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Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 11:30 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Thanks so much for the feedback. I understand that lack of a fingerprint doesn't prove innocence, but I was thinking of something a little different. For instance, years after someone is convicted of a crime, bloody fingerprints from the scene are run through AFIS and don't match the convicted, but instead match someone who has been found guilty of previous murders. In this case, it seems as if a fingerprint identification could be pretty weighty in finding someone (the originally convicted person) innocent.

THanks again!
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Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2005 - 04:42 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The query posed rings similar to details of the erroneous identification of Ouhnane Daoud’s fingerprint from the March 2004 Spanish train bombing case. A trial did not occur, but the incriminating fingerprint identification was proven wrong by Spanish police after they showed that “the fingerprint belongs to someone else.”

Because fingerprints carry extraordinary weight in some judicial proceedings, there have been cases in which fingerprints have been used after convictions to show that a person was found guilty based (partially or completely) on erroneous (or false) fingerprint evidence.

Here is one example involving fabricated fingerprint evidence:
The Mercury Savings and Loan Association, Buena Park, California, was robbed by a lone gunman on November 28, 1967. Officers from the Buena Park Police Department were the first on the scene and processed the bank for fingerprints. Sergeant James David Bakken, Identification Officer, Buena Park Police Department, subsequently identified one latent fingerprint purportedly lifted from the bank counter as the fingerprint of William DePalma. The Buena Park Police Department obtained a warrantor DePalma’s arrest based on the fingerprint identification and identification of photographs of DePalma as being the bank robber. The local warrant was subsequently dismissed and DePalma was tried in U. S. District Court. DePalma was convicted by a jury trial on February 15, 1968, and received a fifteen-year prison sentence. He appealed the conviction without success and began serving his sentence on August 6, 1971.

Sergeant Bakken was a Government witness at the trial. He testified that he had identified one latent fingerprint which had been lifted from the bank counter as a fingerprint of DePalma. An FBI latent fingerprint examiner was called to testify and verify the identification. …(The FBI Latent Print Examiner) presented no testimony relative to the source of the latent print and his entire testimony was limited to his opinion relative to the identity of the two fingerprints.

As the public records show, DePalma was persistent in his efforts to vindicate himself. As a result of this persistence, coupled with the fact that the Orange County, Calif., Grand Jury in a completely separate matter had indicted Sergeant Bakken and charged him with perjury, false evidence and preparing false evidence, the U.S. Government agreed to examine the original evidence in the Dealmakers. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had at that time examined the original evidence and concluded that the fingerprint lift, which Bakken identified as DePalma’s fingerprint, had been fabricated by Sergeant Bakken. …examinations by the FBI Laboratory established that the partial fingerprint appearing on the lift conformed to samples prepared by lifting experimental fused Xerox fingerprints…

DePalma, in February, 1974, had his conviction set side by the U.S. District Court based on the fabricated lift of a fingerprint. The courts involved in this matter have ruled that the U. S. Government was not culpable. As a result of civil action, DePalma in August, 1975, accepted a sizeable settlement from the City of Buena Park, California.

(Extracted from the “Fingerprint Fabrication” discussion in the Science and Practice Committee Report (1976) of the International Association for Identification, published in Identification News, Vol XXVI, pages 7-8.)
Kasey's comments about not proving innocence are correct regarding most cases. The absence of a person’s fingerprint at a crime scene does not mean that they where not present at the crime and did not touch the evidence (while wearing gloves, holding a handkerchief around a weapon, or otherwise in a manner not depositing identifiable prints) and it does mean they are innocent.

Article 11 of the the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that a person "has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense." Some would say that the Scottish criminal court system choice of three verdicts is more scientifically accurate than America's two verdicts. In Scotland, verdicts can be guilty, not proven, and not guilty.
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Posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - 07:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)


Rarely does a fingerprint prove guilt or innocence. It merely establishes contact with a surface. So in your scenario, let's say that person A is in jail for murder, and person B's fingerprint was associated with the murder weapon. This just means that at some point in time, person B had contact with the weapon... not that he shot the victim. So proving innocence with a fingerprint is a very difficult, if not impossible thing to do.

This can be done with DNA because of the probative value of the evidence. The likeness of this would be a bloody print on a murder weapon. But even then, there have been cases where the bloody print did NOT match the suspect or the victim. If you were to use this as an argument for innocence and win, only later to discover it was the fingerprint of the EMT who moved the weapon to perform CPR, you would feel pretty bad for letting a guilty man go free.

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Posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - 03:12 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Does anyone know of cases in which fingerprints have been used after someone has been convicted, to show that that person was not actually guilty (by showing the fingerprint belongs to someone else already in the system)?


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