Printing problems.
Printing problems.
The law, lawyers, and the court.
May 27 2004 5:35 PM

Printing Problems

The inexact science of fingerprint analysis.

(Continued from Page 1)

Those subjective decisions mean that that the government can profess certainty and still be dead wrong. Without agreement on essential baseline standards, fingerprinting will remain a practice rather than a science. Make no mistake about it, fingerprints are valuable forensic evidence, based on unique biometric data. But when the evaluation of that data rests on a because-I said-so analysis, the door is wide open for injustice. And as Brandon Mayfield's case amply demonstrates, taking the government's say-so as definitive simply isn't enough. And when psudeoscience is turned loose in the context of the war on terror, the results may well terrify.

Correction, May 28, 2004: The original article erroneously referred to modulation transfer function or MTF standards as "modular transfer function standards." The MTF is a method of determining spatial resolution in images. (Return to corrected sentence.)

David Feige is a television writer and the author of Indefensible. He spent 15 years as a public defender.

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