting of Warren T. Fleming, a Security Square Mall merchant who was killed in January 2006 during what police describe as an attempted carjacking at the shopping center.

The judge went on to elaborate. Proponents of the "myth of fingerprints" were heartened.
In her 32-page decision, Souder characterized fingerprinting as "a subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure that purports to be infallible." The judge acknowledged the nearly-100-year history of fingerprinting as a crime-solving tool but concluded that such history "does not by itself support the decision to admit it."
Over twenty years ago, Paul Simon sang of "The Myth of Fingerprints". Prosecutors and police all over the country soon may be naming that tune.


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