Printing problems.

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

Printing Problems

The inexact science of fingerprint analysis.

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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.)