Monday, January 14, 2002

Can Fingerprints Match in Court?
Recently, a federal court Judge ruled that experts cannot tell juries that two fingerprints match. There were a couple of reason for this. One was that in most cases, fingerprints being used as evidence are only partial prints, and "matching" is a difficult thing to do. But, even more importantly, there are a number of different scientific standards being used by forensic fingerprint experts. There is no clear consensus as to which is the correct one.

The Court used the Daubert Test while reviewing the admission of expert testimony on fingerprints, and decided that while the experts couldn't tell the jury that the fingerprints in question were a match, both sides could testify as to how the fingerprints were obtained and the similarities between them. A pretty good summary of the Daubert Test, with examples can be found on a page from Dr. O'Connor's Criminal Justice MegaLinks called Admissibility of Scientific Evidence under Daubert. Note that Delaware does not use the Daubert Test, or the Frye Test that it replaced in many jurisdictions. Instead, Delaware uses its own rule.
- William Slawski

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