Fingerprint Evidence is Crucial?

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Alphonse BERTILLON 1853 - 1914, France
A clerk in the Prefecture of Police, Paris, he devised a system of classification of measurement of various parts of the body in 1879 (Anthropometry) and it was taken into use in 1882. In 1888, he was made Chief of the newly created Department of Judicial Identity. After Galton's visit (see above) he later had fingerprints taken but relegated them to a secondary role, placing them in the category of special marks. Oddly enough, he was involved in the first recorded case of a conviction on fingerprint evidence in Paris in 1902. Despite that, he cold shouldered Vucetich when the latter visited him in 1913. His original 11 measurements were reduced to nine viz: height, reach (arms outstretched, middle finger tip to middle finger tip), trunk (height of person sitting erect), length of head, width of head, length of right ear, length of left foot, length of left middle finger, length of left forearm. He always considered his own system superior to fingerprints and refused to accede long after other countries abandoned anthropometry. He was (and is) regarded by some as the father of the scientific identification of criminals. Landmark cases such as the Fox Twins in England and the two Will Wests in the US totally discredited the anthropometric system in the early years of the twentieth century. In these cases the Twins and the West's had virtually identical measurements and facial features, but their fingerprints were totally different.

Mr. Tabor, an American photographer from San Francisco, observed his own ridge impressions that he had left in ink on some blotting paper. He experimented further and finally proposed that fingerprints should be used to assist in the registration of Chinese labourers, whose identification had always posed a problem for the authorities. He wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives but the idea was rejected, on the advice of detectives, and facial photography was used instead.

United States Geological Survey to New Mexico 1880-1882, USA
Gilbert Thompson used fingerprints on commissary orders to guard against forgery when paying members of his expedition. He sent an example to Sir Francis Galton which read: August 8, 1882 - Mr. Jones, Sutler, will pay to Lying Bob seventy five dollars. Lying Bob's fingerprint was overwritten with the amount due and the order was signed by Thompson.

M. FORGEOT 1891, France
A French medical/legal scientist who in 1891 published a thesis on the examination of scenes of crime in which he advocated the use of powders and chemicals to develop latent sweat marks.

Mark TWAIN (Samuel L. Clemens) 1883, USA
In Mark Twain's book, "Life on the Mississippi", a murderer was identified by the use of fingerprint identification.
In a later book by Mark Twain, "Pudd'n Head Wilson", there was a dramatic court trial on fingerprint identification. A more recent movie as made from this book.
The Mark Twain House

The Belper Committee 1900, UK
Due to disquiet about the effectiveness of the combined measurement (Bertillon) and fingerprint system, a further committee of inquiry was set up under Lord Belper. They evaluated both systems by calling experts of the time to give evidence before them. One of those called was Edward HENRY (see below). In December that year they recommended that Henry's system should be adopted.

Murder in the Tea Garden, India 1897
Edward Henry assisted in the detection of this crime, a man was found with his throat cut in a tea garden near where Henry was working. An ex-servant of the deceased was suspected but the police had no evidence against him. Henry examined a book with two bloodstained marks on it and these were identified as the fingerprints of the suspect whose prints were on record. The man was eventually convicted of the offence.

Fingerprint Department, New Scotland Yard 1901, London UK
Founded on the 1st July, under Henry, with Detective Inspector Stedman, Detective Sergeant Collins and Detective Constable Hunt (all then working in the Anthropometric Registry). DS Collins in particular made many innovations and gave evidence against Harry Jackson (see below). He studied photography in order to be able to photograph crime scene latents. DC Ferrier who joined some months later, spent 6 months in America in 1904 explaining the fingerprint system exhibits at the International Police Exhibition within the World's Fair and Exposition in St Louis, Missouri. He answered 4403 letters of enquiry arising from the display.

First Crime Scene Latent Print Evidence 13.9.1902, London UK
The first fingerprint evidence involving a scene of crime latent print in England was heard at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), London, on the 13th September 1902, when a Harry Jackson was tried after pleading not guilty to a charge of burglary at Denmark Hill, South London, and stealing billiard balls. An imprint of his left thumb was found in dirt on a newly painted window sill during an examination of the crime scene by Detective Sergeant Collins. He photographed the latent and with the assistance of colleagues searched the latent through the relatively small offender print collection and it was identified. By consultation between Henry, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stedman and Collins, a famous barrister of the time, Richard Muir, conducted the prosecution case, Collins explaining the system and producing photographic enlargements and tracings of both latent and known print. Jackson was convicted and was sentenced to 7 years penal servitude.

Inez L. WHIPPLE 1903, USA
Whipple, an Assistant in Zoology at Smith college, completed her research into the development of friction ridge skin and published it under the title of The Ventral Surface of the Mammalian Chiridium. Her work was a development of previous studies conducted by Reh (1894), Kollman (1883 & 1885), Klaatsch (1888), Hepburn (1895) and (her future husband) Harris Hawthorn Wilder (1897). Her book gave an account of the morphology and physiology of the volar pads on the paws, hands and feet of mammals and described the process of ridge formation in relation to the pads and the distribution of ridge patterns in prosimians and primates.

First use of Fingerprint Evidence in a Murder Trial Leads to conviction and Double Hanging, 1905, London UK
Fingerprint evidence was first used in a case of murder in May 1905, at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), when Alfred and Albert Stratton were accused of killing Mr. and Mrs. Farrow at their shop in Deptford, during March of that year. During examination of the premises a cash box was found bearing a latent impression. Inspector Collins was called to give evidence. He explained the identification system to the court, with the aid of a blackboard and photographic enlargements of the latent on the cash box and the known right thumb impression of Alfred Stratton. The prosecution was again conducted by Richard Muir, the jury found the Stratton's guilty and they were later hanged.

Army & Navy 1905, USA
1905 saw the use of fingerprints for the U.S. Army. Two years later the U.S Navy, and was joined the next year by the Marine Corp.
During the next 25 years more and more law enforcement agencies join in the use of fingerprints as a means of personal identification. Many of these agencies began sending copies of their fingerprint cards to the National Bureau of Criminal Identification, which was established by the International Association of Police Chiefs.

International Association for Identification (I.A.I.) 1915, USA
International Association for Criminal Identification (which later became the I.A.I.) was founded in the USA. In 1925 Collins and Henry attended the I.A.I. convention in Windsor, Ontario.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) 1924, USA
The fingerprint records of the National Bureau of Criminal Identification and those of Fort Leavenworth were consolidated to become the F.B.I. fingerprint collection on July 1st. 1924. However, although the F.B.I. bureau has grown to become the largest in the world not all of the collection is devoted to criminal files. The latent print section of the F.B.I. was inaugurated in 1933.

Dermatoglyphics 1926, USA
This term was first used by Harold Cummins and Charles Midlo in their paper Palmar and plantar epidermal ridge configurations (dermatoglyphics) in European-Americans (Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., vol. 9, pp. 471-502, 1926). They describe the derivation of the word in their classic book Fingerprints, Palms and Soles (Dover 1943) which, incidentally, was dedicated to Harris H. Wilder pioneer investigator of dermatoglyphics: ...there had been no satisfactory term embracing the skin patternings of fingers, toes, palms and soles. Dermatoglyphics (derma, skin + glyphe, carve) is a collective name for all these integumentary features, within the limits to be defined, and it applies also to the division of anatomy which embraces their study. The word is literally descriptive of the delicately sculptured skin surface, inclusive of single ridges and their configurational arrangements. Flexion creases and other secondary folds are not elements of dermatoglyphics. Though the term has come to be generally adopted among biological investigators, the practical fingerprint man has had no reason to substitute it for his own useful and familiar terms.

Singles Fingerprint Collections 1929. UK
The Single Fingerprint method of classification was devised and put into operation at New Scotland Yard by Harry Battley (assisted by Cherrill). By extending the use of core definition, delta location and ridge counts, it was designed to increase identification of crime scene marks in small, localised collections. Over 360 fingermarks were identified using this system in 1929 compared with only 70 identifications made between 1923 and 1925. Battley published his book Single Finger Prints in 1930 and variations of his system were introduced into many fingerprint bureau throughout the world.

First Evidence of Latent Palm Print Identification in England 1931, UK
Palm prints were first tendered as evidence in a British Court by Inspector Cherrill at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) on 9.9.1931. It was the only material evidence against John EGAN, charged with housebreaking. Egan was sentenced to 14 months hard labor. The defendant had pleaded guilty but the trial Judge had requested that Cherrill's evidence should be presented to the Court because of its unusual nature.

First Mechanical Fingerprint Searching Systems 1937, USA
The New York State Division of Criminal Identification searched its Henry one-over-one primaries for loop patterns by mechanical means. By the 1950s punch cards were generated and could be searched at 450 cards per minute.

Robert James PITTS - The man without fingerprints 1941, USA
In 1932, while Pitts was serving a sentence in Alcatraz prison, he formulated a plan to have the ridge system of his fingertips removed. In 1941 after he committed a burglary in Charlotte, North Carolina he went to Newark, New Jersey to visit a doctor who wanted to experiment with the alteration of fingerprints. The skin was removed from the distal phalange of each finger, down to the regenerative dermal layer, and the fingers were then sewn into incisions made on each side of Pitts chest. This was an attempt to graft chest skin onto the fingertips. However, when the fingers were removed after six weeks, only scar tissue remained although all traces of the friction ridge system had disappeared along with Pitts? sense of touch. Nearly a year later Pitts was arrested while hitchhiking in Texas during a crackdown on draft dodgers. The police were surprised to find that he had no fingerprints. The middle phalanges of his fingers were printed and subsequently compared with all persons listed as wanted by the F.B.I. Pitts was identified and became infamous as The Man Without Fingerprints. He was arrested many times after that for a variety of offences including murder. Pitts died in prison in 1976 at the age of 62 having had an active criminal record for 42 years.

FBI 1941, USA
The 100 millionth fingerprint card was received by in the FBI Identification Division, making it the world's largest repository of fingerprint records.

State V. Viola in Ohio - Appeal 1947, USA
An F.B.I. agent was testifying for the prosecution. A latent print had been found at a crime scene on a drinking glass, which was identified as having been used by the defendant just before the victim had been shot. Part of the appeal decision was as follows: ...testimony of state witness Latona, who explained that the rules laid down therein (1937 F.B.I. Bulletin on Fingerprints) nine years ago by Dr. Locard, an early French fingerprint authority, that twelve identical points were necessary in the comparison of latent and ink prints was no longer followed by the F.B.I. and testified, today there's no rule or policy in the F.B.I. to the effect that it takes twelve points or any specific number of points to make an identification, as the science of fingerprinting and comparison had developed during that period, and other factors had become of dominant importance....and on cross examination testified that there were seven points of comparison on the smaller glass which were a sufficient number for identification...

Mass Fingerprinting 1948, UK
First mass fingerprinting of a town's population (Blackburn) to assist in a homicide enquiry concerning the murder of a young child in a hospital ward. Fingerprints were given voluntarily (over 40,000 males) which eventually led to an identification being made. The collection of fingerprints were publicly destroyed after the case.

Frederick Cherrill MBE 1954, UK
The Fingerprint System at New Scotland Yard by Det. Chief Superintendent Frederick Cherrill was published. Cherrill had been employed in the Department at New Scotland Yard for over 33 years, and was recognized throughout the world as an authority. His work was the first major book on fingerprints published for some time and became a standard until automation was introduced.
Scotland Yard

J. Edgar HOOVER 1959, USA
J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the F.B.I. stated the following policy regarding fingerprint standards: ?We know of no absolute number of points of identity which could be technically justified as a requisite applicable to all identifications. Each case has to be individually observed. It has been proved through long experience, however, that twelve points of similarity are sufficient to establish an identification. Any two prints possessing this number of ridge similarities will not have any dissimilar ridge formations.

Edgeoscopy 1962, India
Salil Kumar Chatterjee, Director of the Central Fingerprint Bureau in Calcutta, India, proposed a system of identification based on the outline shape of individual friction ridges.

Court Recognition of Expert Status, New Scotland Yard 1967, UK
Fingerprint qualifying training period of 7 years before an officer was eligible to provide expert fingerprint identification evidence before a court of law, was reduced to a 5-year qualifying period.

I.A.I. Fingerprint Standards 1973, USA
The Standardization Committee of the International Association for Identification publishes its findings in a report that states that: There is no valid scientific basis for requiring a minimum number of ridge characteristics which must be present in two fingerprints in order to establish positive identification.
The International Association for Identification

International Symposium on Fingerprint Detection and Identification, 1995, Israel
Ne'urim Declaration.
International participants of the symposium endorsed the IAI Standardization Committee report of 1973, but with a slight variation: No scientific basis exists for requiring that a pre-determined minimum number of friction ridge features must be present in two impressions in order to establish a positive identification.
The resolution was unanimously approved by; Australia, Canada, France Holland, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States of America

Contact: Graham Ford